Lynda Bourne has published an interesting post on the PMI Voices of Project Management blog. She suggests describing scheduling, Earned Value and financial management as ‘project controls’ is dangerous! The steering mechanism on a car is a control system, you move the steering wheel and the front wheels turn; and if the car is in motion its direction of travel is altered. Real control systems cause a change.
Altering the duration of a task in a schedule, or calculating the current CPI and EAC for an Earned Value report changes nothing. All you have is new data. If the data is going to cause a change three things must occur. First the data needs to be communicated to the right people. They need to receive, understand and believe the data (this changes the data into information). Then they need to use this new information to change their future behaviours.
Project plans are only useful if they are being used! If your plans are not regularly used by the project team I would suggest they are largely a waste of time. No one can change the past and it is always too late to change the present. The only value a ‘project control tool’ can offer is influence future actions and decisions. This requires relevant, focused information to be communicated to the right stakeholders at the right time – voluminous reporting is not communicating! Fantastically accurate, detailed reports will not be read by anyone important, they are (or should be) too busy doing useful things. To see Lynda’s thoughts on how to resolve this problem read her next Voices post (due in a couple of days).
For a more comprehensive analysis read the last part of Scheduling in the Age of Complexity, starting from page 17 – the role of a scheduler.
What do you think? Do project controls control anything??