It had been a good day, a long day but a very successful day. I had just completed one of two pilot project management courses for a client and after a meal and rest I decided to watch a few episodes of the West Wing. (Shown on TV 1999- 2006)
In one of the episodes, the President of the USA asks to meet an expert on India- Pakistan affairs. The episode, called ‘Lord John Marbury’,introduced a British diplomat who talked about one of the countries not having a ‘clear command and control structure.’ For some reason I momentarily left the visual images of the West Wing and drifted off into the afternoon session of the project management event.
During the afternoon, I had asked a question:
‘What is monitoring and control like in your part of the business?’
The response was ‘somewhat muted.’
It struck me watching this episode that there was little understanding from the group of neither the responsibility nor accountability needed when it came to monitoring of projects. Now I want to stress I am no advocate of command and control management – there are many articles on the web about this and do not have the space to write about it here, indeed, from my undergraduate days I could see its limitations. However…I can also see some advantages when it comes to monitoring and control of projects with project managers and executives (including project boards) knowing what their responsibilities are and acting on them.
In the next one day session I was able to link monitoring and control to the benefits of command and control. I also explained the need for engagement between the sponsor and project manager in order to determine who does what and yes, the Lord John Marbury got a mention (the favourite episode of 2 people on the course.)
My concern is that companies spend much time and money trying to deliver their strategic agenda which is undermined by poor, and in some cases non-existent, monitoring of projects. That means companies are relinquishing control of their own destiny. Some of you reading this will say well, that’s certainly not the case where I work. Great; if only it were so across all companies. My evidence shows it is not, nor is this one off; I have seen this many times.
The West Wing certainly set me thinking about the monitoring and control of projects. The interesting thing is that it seems to me it is sensible where someone has a project that involves money and resources they should be monitored. After all, historically, the delivery of projects is not done all that well but if you do not monitor then an organisation does not know this!
Illustration courtesy of freedigitalimages.net