19 May 2009

Performance management

The five phases of a project (in the PMI context) are

1. Initiate
2. Plan
3. Monitor
4. Control
5. Close

Of course plan – monitor – control is an iterative process in itself. So maybe there are really three phases to a project; the beginning, middle and end. Like a story.

You are constantly correcting your plan in response to information you gather. You’ll then act on your modified plan to optimise performance, or minimise problems.

Here is my question;

Who’s job is it to implement the changes to the project plan and then to action them.

It appears on the face of it to be the project manager’s job, and at the detailed end it is. But first you have to gain approval to vary from your constraints – budget, time and scope.  Oterwise something else is going to suffer.

I am learning that in many projects the project manager does not have access to a sponsor or project owner who will or can engage in this decision making process.

What does the canny project manager do in this circumstance? Access your contingency until you get the conversation had? Press the matter with your sponsor or management (maybe using the squeaky wheel method)? Break the chain of command?

Or stand back and let it play out with an “I told you so” card ready for when the call finally comes to see the sponsor.  Can you pre-empt this situation by talking it out with the sponsor first? Not always.

Which approach is going to make the customer happiest? Which one will make them least annoyed?

What is your strategy?

While we are at it, here is this week's lecture notes on performance management.

Pic by YaniG, CC @ Flickr.


  1. Craig,
    Some of the significant differences between Space and Defense and commerical IT are:
    1. There is a Program Manager (even for a single team) whose responsibilty is to "keep the program" sold, interface with the customer and generally "herd" all the cats.

    2. A Control Account Manager who is responsible for delievring the solution contained in the Control Account. The CA is a bucket of money for some portion of the program. This person is techncial, but also focuses on the cost and schedule aspects of the project and "owns" the cost and scehdule baseline for the CA

    3. A Work Package Manager who is responsible for the physical progress of a collection of work. This person is a techncial leader.

    4. The Program Planning and Controls staff, who are responsible for building and maintaining a credible cost and schedule baseline, reporting progress, assessing programmatic risk and generally helping those with techncial responsibilties to keep everything on track.

    Seperating PP&C from techncial provides an independent opinion of progress to plan. No asking the engineers where are we? The PP&C staff captures the physical percent conplete and develops that measure.

  2. Great post Craig.