Best strategies for effective project control and management

Maja Sanders-Bochenek
Oct 06, 2023
As Project Managers, we deal with multifaceted endeavors that demand a precise set of skills, planning activities, and due diligence to attain the desired outcomes. Effective project management encompasses a spectrum of pivotal elements, including strong leadership, vigilant monitoring, seamless communication, adept administration, and, most importantly, a profound comprehension of business objectives.
In my experience, projects rarely fail due to a single issue but rather due to a collection of minor issues having a negative impact on a specific project area, such as cost, schedule, risk, etc. Today, I would like to guide you through my own lessons learned.  I strongly believe that those elements can elevate your ability to execute a project effectively while staying in full control over the outcomes.
Suppose you’re a Project Manager or a Project Owner. In that case, you can benefit from this article by assessing what is crucial to ensure a successful project delivery – meaning, it will meet the client’s business goals, adapt to the ever-changing environment, and simply not diverge. If you’re a stakeholder in a software project, you will learn what to expect from a Project Manager.
All of the components I mention throughout this article are crucial and work together as an interconnected web that directly impacts project progress. Therefore, to ensure that your efforts yield great business results, you might want to consider revising all areas that pertain to a holistic approach – even if you’re a seasoned pro.
The project management cycle consists of a few phases that you can see simplified above. Although it is worth mentioning that this graph corresponds best to Waterfall projects, not all project methodologies follow exactly the same path – when delivering software, we continuously develop, test, deploy, and maintain the product of our project.

What is the definition of project control?

But before we dive in, let’s start by defining what project control is.
As per PMBOK Guide, project control is
“a project management function that involves comparing actual performance with planned performance and taking appropriate corrective action (or directing others to take this action) that will yield the desired outcome in the project when significant differences exist”.
In short, we must regularly check how the project is progressing compared to the original plan and make necessary adjustments.
Project control can be achieved through various activities, and below, I will outline a few of the most game-changing ones, according to my experience. Before I do so, however, let’s answer a fundamental question…

Why is project control important?

Project control has a direct impact on the success of a project's development. Among the other benefits, it allows us to:
  • ensure we are on the right track,
  • check if we are achieving adequate business goals,
  • anticipate potential risks or obstacles that we may be unaware of,
  • keep the project within the estimated forecast and control budget deviance,
  • discover new tools and methods for doing things better,
  • adapt more effectively to the current environment,
  • and enhance our processes.
Most importantly, as we nail project control, we also establish the project’s focus on achieving results while ensuring connectivity between stakeholders, the project team, and the entire organization.
Additionally, those actions can boost the project team's morale and enhance job satisfaction and fulfillment. And, if we are staying flexible and able to adapt to changes, project controls greatly optimize project strategies to achieve better outcomes.
However, our goal should be to oversee and monitor activities and project progress, not to micromanage.

Project control vs. micromanagement – what’s the difference?

Project control aims to maintain oversight of a project's progress while allowing team members room to work independently and make decisions. In contrast, micromanagement involves excessive control and interference in the minutiae of tasks.
In essence, micromanagement is a management approach characterized by closely monitoring and directing team activities that might have a negative impact. One example is demanding frequent updates and observing each task one’s employees work to an excessive degree. This not only results in distractions and interruptions but also leads to a high-stress work environment.
It’s important to note that micromanagement may be a byproduct of even the best intentions. It has numerous root causes, some of which are:
  • lack of project managerial experience,
  • perfectionism,
  • pressure from supervisors,
  • underestimation of timings and extreme deadlines,
  • unskilled team or lack of trust.
How can you deal with micromanagement tendencies? The first step is self-awareness. Ask your team for feedback on your management style and how it impacts their work. Reflect on your behavior and consider instances where you may have overstepped or been excessively controlling. Secondly, invest in training and consider mentorship. With proper guidance from more experienced leaders, you may find alternate project management techniques. Thirdly, learn to accept imperfection.
It's crucial to maintain healthy supervision and control levels to foster a productive and successful work environment. When you empower your team to responsibility, accountability & ownership, you also empower yourself.
Without further ado, let’s dive deep into what I recognize as important for achieving full project control without micromanaging.

1. Roadmap, project scope, and schedule

At the beginning of the project, we aspire to fully grasp the client’s needs, vision, and objectives for the project. This is not an easy task and may be troublesome for many, however, one helpful tool in achieving it is a roadmap.
This visual and strategic plan outlines business goals, milestones, and timelines required to provide a clear path forward and swiftly navigate the client for success. To simplify the creation of a roadmap, I recommend tools such as Jira, Asana, Trello, Notion, or Linear.

