project control cycle

Unlike the factory-based manufacturing, construction projects bring the factory to the job site. While pre-manufactured components are used to create our built environment, putting these components together must be done at the project location. Imagine how long it would take to get a new car if you had to assemble a kit of parts delivered to your front door. You are here, you know that construction is a complex business.

In the factory it is possible to directly measure the productivity, quality, and cost of each step of the manufacturing process. On the construction site we rely on the quality control, quality assurance, and standard details, and our own experience to ensure that the job is done to the level of quality identified in the construction contract. Over time tools have been developed to assist us in these tasks. These tools are applied as part of “control cycles.”

Control cycles allow us to define the objective for a specific aspect of the work, measure against the work as it proceeds, evaluate the work against the objectives, and then decide if adjustments are needed to make improvements. Without really thinking about it we all apply control cycles every time we get behind the wheel of a car. See if you can identify some of the control cycles that you employ when driving.

On the construction site we have control cycles that assist in tracking the cost of a job. There is an initial budget, daily cost charges, purchase, and we compare the actual cost of the work to the original budget at least every month when an invoice is prepared. Each of these steps is needed to track costs through the project. A contractor who waits until the end of the job to balance their books is taking a big chance since they will not be able to do anything if they wait until the end of the job to find out their costs are exceeding their budget. Trying to control costs without updating the budget based on job changes, capturing the cost of work as it is accomplished, and regularly checking the costs, budget and income is not possible.

Controlling the time required to complete a project using schedules must also be accomplished using a cycle. An initial schedule allows us to define a project plan that all team members can understand and follow. Updated schedules allow us to measure our progress against that baseline. Updating the baseline for changes to project scope is also critical since the plan must represent, as close as is reasonable, the actual job.

For your schedule to be effectively used, consider scheduling as a tool that is part of a time control cycle. If this is the case then, your initial project plan must clearly communicate the way in which the project is to be built. You will need to update the plan when the scope of the project or some other factor impacts your plan. Finally you will need to use procedures that allow unambiguous progress measurement. Such concerns are the philosophical underpinning of the information presented in this tutorial.