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There are two kinds of authority: One is power over people, and the other is the ability to make decisions and to act unilaterally.

Consider the messages being sent to these managers. On the one hand, they are being told, “We trust you to administer $35 million of our money.” On the other hand, they are told, “But as you spend it, you must have every expenditure approved by someone of higher authority.” One is a positive message: “We trust you.” The other is negative. Which do you think comes through loud and clear? You bet! The negative.

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negative message always takes priority over a positive one.

Interestingly, we complain that people in organizations won’t take more responsibility for themselves; then we treat them as though they are irresponsible and wonder why they don’t behave responsibly!

So the first meaning of “control” has a power connotation. Another meaning is summed up by the highlighted definition which was introduced in an earlier chapter: Control is the act of comparing progress to the plan so that corrective action can be taken when a deviation from planned performance occurs. This definition implies the use of information as the primary ingredient of control rather than power. Thus, we talk about management information systems, and, indeed, these are the essence of what is needed to achieve control in projects.

Control: To compare progress against the plan so that corrective action can be taken when a deviation occurs.

Unfortunately, many organizations have management information systems that are good for tracking inventory, sales, and manufacturing labor but not for tracking projects. Where such systems are not in place, you will have to track progress manually.

Achieving Team Member Self-Control

Ultimately, the only way to control a project is for every member of the project team to be in control of his own work. A project manager can achieve control at the macro level only if it is achieved at the micro level. However, this does not mean that you should practice micro-managing! It actually means that you should set up conditions under which every team member can achieve control of his own efforts.

Doing this requires five basic conditions. To achieve self-control, team members need:

1.A clear definition of what they are supposed to be doing, with the purpose stated.

2.A personal plan for how to do the required work.

3.Skills and resources adequate to the task.

4.Feedback on progress that comes directly from the work itself.

5.A clear definition of their authority to take corrective action when there is a deviation from plan (and it cannot be zero!).

The first requirement is that every team member be clear about what her objective is. Note the difference between tasks and objectives, which was discussed in Chapter 5. State the objective and explain to the person (if necessary) the purpose of the objective. This allows the individual to pursue the objective in her own way.

The second requirement is for every team member to have a personal plan on how to do the required work. Remember, if you have no plan, you have no control. This must apply at the individual, as well as at the overall project level.

The third requirement is that the person have the skills and resources needed for the job. The need for resources is obvious, but this condition suggests that the person may have to be given training if she is lacking necessary skills. Certainly, when no employee is available with the required skills, it may be necessary to have team members trained.

The fourth requirement is that the person receive feedback on performance that goes directly to her. If such feedback goes through some roundabout way, she cannot exercise self-control. To make this clear, if a team member is building a wall, she must be able to measure the height of the wall, compare it to the planned performance, and know whether she is on track.

The fifth condition is that the individual must have a clear definition of her authority to take corrective action when there is a deviation from plan, and it must be greater than zero authority! If she has to ask the project manager what to do every time a deviation occurs, the project manager is still controlling. Furthermore, if many people have to seek approval for every minor action, this puts a real burden on the project manager.

Characteristics of a Project Control System

The control system must focus on project objectives, with the aim of ensuring that the project mission is achieved. To do that, the control system should be designed with these questions in mind:

imageWhat is important to the organization?

imageWhat are we attempting to do?

imageWhich aspects of the work are most important to track and control?

imageWhat are the critical points in the process at which controls should be placed?

Control should be exercised over what is important. On the other hand, what is controlled tends to become important. Thus, if budgets and schedules are emphasized to the exclusion of quality, only those will be controlled. The project may well come in on time and within budget but at the expense of quality. Project managers must monitor p

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