PM Tool: Feedback Control Systems for Project Management

The Feedback Control System (in German: Regelkreis) is an abstract methodology to represent communication and managerial processes within an organization or within a project. It can be adjusted to needs and helps to visualize the happenings in your particular case. One of the main aim of the feedback control system is to show whether or whether not a given system or project is working as envisaged.

As can be seen in the above representation, the logical areas of Planning, Steering, Control and Execution are being chosen with target values as inputs and disturbances during execution. The import notion of this tool is that every process relies on certain target values and framework settings that are given to the PLANNING entity. The PLANNING entity then forwards these target values both to STEERING and CONTROL. STEERING decides upon measures to achieve the target values and forwards the measure to EXECUTION. Disturbances may or may not happen during EXECUTION and the measures may or may not yield the anticipated values. Nevertheless at this stage certain AS IS values are present and the same being forwarded to CONTROL and STEERING to take the necessary action. In a perfect word AS IS equals target and CONTROL would forward a decision to stop the process to PLANNING. However as imperfect as this world is, most likely the results are not as anticipated and certain decisions have to be taken, PLANNING needs to be updated (schedules adapted) and STEERING sets out new measures to be executed by EXECUTION (subject to disturbances). The whole circle repeats itself.

The above process is a typical control and feedback process, in its simplest form the order of a manager to its employee to pick up packages and deliver them. Based on the feedback of the worker (xyz packages distributed, xyz not), the manager takes a further decision. However this tool allows also to be abstractly to be used on higher and by far more complex process, e.g. document control processes, testing & commissioning planning, progress reporting processes, etc.

The main advantage of this tool is its simple visualization help it can give to PLANNERS or DECISIONMAKERS to see their organization on a simple piece of paper and understand the current status of a process. Supporting the understanding and thought process, this tool helps to identify the critical parts of a process that are not working as per ideal. E.g. when in a document control process the AS IS values are just forwarded, but no CONTROL is taking place, the AS IS values will only be subject to the STEERING part (maybe the document manager?) who does not possess the necessary oversight of PLANNING to take the right decisions. However once visualized and identified, it is possible to change the process and establish a corrected process.

The main disadvantage is that this tool does not give any output of its own, but only helps the DECISIONMAKER to identify the critical parts. The solution for the identified problem has to be found individually and the tool does not support here. Nevertheless with a capable PLANNER this tool helps to prevent inefficient processes and problems during project execution.

Want to know more or get to know how to use this tool for your own project? Contact me at MLVONSCHAPER AT YAHOO DOT DE.


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