2.7 Tracking progress
Gantt charts and critical path diagrams are useful for tracking project activity and for making necessary changes to the project plan. Project-planning software may also be used; the original chart is kept as the standard and any modifications are superimposed.
The example of the joint strategy for commissioning training services demonstrates how tracking produced information that led to a change of plan.
Example 5: A joint strategy for commissioning training services
Amanda drew up a plan for developing a strategy for commissioning training services for a large public service organisation. Three different approved agencies were involved. Completion of the key stages of the project went according to schedule up to the point when the first draft of the joint strategy was issued to each agency for consultation (22nd September). Five weeks had been allowed for this consultation, and a further two weeks for the lead manager within each agency to produce and send a written response to Amanda.
Three weeks into the consultation, Amanda contacted the lead managers to confirm that they would be able to meet this schedule. Agencies A and B were confident that their responses would be with Amanda on time, although Agency B had decided to extend the consultation period to six weeks, leaving only one week to write up its response. But Agency C had a problem: the chair of its management committee was unexpectedly abroad and this would delay the response by two weeks. Since the consultation key stage was on the critical path, the project would no longer be on target unless some adjustments could be made.
Figure 2: Portion of a critical path diagram shows the relevant section of the critical path diagram.
Using the critical path diagram, Amanda identified a number of options:
postpone the 8th December steering group meeting;
tell Agency C that it would have to get its response in on time;
complete the redraft more quickly;
put pressure on the printers to shorten the time they needed to print the document.
Amanda decided that ignoring the absence of a key consultee could jeopardise implementation of the strategy. She was also concerned that compressing the time she had allowed for redrafting could compromise the quality of the document that was to go to the steering committee.
The constraints on adjusting the schedule included the approaching Christmas period. If the 8th December steering group meeting was cancelled, the group would not be able to meet again until 6th January. Amanda approached the printers who were able to cut the print time down to two weeks, provided that this was outside of the Christmas and New Year period. This meant that the strategy could be launched as planned on 17th February, even though the steering group meeting was postponed to 6th January.
Control involves not only gathering but also reviewing information, to identify implications for the progress of the project so that action can be taken to get back on track.