Folks often bumble into executing project work, but monitoring and controlling project work is trickier and requires much better planning, often with the input of the project manager. As with many of the steps in project integration management, there is not only breadth but depth to monitoring and controlling project work. If you haven’t already read the PMBOK Guide, know that I typically recommend reading the entire PMBOK guide before trying to tackle any of the processes in Project Integration Management.
However, you may still find some value in this article. If you’re just getting started with studying for the PMP exam and want a brief overview of the Monitor and Control Project Work process, then you could start here. Those future PMPs who are deeper into their studies can use this article as a template to check their own understanding and start a conversation in the comments on how you work with
A Key Point About the Monitor and Control Project Work Process
In the PMBOK Guide, Monitor and Control Project Work is both a process and a process group. This is important to know because of what PMBOK calls the “integrative” nature of project management. A fair way to think about the integrative nature of project management is: when in doubt, integrate! You’ll hear the words “integrate” and “integrative” more than you care to, because project management is not any of these processes on their own; rather, it is the study of how all of these different processes come together and overlap.
Back to the key point, which is process group vs. process. As a quick reminder, PMBOK says:
- A process is a “systematic series of activities…such that one or more inputs will be acted upon to create one or more outputs” (551).
- A process group is “a logical grouping of project management inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs…[and] these are not project phases” (554).
I’m probably committing some minor PMP sacrilege here, but let me share my secret with you: I had to look those definitions up in the PMBOK Guide. Frankly, in my experience before, during, and after the PMP exam, the term process group versus process means very little. It might be more key if you’re hanging around with your PM nerd friends in a PM consulting firm, but from my vantage point as a “lone wolf” PM, none of my project team members really care. It’s not that I couldn’t tell you the difference, it’s just that I find the PMI lingo a little too jargon-y.
For the non-technical folks, let’s say that a process is a set of particular activities on a project that includes inputs, tools/techniques, and outputs that are specified in the PMBOK Guide. A process group relates these processes together. Don’t memorize it, just work with the material until you know it implicitly.
Now, let’s relate that to monitoring and controlling.
Monitoring and Controlling Project Work: The Process Group
Monitoring and Controlling happens throughout the project, so it makes sense that the process is connected to many other processes throughout the PMBOK guide. Here are three ways you can identify a monitoring and controlling related process:
- Your new BFF is the word “control”. – If you see a process, and it has the word control in it, you’re monitoring and control. In fact, only one process — Validate Scope — doesn’t use the word control. (Simply put, validating scope is confirming that the scope matches the intention of the project charter, while controlling scopes is avoiding scope creep and ensuring the entire scope is addressed.
- I won’t say that Perform Integrated Change Control is the most important process in this process group, but it’s up there. If you’re like me, your eyes might start to gloss over once you’ve read the words Perform, Integrated, Change, and Control for what feels like the ten thousandth time in your studies. Well, all I can say is get used to it, because Perform Integrated Change Control is really important!
- Speaking of integration, would it surprise you to learn that there are many common inputs and outputs between the different Monitoring and Controlling Processes? It shouldn’t! A good exercise is to refer to Annex A1 in the PMBOK Guide, and take a look at the connections you make. An example of a common input is the Project Management Plan, which naturally you’ll want to reference when controlling actual vs. plan. An example of a common output is work performance information, which tells the PM and management how things are going.
An exercise you can try to ensure you are relating items to the right process group — in this case Monitoring and Controlling — is to find a real-life project management example that you have faced and try to fit it into one of the integration processes.
Try going through each of the Monitoring and Controlling processes in the PMBOK Guide and finding a relatable example in your real-life project management work, whether you were managing the project or simply working on it. That exercise will help solidify and bring some life to the words on the page that you’re studying. If you can’t think of anything, that’s a good cue to reread that section.
Monitoring and Controlling Project Work: The Process
The chapter on Project Integration Management is much more relatable — dare I say, fun, even — when you already have a foundation of the rest of the PMBOK Guide. When I read the chapter of Project Integration Management first — a mistake I made while studying! — I was left scratching my head. Now, however, when I read it, it seems so much more like second nature. It’s like the way a newborn sees the world versus how an adult sees the world. I just needed to have the experience to be able to wrap my head around it.
In preparing for my PMP exam, I didn’t spend too much time on the nitty-gritty details surrounding the Monitoring and Controlling Project Work process. Remember, you already know the PMBOK guide before studying this section. Here are a few key takeaways:
- Develop Project Plan and Monitor & Control Project Work are highly interdependent. Develop Project Management Plan and Monitoring and Controlling Project Work are constantly interacting because the Project Management Plan provides information for the PM team to Monitor and Control the Project Work. By Monitoring and Controlling the Project Work, you are doing what’s needed to get information to update the Project Plan. The relationship is cyclical.
- Outputs of the Monitor and Control Project Work process start the Perform Integrated Change Control process. Work performance reports and change requests, both outputs of Monitor and Control Project Work, can and often do lead to beginning the Perform Integrated Change Control Process.
- Work performance information is an input, while work performance reports are an output. I wanted to draw your attention to this particular issue, because it can be a tricky example of semantics. While the PM in your already knows that you need information to product reports, it’s easy to mix something like this up while taking a high-stress exam. In fact, I found many more errors like this in my practice exams than I thought possible, so be sure to keep this on your radar while studying.
In practice, you may be monitoring and controlling while you execute the project work, and if your organization isn’t already using PMBOK language, then you may have some trouble separating what is executing the work with what is actually monitoring and controlling the work. I was always tempted to say that Perform Integrated Change Control was part of the Executing process group, because something was being performed. (That’s despite the fact that “Control” is actually in this process name, so maybe I’m just a little crazy!)
Now how are you feeling about Monitoring and Controlling Project Work — the process group and the process? Share your thoughts below, and we’ll discuss.
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