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Control – part 1 - Why? What can go wrong?



Planning assumptions may be wrong

It is very common for a schedule to be agreed after the project has actually started.
Even with this minor advantage no plan is foolproof.
The mere existence of a schedule is no guarantee of success.
In fact, if you don’t monitor your plan it is almost bound to fail!

The old adage of ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is very true in all areas of life and doubly so in Project Management.

The plan and hence the project schedule will be based upon particular assumptions and the knowledge of certain constraints.
If these turn out to be incorrect the project may, at best, prove difficult and, at worse, fail.

There could be much more to do than you anticipate and the level of resource available could change dramatically.

Under PRINCE2® [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] much of this will be verified via the Business Case before project approval is given.
Even so, the data on which it is based can change.

Requirements may change

What the customer wants may alter.
This is certainly not an ideal situation but could happen.
One reason for this happening is that the project assumed what the customer wanted without suitable discussion.

It may be that for a long project unforeseen technology changes, changes in environmental laws, health and safety requirements or legal issues make change necessary.

Deadline may change

Naturally, deadlines will be agreed and identified in the project schedule.
However, it is possible that particular deadlines may be brought forward or delayed for reasons that have just materialised.

For example, when the weather is a big factor, although risks here may have been addressed, severe weather may extend finish times considerably.
If the project is part of a programme, the other projects may necessitate trying to bring forward the current project to fit in with the other project requirements.

Budget cuts

If the general business environment changes then cost cutting may be an issue.
In this case all active projects may be affected or just yours depending on priorities.

This may result in project delays or scope reductions to reduce costs.

Priority changes

If the project is part of a larger programme there may be a pecking order of each project.
The projects may be fighting for a pot of central funds.

Even within a project there may be prioritisation of resources that can seriously affect key areas.

Barriers / resistance to change

The nature of the project may be alien to what an organisation is usually involved in. This may cause resistance amongst the work force affording slower than possible activity. In severe cases this may lead to sabotage.

Mistakes are made

No matter how good the planning or even with the existence of contingency plans mistakes will happen.
Good leadership and flexibility may be invaluable here [see ‘The Complete Leadership package’].

Acts of God

Although such acts may be more predictable in certain parts of the world the level and impact may be out of the ordinary.
Whilst some contingency may be made for flooding it will not take into account severe floods, or an earthquake or excessively high temperatures for extended periods.

If simple procedures have been followed hopefully the plan will have taken into account most of the major problems, but there may always be something lurking around the corner.

Monitoring the schedule can be done by exception, that is, if there are no issues it must be on track.

However, one must be aware that some people are less inclined to talk about potential failure and as such may not raise issues especially if they believe they can somehow fix them before they are a real problem.
This can be a serious problem where the culture is one of retribution for failure.

It is important to encourage a no blame culture that allows key issues to be raised and resolved.

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.

Non - PRINCE2 information