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What Is Control?

Projects can be developed and managed within an organization under the direction of the department manager for the sole purpose of completing a unique objective for that department. Projects also can be developed in an environment where several resources throughout the organization can be used to complete project activities. Either a department “functional” manager or a project manager can manage projects. These projects experience similar project life-cycle phases. One aspect of projects is consistent no matter what type of organizational structure or how big the project is: Projects have costs and schedules and need oversight and adjustments made to keep project activities within budget and on schedule. This is called project control.

Reporting Versus Managing

Overseeing project activities puts managers in a position of responsibility to ensure that project activities are completed. How managers view their responsibility plays a large role in whether the project is controlled or simply monitored. Managers will find themselves in one of two managerial roles with regards to projects: (1) monitoring and reporting activities; or (2) assigning, monitoring, and controlling activities. When managers simply report the status of project activities, this is not a control function. It is simply an observation of what is happening and reporting of status. Control in project management is defined as having a means of measurement and initiating adjustments in the course of an activity to address unwanted changes to cost, schedule, quality, or risk elements that have influenced the activity.

The Manager’s Role in Control

Project managers are educated and/or trained in the need to provide control within the activities of a project. This requires the project managers’ active participation in not only monitoring activities against a baseline of estimated cost and schedule, but also initiating adjustments that bring activities back in line with budget and schedule if problems arise. Either functional or project managers can achieve control over a project as long as they understand what control is designed to do for activities within a project. Control of the project is one of the most important roles project managers can have with oversight of project activities. One might say that anyone can observe project activities and report on status, but real management of a project has an element of control such that actively adjusting activities results in improvements to cost or schedule. Inasmuch as project managers utilize tools and techniques not only to monitor but also to control project activities, other forces and influences within the organization can present challenges to the success of a project. Project managers and/or functional managers must be aware of influences unique to the organization that can impose restrictions, constraints, and even conflicts for special projects operating within an organization.

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