Project Tracking Process Control – When You Must Finish On Time

Project Tracking with Process Control

Captain’s Log, Entry 8243.3Sometimes a late project finish is unthinkable. Project managers can apply process control methods to project tracking to help avoid a late finish. Process control for the project provides (1) Early warning of a likely late finish, (2) up-to-the-minute comparisons of actual progress with planned progress, and (3) visual updates on schedule gains and losses, easily understood by everyone.

The process control project progress chart (also known as a Schmidt Chart) is similar to statistical process control charts for manufacturing quality control. Because the chart puts current performance into historical context, everyone with an interest in the project can see immediately how actual progress compares to the original plan.

The example below charts progress for a project with original plans calling for a 32-week critical path. Unfortunately, this project ultimately took almost 39 weeks to finish. Note especially, however, that the progress chart warns early in week-8 that a late finish is very likely.

As a result, the project manager can make either of two possible responses to this kind of warning:  First, the PM can add resources and effort, to bring project progress back on schedule. Or, secondly, the PM can simply let management know that the project is going to finish late.

Example project progress chart

An example project progress control chart. The original plan calls for project finish in 32.5 weeks. However, the control chart warns in week 8 that a late finish is likely. The Actual Progress line slope shows everyone that tasks consistently take longer than the plan. If management takes action at the first warning, in week-8, an on-time finish probably would have been possible.

Read the full IEEE article Statistical Process Control for Project Progress Charting online.

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Author: Marty Schmidt

Marty Schmidt is Founder and President of Solution Matrix Limited, a Boston-based firm specializing in Business Case Analysis. Dr. Schmidt leads the firm's Management Consulting, Publishing, and Professional Training activities. He holds the M.B.A degree from Babson College and a Ph.D. from Purdue University.