Improve Project Controls

People-related problems often hobble current efforts.

By Robert Mathias, Pathfinder, LLC

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The Integrated Process Controls Process
Figure 2. As a project progresses, focus shifts from planning and budgeting to control of scheduling and cost.

IMPROVING PROJECT CONTROLS
Appropriate steps to enhance effectiveness depend on the company and how it organizes its project controls. However, in all cases, they involve systematically removing the root causes of the problems generating inefficiencies.

So, let's discuss approaches that can eliminate specific obstacles to the functionality and effectiveness of people charged with carrying out your project controls initiatives.

Organizational issues:
1. The position of project controls in the corporate organization chart often stands in the way of effective performance.

Project controls personnel work intimately with project managers and deal with data that potentially may indicate positive or negative trends. Therefore, the relationship of project controls in the overall corporate structure must facilitate unbiased reporting of trends to corporate management. (See Figure 3.)

2. The structure of the project controls organization doesn't provide for adequate management support of project controls staff assigned to individual projects.

Project controls specialists on all projects must have sufficient departmental support. These specialists shouldn't be charged with fighting the philosophical battles that sometimes occur with project team members when deciding, for example, what needs to be said (or not said) in corporate reports. When such a problem surfaces, an individual specialist should be able to get his or her manager to promptly intervene and resolve the dispute.

Human resource and personnel utilization issues:

1. Attrition rates of project controls personnel often exceed the rate at which they can be replaced by new hires.

Companies must implement programs to evaluate factors causing qualified project controls people to leave. Exploring this more during exit interviews can help, although it's after the fact. A better technique is to explicitly evaluate job satisfaction during annual performance and salary reviews; additional, mid-year reviews can provide early warnings of potential problems. Many factors can contribute to higher attrition rates, so it's important to pin down the drivers at a particular location to determine the most effective actions.

2. Sufficiently seasoned project controls personnel are becoming a scarce commodity, and are difficult to locate and hire.

Human resource and managerial staff must investigate how better to locate potential resources. Steps may include: maintaining contacts in professional societies (AACEI, PMI, CII, etc.); listing job openings in their periodical publications and on their websites; posting positions available and checking resumes not only on general Internet job boards (e.g., Monster.com and CareerBuilder), but also on project-controls-specific websites (e.g., Schedulers.com); making concerted efforts to identify and utilize project-controls-specific employment personnel services; and using outsourced personnel providers that specialize in project controls resources.

3. Project controls positions in many organizations offer a limited career-development path, resulting in talented personnel leaving after a short while for "greener pastures."

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