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Regain control quickly, or buckle up for a slippery ride

The need for fit for purpose project control

We don’t have time to do that now’

‘I would need another person just to meet PMO requirements – delivery is important’

‘No time to write up a plan – the team knows what has to be done’

‘So where are we against the baseline plan?’

Are these quotes familiar? How many times have you been on a project where things are not going to plan, time is ticking, issues are mounting and key stakeholders are clamouring for re-assurance that all can be achieved on time and budget?

In such situations there is a temptation for leadership to plough on regardless, the team work harder, longer hours and by sheer strength of will convince themselves all will be well – possibly but possibly not. Yet this is the almost inevitable consequence of not putting in place the correct project disciplines from inception. Instead, the drive to get started overwhelms the need for project due diligence. Project issues lurk at individual team level, not escalated, plans lie dormant and getting a view on current status is a major exercise. The project may be delivered but at what cost?

Too often the total project cost of not having appropriate project controls and governance in place is overlooked – putting in fit for purpose delivery processes and scope control keeps a project honest – if there are issues there is a greater chance of addressing them earlier, adjusting plans where necessary. The result is a project team in control, clear on objectives and actively managing delivery risks.

It is never too late on an engagement to implement appropriate structure, but understanding what structure is appropriate for your project is tricky. If not addressed early, the risk of losing a grip over delivery increases by the week and recovery is more costly both in terms of monetary outlay and team burnout.

We believe that fit for purpose controls are a mandatory requirement on any delivery. Whilst methodologies and textbooks on project management provide some guidance the value is in finding the right processes and control artefacts for the specific project respecting delivery history, team maturity and organisational complexity. By taking a holistic view it is possible to deliver an approach tailored to each delivery situation but based on experience of what does and does not work.