How to Monitor and Control a Project

 Welcome to the wonderful world of project management! The Project Management Institute (PMI), the PM’s foremost authority, identifies five basic steps in the project lifecycle.  

  1. Initiating 
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Controlling 
  5. Closing 

In this blog post, we’ll tackle the monitoring or controlling phase of a project—overseeing progress and taking corrective action when necessary.

Phase 4 is about ensuring the project runs smoothly and that things go according to plan.

To effectively monitor a project, you should keep an eye on:

  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Quality
  • Effectiveness

Keep in mind that this fourth step of the project lifecycle runs simultaneously with the third project lifecycle phase, execution.

When looking at the project lifecycle in a sequenced manner, this is the best, most logical way to organize the information.

Need a flowchart? Here’s our proprietary tool.

Maintain Your Team

The ultimate in the project management world is to have a high-performing team. While some working collectives function more as groups of independent people, a team works as a cohesive, mutually accountable whole. Teams excel at complex tasks with multiple dependencies and are able to assign work to best suit their members’ specialized skills.

The best thing about a high-performing team is its ability to self-monitor. In a perfect world, the project manager focuses on the process, empowering the team to stick to the plan and monitor progress.

Ten characteristics of high-performing teams are as follows:

  1. Team member goals align with project goals.
  2. The team is focused on interdependent actions.
  3. Team members participate in planning and monitoring processes.
  4. Decisions are made primarily by consensus.
  5. The project leader AND team members own the project plan and its execution.
  6. Team members are empowered, with defined roles and responsibilities. Focus on deliverables, not activities.
  7. Conflicts are resolved collaboratively.
  8. People on the team feel heard and appreciated.
  9. Individual style differences are honored.
  10. Individual needs are of concern to the team.

The more of these checkpoints a team can embody, the better the team can perform. For more information and specific activities to attain these points, click here to read more from the PMI learning library.

Monitor a project with KPIs

Project managers are sometimes referred to as “professional nags.” While no one wants to be a nag, staying on top of project progress is crucial to managing a project well.

Monitor KPIs (key performance indicators) as they are critical points indicative of project success. Keeping a keen eye on these can help prevent scope creep or the tiny, gradual changes that can make the project snowball.

Keep in mind, no one works well when they’re being micromanaged. Hopefully, you’re kept out of the weeds by monitoring set KPIs.

The best thing to do is to keep your team feeling empowered, bought in, and motivated. Most importantly, keep your eye on deliverables, not activities. It doesn’t matter how one gets there, just so long as it gets done!

In the end, know that it’s difficult to estimate, and you’ll gain more skill and accuracy the more projects you manage.


There should already be a master plan laid out to complete the project on time. On top of that, a consideration of specific time-based KPIs helps keep everything on track.

KPIs may include:

  • Cost performance index—how does the budgeted time compare to the actual time spent to accomplish those tasks
  • Planned work hours vs actual—how do scheduled working hours compare to actual time spent
  • Overdue tasks—a ratio of tasks with crossed deadlines compared to completed ones
  • Schedule variance—how much ahead or behind schedule is the project
  • Schedule performance index—learn whether you’re ahead or behind schedule
  • Cycle time—how long to complete a task
  • Number of schedule adjustments—how many times has the project completion date been changed


Sticking to financial constraints isn’t easy. Complex, long-range projects are notoriously difficult to keep on budget.

As time passes, more factors may impact your project’s fiscal aspects. These factors may include prices for goods and services trending up, product demand (or shortages), embargos, environmental changes, VUCA events, and many more.

Financial KPIs can include:

  • Planned value—what’s the estimated cost for your project activities planned/scheduled
  • Actual cost—how much have you spent so far
  • Earned value—what’s the budgeted cost of the work performed so far
  • Cost variance—how much does the actual budget vary from the estimated budget
  • Cost to manage processes—an overview of time and resources used in supervising the project

Click here to read more on budgeting & forecasting metrics.


Quality concerns how well the project is being executed.

Some typical KPI’s for quality are:

  • Number of errors—track how many times things had to be redone
  • Customer satisfaction—is the client pleased with the work
  • Customer complaints—did anything go awry (external and internal “customers”)
  • Employee churn rate—the percentage of team members that have exited the company


Being a project manager means monitoring how time and money are spent. Making appropriate expenditures is key to keeping a project running smoothly.

  • Number of change requests—track the number and frequency of requested changes.
  • Missed milestones—were any key points missed
  • Percentage of tasks completed—gain a quick overview of project performance
  • Resource utilization—how many hours are spent on billable project tasks vs. non-billable work

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Change of Plans? …if so, begin the change control process.

First and foremost, know that too many changes affect timelines, budgets, resources, and quality. Further, understand change is notoriously hard for all involved.

Approach it as a project lead but be sure to get buy-in from your whole project team. Follow a change control process to ensure that each change is getting the consideration it deserves.

  1. Identify Issue

Immediately hone in on what’s wrong. By pinpointing the root of the problem, you can proceed to define it further.

  1. Evaluate Impact

Look at every aspect and angle of the issue. First, weigh what’s going to happen.

  • What areas is it going to affect most?
  • Any snowballing issues or compounding problems?
  • Can a certain department, area, or person afford to absorb that amount of change?
  • Are there other risky scenarios this may hinder or help?
  1. Develop Alternatives

What options do you have? Use your creativity to examine different aspects again and think about what could solve the issue.

  1. Decide on a Solution

After developing a list of options, it’s time to evaluate and pick one to move forward. Develop a pro and con list or some other evaluation criteria.

Now is a perfect time to bring in the project team and pick a solution by consensus.

  1. Implement Change

After the solution has been selected, the changes must be implemented. Hopefully, everyone knows their piece of the puzzle.

Be sure to clearly define roles, responsibilities, and next steps in the change implementation.


Gaining the proper permissions and sign-offs is a way to neatly cover your bases. Without sign-off, there’s nothing binding. Don’t risk a stakeholder or client getting irked at you for something they claim they knew nothing about.

As a best practice, adhere to a specific sign-off process, letting everyone know the expectations, timeline, and exact part they play in the flow.

When it comes to changes, it’s paramount that those you seek sign-off from, especially the change requester, comprehend the total impact on the project timeline, budget, quality, and resources.

Record change intricacies and make sure that people understand that too many changes or too major of changes can negatively affect the project.

Put the project management process to work

This concludes our blog on how to monitor a project. The next phase of the project lifecycle is the closeout process.

Processes and frameworks are great to have in your back pocket. But remember, every organization runs differently. You must consider the people, institutional history, challenges, and existing practices before rolling something out.

Motivations and empathy are everything in project management. So carry on, attack those projects, and do what’s right for everyone involved.

And if you’d like us to provide a deeper look into your organization to take the pain out of project management without sacrificing your hard-earned gains, we’d love to connect with you in a free 30-minute consultation.