Chapter 11. Monitoring and Controlling

11.2 Qualitative Monitoring

Qualitative monitoring, as its name implies, involves measuring quality rather than quantity. In the context of project management, qualitative monitoring addresses the following questions:

  • Scope: Is the team delivering on the intended scope in order to fulfill the project’s objectives and organizational needs?
  • Quality: Is the quality of the deliverables meeting stakeholder expectations?
  • Stakeholders: Are stakeholders engaged?
  • Communications: Are project communications effective?
  • Risks: Are risks and opportunities being effectively managed by the team?
  • Resources: Are resources being effectively managed and available as expected?
  • Procurement: Are the expectations outlined in procurement contracts being adhered to by vendors?
  • Team Management: Has the team become high-performing and are individual team members meeting performance expectations?

11.2.1    Validating and Controlling Scope

The approach taken to monitor and control scope depends on the development methodology used. The predictive/waterfall approach involves a sequential definition of requirements and scope, which then leads to solution development. This approach is commonly utilized when the organization has a clear vision of the project’s end outcome. Given this, monitoring and controlling scope occurs with the premise that significant scope changes are not expected. Validating scope involves formal acceptance of the completed project deliverables by the project sponsor and their assigned designates. Acceptance often requires deliverable reviews where the quality of the work is inspected before sign-off is provided. Changes may be required. These changes can be a result of poor quality (which leads to re-work) or new requirements intended to improve the organizational value of the project’s outcomes. New requirements are carefully controlled. This is necessary because once solution development begins, the project’s resources, timelines, and budget were all defined with a specific scope in mind. A scope change may mean those resources, timelines, and budgets are now insufficient to deliver on the increased scope. Controlling scope in this situation requires the project team to assess the impact of the new requirement on all the project’s constraints. If necessary, the team will seek approval for additional funding, time, and/or resources to pursue the new requirement. Project leaders need to reserve judgment on scope changes until the impact and benefits are clearly understood. The term “scope creep” refers to the poorly controlled expansion of scope over time. This means that the scope expands, perhaps unintentionally, without an understanding of its impact on the project’s other constraints, such as time and budget. Therefore, utilizing an integrated approach for change management is a critical success factor for projects using the predictive/waterfall approach.

Projects that follow an adaptive development methodology, such as agile, view scope change very differently. Scope definition, as well as solution development and testing, occur in an iterative or incremental fashion. As new requirements are identified, they are evaluated from a cost/complexity and benefit perspective, and if worth pursuing, they will be scheduled into a future iteration. A continuous improvement mindset encourages scope definition to occur in cycles.

11.2.2    Controlling Quality

Quality is about ensuring the expectations of the project sponsor have been met. This involves ensuring the expectations of the end-user community are well understood. High quality is achieved by planning for it (proactive) rather than by reacting to problems after they are identified (reactive).

Standards are chosen and processes are established to achieve those standards in the planning phase. Project quality focuses on the end deliverables that reflect the purpose of the project. The project leader is responsible for developing a quality management plan that defines the quality expectations and for ensuring the specifications and expectations are met. In the execution phase, the project team attempts to prevent quality issues from occurring with the use of quality management techniques, such as checklists, assessments, and lean six-sigma tools. Lean six-sigma tools are focused on creating efficient and effective processes that involve error-proofing methods.

In the monitoring and control phase, the project team reviews the project deliverables to ensure they are ready for review and sign-off. Ideally, this review leads to deliverable acceptance. However, the team may encounter problems that they are unable to prevent. When this occurs, the team’s objective is to determine how to fix these problems. One of the most effective ways to address a problem is to begin by understanding its root cause(s). Cause-and-effect diagrams, which are also referred to as fishbone or Ishikawa diagrams, are very effective for this purpose.

11.2.3    Monitoring Stakeholder Engagement

Project teams cannot control stakeholders. However, they can significantly influence their level of engagement. During the planning phase of a project, the stakeholder register is created (see Chapter 5) which is an effective tool for keeping track of a project’s stakeholders, their relative interest in the project, and their level of power/influence over the project’s outcomes. The register provides an effective starting place for determining how to engage stakeholders according to their power and interest levels if a Power/Interest Grid is used.

