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What are Control Plans?

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What are Control Plans?

Control plans are documents that are used to ensure the sustainability of the implemented solutions on a project over a long period of time. During a project, there may be several solutions that are deployed in order to improve a process. How do we ensure that these solutions will be followed by the organization in the long run (one year from now or five years from now)? Control plans are crucial in establishing the control of a process. A project should not be closed without suitable control plans in place. We can develop a control plan for either the solution or the root cause of the problem. The earlier in the process you control, the more proactive you can be and the later in the process you control, the more reactive you are. If good controls are not established then all the hard work done on a project to improve the primary metric is a waste since solutions are not effective in the long run.

Different Control Methods

Some of the common methods used to control the solutions or root causes are: creating written documentation of the new way of working, training of the people involved in the process, developing control charts to track and monitor the critical variables, monitoring the process using KPI or business balanced scorecards, placing the controls on someone’s annual performance review which determines their bonus or annual raises (linking it to incentives, rewards or recognition systems), linking the controls to audit control like ISO etc., automating the process to remove the human element, and/or deploying poka-yoke to ensure mistakes don’t happen in the first place or at least provide some sort of a warning that the process is out of control. Some of these methods are less effective while others may be more effective. In addition, some of these methods may be easy to implement while others may be more difficult to implement. So, depending on the solution and the amount of control you need to establish, you need to pick the right control method making a trade-off between effort and effectiveness.

Control Plan Template

Control plans may take several shapes or formats depending on company requirements but at a minimum, the following pieces of information should be contained in the control plan:
  • What is the variable to be measured?
  • Who should be measuring this variable?
  • Where will they get the data to measure this?
  • How many data points should be measured?
  • When should they measure this variable?
  • What are acceptable and non-acceptable values for this variable?
  • What should they do in case the results are not-acceptable?
An example control plan is shown in the figure below.

Control Plan Example

How to Deploy Control Plans?

Once the control plans are developed, they should be shared with the right process owners to ensure that they agree with the controls and will ensure that they are going to follow the plan to keep the process in control. If any training is needed for the process owners and their team, it should be provided so that they are well equipped to follow the control plan. Any concerns of the process owners should also be addressed. Needless to say, if the control plans are developed in isolation, then the process owners may not agree to follow the plan. Hence, the process owners need to be kept in the loop throughout the course of the project and their involvement is important to ensure buy-in and commitment for the plans created. In addition, an organization needs to inculcate a culture of following the control plans. No matter how good of a control plan you create, if the organization is not going to follow it then again it becomes a piece of decorative wallpaper. Deploying the appropriate change management techniques to generate organizational buy-in and having proper audits, checks & balances are important to develop and inculcate this mindset in the organization.

General Tips

Following are some general tips on developing and implementing control plans:
  • Involve the process owners upfront on the project
  • Only keep the most important variables in the control plan (keep it simple)
  • Use the most effective control method with minimal effort
  • Get a signed document from the process owner indicating their acceptance of the controls

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