Project Practitioners > PMBOK TIPS - Monitoring & Controlling

PMBOK TIPS - Monitoring & Controlling

By Sinikka Waugh

The Monitoring and Controlling processes are those which help us keep the project on track to deliver value.  There’s a monitoring and controlling process in each of the knowledge areas – except for one…more on that in a moment.  A detailed analysis of the various processes in the Monitoring and Controlling Process group leads to these three tips:

Tip 1 – Be sure to correctly define “control

The easy word to hone in on in this process group is the word “control.”  For “control freaks” (and most of us know who we are), it sounds so orderly and comforting.   Rattling off all of the knowledge areas, in this process group, project managers are empowered to control it all.  Do you see it?  5.6 Control Scope; 6.7 Control Schedule; 7.4 Control Costs; 8.3 Control Quality; 10.3 Control Communications; 11.6 Control Risks; 12.3 Control Procurements; 13.4 Control Stakeholder Engagement. 

But what does it really mean to “control”? The PMBOK points out that “control” doesn’t mean to tighten your grip on or micromanage or dictate or step in and take over.  In chapter after chapter, the PMBOK reminds us that “control” means first and foremost to “monitor” – to keep an eye on, to observe, to watch, to record, to track, to review, to make notes, to measure. 

Then, only when there’s a variance from the plan or a risk that requires a response (not just a response plan), does monitoring and controlling including making recommendations or implementing changes or taking action.

Tip 2 – Remember to stay “regular

Monitoring and Controlling is most effective when performed on a regular, consistent basis.  PMBOK values ensuring that “project performance is measured and analyzed at regular intervals,” in fact, it even goes so far as to refer to it as “continuous monitoring”. 

This isn’t something we do just once, or even once in a while, this is ongoing, continuous measurements.  It’s a deliberate, repeated, frequent, active effort to compare the current performance to the plan or the baseline in order to make recommendations for corrective actions. 

Develop a cadence, and stick to it.  Make a habit of it, says the PMBOK, a regular habit.

Tip 3:  Exercise your “influence”

It’s easy to miss this one, but it’s so very important.  The PMBOK highlights the importance of “Influencing the factors that could circumvent integrated change control or configuration management so only approved changes are implemented.”  (57)  Read that last sentence again, because it provides a pretty important point of caution.  There is a clear indication here that first, there are factors that could “circumvent” the process, and second, that they can be influenced. 

While it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that something will change on each project, that doesn’t mean we should implement or accept every change that comes our way.  Performing Integrated Change Control (4.5) is the process by which we examine changes, not just in isolation, but in concert with each other, and in the context of the whole project, so that they can be approved or rejected for the good of the project. 

The PMBOK reminds us that risk “often arises from changes made without consideration to the overall project objectives or plans” (94).  As part of Monitoring & Controlling, we need to remain diligent and influence those around us to honor the change control process so all changes can be viewed from the perspective of the whole project.

All of the knowledge areas include “controlling” except for Human Resources Management.  Interesting…we’re not continuously controlling or micro-managing the people who work on our project teams.  Instead, we’re using this process group to provide them with “insight into the health of the project” (57) and to identify “any areas requiring additional attention.” (57) And, we are influencing stakeholders to make adjustments, not on a whim, but only when “changes to the plan are required” (57)

For more information on the PMBOK Process Groups read our previous blogs  initiating, planning, and executing.

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