During the monitoring and control phase, the project team looks for new stakeholders and monitors the engagement level of existing stakeholders. Engagement techniques will vary from one organization to another as their respective cultural norms and values influence how individuals work together. Some organizations prefer face-to-face interaction while others prefer the use of electronic messaging and project team websites. Whatever the methods are used to engage stakeholders, it is important to keep stakeholders informed of the project’s progress and to find the right approaches for meaningfully involving stakeholders throughout the life of the project.

A project leader’s interpersonal skills are critical in stakeholder management (See Chapters 5 and 6). Some stakeholders may have become unresponsive to the project team’s requests. When this occurs, the project leader’s relationship-building skills will be put to the test as they attempt to understand the stakeholder’s actions. Conflict resolution skills, such as negotiating, are vital because stakeholders are very likely to have differing priorities, and successfully navigating these conflicts can be the difference between project success and project failure.

11.2.4    Monitoring Communications

Communication is one of the most effective ways to keep team members and all other stakeholders engaged. In order for this communication to be effective, it must be developed and delivered in ways that consider stakeholder roles and communication preferences. During the planning phase, a communication plan would be created to guide the project team’s communication efforts throughout the project (See Chapter 6). It is important for project leaders to proactively determine if the selected communication methods will be suitable for the key stakeholders. This is done by directly asking them and monitoring their responsiveness to the communication delivered. Another important way to determine if project stakeholders are well-informed is to pay careful attention to the questions they ask. Questions about project progress that have been addressed in recent project communications are a good sign that the communication techniques may not be effective for a particular stakeholder. When this occurs, it is time to revisit the communication plan and make the appropriate adjustments.

11.2.5    Controlling Procurements

Monitoring procurement includes ensuring the vendors’ performance meets the agreed-upon, often contractual, requirements. The complexity of the project determines the number and type of vendors procured. This, in turn, determines the nature of the monitored activities. For instance, projects that only require supplies to be purchased externally will have much simpler vendor management processes than projects that had to outsource the completion of some of the work to external consultants.

Key tools and techniques that may be used in procurement management include inspections, audits, formal change control methods, vendor-produced performance reports, payment systems, and contract administration.

11.2.6    Monitoring Risks

Monitoring and controlling risks involves implementing a risk management plan. A key aspect of this plan is often the risk register, which helps the team keep track of the project risks, triggers (early warning signs), and risk responses (See Chapter 10). Risk responses can be implemented in any phase of the project as long as documentation is kept up to date.

Many project teams establish contingency plans and contingency funds to account for all types of risks (e.g., negative and positive risks, individual and overall project risks). When these risks materialize, the project team determines if the contingency plans and/or funds will address these risks and, if so, they will be implemented. If contingency plans/funds don’t suffice, the project team must identify workarounds.  Contingency plans and workarounds are then monitored to determine if they were effective. Additional corrective action may be required.

11.2.7    Controlling Resources

Projects require human resources, physical resources, and services in order to produce the desired outcomes (See Chapter 8). During monitoring and controlling, the project leader assesses the effectiveness of all types of resources.

With respect to the project team, effective project managers continuously assess the performance of the team and its members. Effective coaching and mentoring skills are essential and can be the difference between project success and failure (See Chapter 6). In addition, a project leader must sometimes make the difficult decision to replace team members when they are not able to perform as expected or the ensuing conflicts cannot be resolved. Conflict management skills are important in this regard (See Chapter 6). Proactive conflict management requires the project leader to continuously monitor stress levels in the team in an attempt to anticipate the likelihood of rising conflict. Monitoring resource utilization levels in the project schedule and staying connected to project team members are also critical activities that the project leader must perform. Lastly, many projects require people with different skills at different times. Project leaders should be actively monitoring when these skills will be required and ensuring people join/transition off the project at the appropriate times.

The availability and effectiveness of physical resources are also closely monitored. In some instances, faulty or ineffective equipment has to be replaced. If the scope of the project changes, new equipment and technology may be required, which, in turn, may lead to additional work in procurement management.

Monitoring and controlling is about integrating all the teams while assuring that work is being completed at a steady rate to keep the project on track. This phase is vital to the overall success of the project. Thus, requiring additional, highly-skilled resources, is a key consideration during the planning phase.


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Project Management by Abdullah Oguz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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