What are the benefits of roadmaps?

What I appreciate most about roadmaps is that they visually enhance transparency, help establish adequate priorities, enable the scheduling of tasks in a suitable manner, and enhance the process of collecting feedback from the client or other relevant stakeholders.
All of these features guarantee improved control over scope changes and ensure scope verification. The team is, therefore, empowered to monitor progress towards planned deliverables efficiently.
However, a good roadmap is useful not only for Project Managers but also for development teams and stakeholders.
In some projects, we find ourselves working alongside multiple stakeholders in addition to our primary client or sponsor. These stakeholders play various roles, from co-dependency in project execution to active involvement in decision-making processes. Furthermore, there are those stakeholders who need to be kept in the loop, such as the marketing department, to ensure they are well-informed about the project's progress.
Maintaining a continuous and transparent line of communication with these diverse groups of stakeholders is essential throughout the project lifecycle. Regular updates serve to keep everyone on the same page regarding our current phase of delivery, progress made so far, and upcoming milestones.
Roadmap is, therefore, a great asset for verifying comprehension and alignment between the business and all interested parties.
Moreover, a product roadmap isn't a one-off task; it's an ongoing endeavor. Why?  It’s not uncommon for pre-defined milestones and checkpoints to change over time, particularly when operating in a lean environment, where we test and experiment with hypotheses of our product. Subsequently, it needs to be reviewed and updated regularly, taking into consideration the progress, user feedback, and evolving circumstances.
To sum up, a roadmap serves as a valuable instrument for project control – monitoring our progress, scope, requirements, and budget, pinpointing critical concerns, validating mutual comprehension, and checking fundamental assumptions.


When everyone is aware of the delivery process, timelines, and responsibilities, project delivery is easier to control.
Therefore, once the project scope has been determined and you have established the goals and deadlines, the next step is to select specific processes to support project delivery and management activities. What you strive for is:
  • establishing an optimal work setting,
  • monitoring updates on task progress,
  • documenting meeting minutes and lessons learned,
  • and efficiently handling workflows.
All combined, these factors make project execution smooth. In my view, it’s crucial to establish processes and systems in a way that assists team members in effectively communicating and collaborating with one another. Most importantly, the entire development process must be guided by a common understanding of the client’s business goals – the deeper, the better.
It's time to assess the type of project, its requirements, key variables, complexity, and risks – because different management methodologies are appropriate for certain types of projects.
At this point, Project Managers have to decide on the appropriate framework to work with – Waterfall or Agile? In case you choose Agile, should you go with Kanban or Scrum? Maybe Scrumban or others? Or maybe it's worth including aspects of methodologies focused on delivering business impact, like Lean or Value Stream Management? Then, other questions arise. Can you deliver the product incrementally? Do you expect changes in our end product to occur over time?
There are so many factors to consider! With no data on your particular challenge, I cannot take it upon myself to give you a remedy. However, I can take a slight detour and show you a real-life example of an effectively established process and responsibilities that worked well for both stakeholders and the team.

In one of the projects I managed, we followed the Scrum framework. In the initial phase, I prepared a Scrum Contract for the team and stakeholders, ensuring that everyone was aligned with the project’s objectives and processes. The aim was to outline the process for the upcoming Scrum ceremonies, including planning, refinement, estimations, and retrospectives, to determine:
  • the time and purpose of each meeting, prerequisites, and our best practices relating to execution and achievement of best results,
  • the Sprint duration (Project Managers mostly opt for 2-week-long sprints),
  • tools used for tracking and delivery,
  • roles & responsibilities outline,
  • communication channels,
  • cooperation rules within the team,
  • Definition-of-Ready & Definition-of-Done
I also utilized the RACI matrix for defining team roles and responsibilities, which facilitated the decision-making processes and information flow. Additionally, the document included a list of resources and links, as well as task completion criteria. Team members had the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the document.
As you can see, this comprehensive document acted as a single source of truth for the entire team to ensure better transparency and understanding between developers and the business. Moreover, it supported me as a Project Manager in helping the team establish mutual understanding. It also sets a firm foundation for promoting efficient collaboration, monitoring project schedules, and ensuring smooth information flow.

