Controlling a Stage    

  • Basics
  • Process overview
  • Activities
  • Documents
  • Relation to principles
  • Relation to themes

You must know and understand:

  • The purpose of Controlling a Stage
  • The activities
  • The documents relevant to this process
The purpose of the Controlling a Stage process is to assign work to be done, monitor such work, deal with issues, report progress to the Project Board, and take corrective actions to ensure that the stage remains within tolerance.
The objective of the Controlling a Stage process is
to ensure that:
  • Attention is focused on delivery of the stage's products. Any movement away from the direction and products agreed at the start of the stage is monitored to avoid uncontrolled change ('scope creep') and loss of focus
  • Risks and issues are kept under control
  • The Business Case is kept under review
  • The agreed products for the stage are delivered
    to stated quality standards, within cost, effort and time agreed, and ultimately in support of the achievement of the defined benefits
  • The project management team is focused on delivery within the tolerances laid down.

The project is executed in stages. Within these the Project Manager uses the process Controlling a Stage.

The project is executed stage by stage.

Within a stage the Project Manager must ensure

  • the products planned for the stage are delivered;
  • risks and issues are being managed;
  • the stage keeps within it's agreed tolerances.

The process Controlling a Stage represents the management activities of the Project Manager in execution of the project. These activities focus on:

  • monitoring the stage status;
  • have work carried out by the teams;
  • handle unplanned events;
  • communicate with the Project Board.

Interaction with the productions of the project's deliverables
Work necessary for the production of the stage's products is only undertaken on direction of the Project Manager. Allthough a team can be autonomous in the technical sense, one should not forget that only the Project Manager has the complete overview of the project as a whole. He knows the progress of the stage and therefore can decide if work has to be performed or not.

Authorize Work Packages

Assignments for work are put together as a Work Package. One Work Package can give authority to produce one or more products. Work Packages can be handled in a more or less formal way, but when an outside (sub)contractor is used formal treatment is usual, mostly as part of a contract.

Review Work Package status

To be able to assess the progress of a stage as a whole it is necessary to monitor progress of the work in a Work Package on a regular base. This can be done formally or informally, at the frequency agreed upon in the Work Package.
The Project Manager can turn to several sources of information to get insight into progress:

  • Checkpoint Reports;
  • Quality Register (tests should appear here);;
  • Configuration Item Records (the status of the products in a Work Package should be reflected here).

Receive completed Work Packages

At Work Package completion the Project Manager should
Verify completion of all products;
Check that all quality work has been completed and the Quality Register has been updated;

  • Verify that all products have been approved by authorized personnel;
  • Verify that the Configuration Item Records for all products have been updated.

This being done, the Project Manager can now update the Stage Plan with the actuals for time and costs for the completed products.

Review the stage status

The project's execution proceeds cyclic as shown here. After creating the Stage Plan work is being delegated using Work Packages. To be able to control the project the Project Manager has to be able to monitor progress of a stage, so he will not be surprised by deviations to the plan, losing his ability to act proactively.

In monitoring a stage the Project Manager has numerous sources of information:

  • Checkpoint Reports;
  • Stage Plan;
  • Product Status Account;
  • Issue Register;
  • Risk Register;
  • Quality Register.


By combining the information from these sources with data on the future availability of resources the Project Manager can picture the progress of stages against the Stage Plans and tolerances. Depending on the understanding from all the information the Project Manager can decide of eveything is going according to plan, or that corrective actions has to be taken or an issue or risk should be escalated.

Escalate or Correct?

By diligently and regularly tracking the progress of work being carried out in the stage the Project Manager can have early warning of problems that may occur.

As long as deviations from the plan can be corrected with the stage tolerances the Project Manager uses the activity "Taking corrective action" to get the performance of the project bak on track. However most of the time only minor corrections can be carried out within the stage tolerances. When these by themselves are not enough to correct a threatening deviation an exception occurs which should be escalated to the Project Board.




Handle events

Capture and examine issues and risico's

The unplanned events taking place during a stage should be managed in an orderly fashion. This is done by applying the approaches as described in the theme's Risk and Change. First they are noted in the Risk or Issue Register and then analyzed on impact and priority.


Escalate issues and risks

For each stage the Project Manager has a mandate to execute the Stage Plan within the agreed tolerances. When an issue or risk threatens these tolerance the Project Manager first will try to remedy this by applying corrective measures. When his appraisal of the event is that this is not possible without exceeding the tolerances he will escalate the issue or risk as an exception, using an Exception Report.

Interaction with the Project Board

Report highlights

The method and frequency of progress reporting from the Project Manager to the Project Board is described in the Project Plan. In projects, regular and reliable reporting is a prerequisite for the successful application of management by exception!

The following documents are relevant in Controlling a Stage:

Continued business justification
When examining issues and risks the effects on the Business Case should be taken into account.
Learn from experience
The Lessons Log is updated in the activity "Review stage status". Lessons should appear in Checkpoint Reports bevatten Lessons. The Highlight Report contains an updated Lessons Report.
Defined roles and responsibilities
The responsibilities of the Project Manager and the Team Manager(s) are clearly defined.
Manage by stages
Projects are excuted stage by stage. Control is effected through interaction between the Project Manager and the Team Manager(s) on one hand and the Project Board on the other.
Manage by exception
Risk and issues that threaten the agreed stage tolerances are escalated as exceptions.
Focus on products
  • Each stage focuses on delivering products, the Stage Plan is based on this;
  • Product Deescriptions are parts of Work Packages;
  • Progress is reported in terms of finished products against resources and time spent.
Business Case
When examining issues and risks the effects on the Business Case should be taken into account.
For this process to be succesfully carried out the roles Project Board, Project Manager and Team Manager(s) are necessary.
In Work Packages the necessary quality actions are clarified.
Each stage is executed with an agreed Stage Plan. This can only be changed with Project Board approval.
Risk and issues that threaten stage tolerance(s) are reported as exceptions.
RFC's are treated as issues. RFC's shoudl not be funded from the tolerance, but from a change budget.
Monitoring stage progress against the Stage Plan is one of the most important activities for a Project Manager.