Reforming Project Management: The Role of Planning, Execution and Controlling

Lauri Koskela1 & Greg Howell2

1Senior Researcher, VTT Building and Transport, Concurrent Engineering, P.O.Box 1801, FIN-02044 VTT, Finland, Phone +358 9 4564556, Fax +358 9 4566251, E-mail [email protected]
2Director, Lean Construction Institute. Box 1003, Ketchum, Id, 83340, U.S.A., Phone 208/726-9989, Fax 707/248-1369, E-mail [email protected]


In this paper, we focus on the need for reforming the role of plans, execution (or action) and control in project management. We argue that the present style of project management, as described in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) of PMI, is based on two underlying theories in this regard: management-as-planning (for planning and execution) and the thermostat model (for control). Unfortunately, both theories can be shown to be heroically simplistic and insufficient from the point of view of project management reality. In consequence, the practice of project management suffers from three shortcomings. The vague interface between planning and execution is the cause for two of them. First, the role of planning is not realistically defined, and short term planning (that is critical from the point of view of execution) is customarily poorly carried out or simply neglected. Secondly, there is no systematic way of managing execution, i.e. taking into account the actual conditions of the real world as higher level plans are translated into short term plans and then into action. Thirdly, control is too narrowly seen as measuring and taking corrective action, rather than as a process of learning. These arguments are justified by empirical data and theoretical discussion.


Project management, plan, execution, control.



Koskela, L. & Howell, G. 2001. Reforming Project Management: The Role of Planning, Execution and Controlling, 9th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -.

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