128 The Project Manager’s Partner
Controlling involves comparing actual performance with planned performance. In other words,
are you doing exactly what you planned to do? If you discover deviations from the plan (often
called “variances”), you must analyze these variances and figure out alternative actions that will
get the project back on track. You can then decide which alternative is best and take appropriate
corrective action. Controlling involves several subprocesses:
Overall change control
Scope change control
(For more details, see the expanded description of this process in Part II: Your Essential Project
The following Action Item supports the process of controlling:
Action Item: Control Project Activities
Part III: Action Items 129
Action Item: Control Project Activities
Take steps to control the project’s activities.
Inspections of deliverables
Decision to accept inspected deliverables
Rework of deliverables
Adjustments to work process
Updates to project plan and scope
Revised deliverables estimates
Revised schedule estimates
Revised cost estimates
Updates to risk management plan
Updates to activity list or work breakdown structure
List of lessons learned
Completed evaluation checklists (if applicable)
Controlling the progress of the project includes measuring results to identify variances or
deviations from the approved plan. When significant variances are observed (such as those
that jeopardize the project objectives), adjustments to the plan are made by repeating the
appropriate project planning processes. In addition, controlling progress includes taking
preventative action in anticipation of possible problems. Finally, controlling sometimes
results in reworking deliverables or adjusting the work process to achieve the desired results.
It is difficult to provide generic background information about how to control specific project
activities or phases. “Best practices” of a particular industry as well as widely differing project
deliverables dictate all sorts of different approaches to project control. However, some general
control procedures may be described.
In a nutshell, controlling begins when progress reports (documents describing progress related to
schedules, cost estimates, and so forth) and deliverables are inspected to note deviations from
the plan. If deviations are noted, the project manager may decide to rework the deliverables,
revise the project plan (budget, schedule, and so forth), or intervene to get things “back on
track.” Note that the project should be inspected with all aspects of the plan in mind, not just the
planned deliverables, costs, and budget. This means that the planned risk control and quality
control measures should also be applied when controlling the overall project.
130 The Project Manager’s Partner
Guidelines for Controlling a Project Phase
Instructions: Follow these steps to control a particular project phase or activity. You may use
the check boxes to mark items as completed.
Step 1: Review the project plan carefully and get a clear picture of what the desired results of
this phase are in terms of deliverables, schedules, costs, quality, and minimized risk.
Project plan is reviewed, overall desired results are identified.
Step 2: Prepare to inspect results of the phase (work product, deliverables). To make these
preparations, consult the detailed project plan and do the following:
Locate all lists of criteria that may be applied to inspect the quality and completeness of
the deliverables in light of the time frame you are examining. (For example, if this is the
third week in January, examine the plan to find out exactly what stage of development and
at what quality level the deliverables should be the third week in January.)
Locate milestones and schedule events that relate to the time frame in which you are
conducting the inspection. (For example, if this is the third week in January, examine
calendars and schedules to see what should be accomplished around this week.)
Locate the budget. Note particularly if there are expected dollar amounts that should be
expended in the current time frame.
Locate contractors’ proposals and/or contracts. Note exactly what they have committed to
supply (deliverables, reports, etc.).
Locate the risk management plan, if one has been created. Note particularly whether any of
the ongoing events or upcoming events are identified in the risk management plan as
particularly vulnerable to risk.
Step 3: Inspect project results by examining actual deliverables to date, discussing results to
date with project team members, and reviewing progress reports.
Deliverables are examined.
Results are discussed with team members responsible.
Progress reports are reviewed.