Monitoring your project
Once the project has been initiated, a project manager’s key tasks are to monitor the project progress and expenses against the plan and, if necessary, intervene with control actions as we will see in the next steps.
Monitoring involves checking progress against the plan through the routine collection and review of information to ensure that the objectives of the project will be met. For each project activity, the project manager should collect information on:
- its progress: how much of each activity has been done
- the time required to reach that level of progress
- the commitment of resources to achieve that progress, in terms of expenses made or hours dedicated by human resources.
Then differences between the project schedule and the actual progress, and between the expenses and the planned budget should be noticed.
As well as these key activities, a project manager will also have to lead and manage the project team, provide a regular check on what the team are doing against what they are supposed to be doing (Connor, 1993) and communicate with the stakeholders. Throughout the implementation phase, the project manager needs to choose tools and techniques for monitoring and controlling, and for managing changes and dealing with problems.
Successful monitoring of a project depends on the flow of information, so it is important to have systems in place to make sure that you get feedback on what is happening. However, monitoring is not a solitary activity carried out by the project manager. If the project team is meeting regularly to review progress, monitoring becomes more dynamic and changes to the plan can be achieved by consensus. Involving the team helps to keep everyone on target and also builds commitment.
Research has moved from the idea of determining the ‘best’ form of communication to looking for patterns of communication that seem to be the most effective. In studying virtual teams, Chudoba and Maznevski (2000) found that the ‘effective’ teams were distinguishable by a ‘temporal rhythm’ to their communications over time. In other words, they had regular face-to-face meetings and in between communication occurred on a frequent basis either via the telephone or through email. In contrast, an ineffective team did not show such rhythm to their communications. Moreover, the ‘effective’ teams adopted appropriate communication media in relation to the complexity of the communication: email for the least complex, then telephone for the next most complex, and face-to-face meetings or conference calls for the most complex interactions.
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