2.2.1 Gathering information
Successful control of a project depends on the flow of information, so it is important to have systems in place to make sure that you get feedback on what is happening. If the project team is meeting regularly to review progress, monitoring becomes more dynamic and changes to the plan can be achieved by consensus. Involving the team not only helps to keep everyone on target – it also builds commitment.
Monitoring is the most important activity during the implementation phase of a project, because it is the only way in which you can control the work to be sure that the objectives of the project will be met. To keep track of what is happening you may have to consider gathering information on two levels:
macro levels – to include overall business objectives, time, budget, quality;
micro levels – to include tracking individual tasks; that they have been initiated, that they are running on track and that they are due to complete as planned.
Project status reports and project status meetings are formal reporting structures that enable you to collect and collate this information. However, if you rely on others to provide all of your information you may miss early signs of difficulties – many experienced project managers make a point of ‘walking the project’ to keep in touch with the day-to-day issues that emerge as work progresses.
What might you as project manager be able to monitor by ‘walking the project’ that you would not know about from formal reports?
By keeping a level of informal contact with the most important activities you will be better able to monitor the atmosphere in which teams are working. You will be in a better position to judge whether the interpersonal relationships are creating productive energy or contributing to conflict and delay. You will be able to respond quickly if teams are facing delays because of failures in deliveries of materials or equipment. You will be more likely to notice if staff are being pulled away from the project because of other work pressures.
Control is only possible if you have a plan against which to measure progress. If the plan is clear about what should be achieved and when, it is possible to monitor progress to be sure that each outcome is of the right quality and achieved at the right time.