Protecting A Project From Troubled Waters

How Project Controls Can Prevent a Project From Turning Into a Shipwreck

By Don Klikna, Vince Nacewski, Chris Benjamin, Dr. Kate Panayotou and Joanna El Khoury
September 27, 2021

1. Basics of a project

Projects are best described as having a defined start and end, to produce a specific product or service. Think of the Great Pyramids, The Roman Colosseum, The Eiffel Tower, or more recently an Olympic Swimming Pool. Each of these had to be designed and built to specific standards and serve a defined function. As Project Managers, we have been taught that the Triangle of Constraints consists of Scope, Schedule, and Budget. As we continue to develop Project Management methodologies, we’ve become more aware of the impacts Quality and Risk have on a project’s success. These have been added into The Triangle of Constraints, changing the triangle to something more akin to a star, pentagon, or pyramid (depending on the artist). There are several articles that argue for defining additional constraints such as Benefits, Safety and Resources. These should be considered critical to a successful project, but in most cases are incorporated in the

previously listed categories and/or Project Execution Plan. For this discussion, we will focus on Scope, Schedule, Budget, Quality and Risk. Plus, the artwork to display the constraints can become rather creative.

So, now what? You’ve identified an idea (Scope), you’ve set your timeframe to bring the idea to fruition (Schedule), and what you expect it to cost (Budget). Sprinkle in a little Quality Assurance and Risk identification and off you go. How do you know the project is on track? Projects do not have an Autopilot. They must be monitored regularly and guided along a set course, making adjustments as needed. As a Project Manager and part of a Project Team, what is your guide on the course to completing the project? How do you determine what course corrections need to be made and when?

2. Control Methodologies

Chances are, most projects will not have the historic failures of the likes of The Quebec Bridge failures of 1906 and 1916 or The Banqiao Dam failure in 1975 (Smith, 2017). However, project failure does occur. An improperly managed project will usually result in missing major milestones/deadlines, incomplete deliverables, cost overruns, quality issues, compromised safety, etc. Projects do not fail as a result of one mistake but are comprised of a series of smaller mistakes and defects that go uncorrected. Even successful projects can have missteps, which if addressed early, will have minimal to no impact on the overall project.


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