3. Communication

As I previously mentioned, pre-defined meetings and communication channels, a clear flow of information, and a comprehensive list of stakeholders are vital components of the process and staying on top of things.
Maintaining open communication channels, both online and offline, internally and externally, is critical. At the same time, you need to monitor and control communication throughout the entire project life cycle to ensure that project stakeholders’ information needs are being met.
In my experience, communication difficulties in teams arise due to a lack of visibility into their own work and the work of cross-functional team partners and stakeholders. Without this visibility, it's challenging to comprehend the rationales behind schedule changes, the status of priorities, and progress on projects.
There are numerous ways to achieve the aforementioned goals and mitigate risks, such as holding daily meetings, conducting status meetings, sending out regular email updates or newsletters, and organizing periodic one-on-one meetings with your team members and key stakeholders.
Enhancing common understanding and awareness can be further achieved by taking and distributing meeting notes.

One-on-one meetings

Regular 1:1s, remote or in person, help to establish and strengthen trust, leading to more authentic relationships and increased job satisfaction. I like to treat them as regular checkpoints to spot and address challenges, ensuring that the team stays aligned with shared goals and a common understanding of business objectives.
Furthermore, they are a great occasion to address any uncertainties, collect direct feedback, verify current engagement, build trust, and support professional development.

Status meetings

Most importantly, regular and consistent status meetings are essential in promoting transparency, accountability, and alertness among team members and the business.
The checkpoints serve as effective tools for tracking workload progress, gathering feedback from the team and stakeholders, mitigating risks where necessary, and adjusting the scope. It's important to keep all relevant parties informed and to address any issues as soon as they arise.
By providing the opportunity for information sharing and knowledge exchange, Project Managers can better adjust to requirements and regulations in a timely manner, whenever needed.

4. Setting priorities, estimations, and planning

At this point, you have a comprehensive understanding of the client's objectives, product goals, project scope, and schedules. The delivery process is well-defined, with clearly outlined responsibilities and communication channels in place. You have just reached another milestone of our journey, which is project planning – specifically, setting priorities and estimation.
The next one would be to plan the execution, as well as manage workload and priorities to stay on top of milestones and deadlines. I can’t stress enough how crucial for the team is to understand the priorities and, most importantly – the business reasoning behind them. It allows for smooth project execution and accurate estimations. Priorities can shift, but effectively managing them can ensure successful project delivery within designated timeframes and expectations.


You might also want to pay special attention to prioritization, which, according to Harvard Business Review, “at a strategic and operational level is often the difference between success and failure”.
Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, the author of the article, further explains that prioritization
increases the success rates of strategic projects, increases the alignment and focus of senior management teams around strategic goals, clears all doubts for the operational teams when faced with decisions, and, most importantly, builds an execution mindset and culture“.
Let’s say you have a list of prepared tasks added to our project’s backlog. Now, one of the most crucial activities would be to select items for our first sprint, taking into account the priorities and dependencies with a focus on our first milestone to be achieved.
There are quite a few methods to help establish the right priorities. However, I frequently use the MoSCoW method, which helps me evaluate and categorize tasks according to their criticality level within a business context.
  • Firstly, prioritize the “must-do" tasks (Mo), as failing to complete them would pose a significant risk to the project's success.
  • Secondly, address the “should-do" tasks (S), which, while beneficial, are not absolutely critical and can be scheduled for a later time when resources permit.
  • Thirdly, consider the “could-do" tasks (Co), which, while non-essential, offer valuable potential benefits and should be kept in mind for future consideration.
  • Lastly, acknowledge the “will-not-do" tasks (W), recognizing that these are currently unfeasible or irrelevant for immediate implementation within the project's scope.


Estimations are also a fundamental component of project planning, encompassing critical parameters such as project cost, duration, scope, risk assessment, resource allocation, and quality considerations.
To understand this challenge better, let’s follow the example of my project conducted in the Scrum methodology. (If you need to refresh your memory, go to the “Process” part.)
Within our sprint planning process, we conducted an estimation meeting, which was a crucial component. During this meeting, the development team assigned points to each task to estimate the expected time required for completion and discussed tasks to anticipate technical dependencies and risks.
This estimation process helped us assess our capacity, understand how much we can deliver in a cycle, select the right number of tasks to assign to each team member, and – after some time – also review and understand the team's velocity.
Why is evaluating team velocity so important? As a Project Manager, you can better predict and control project schedules, pinpoint bottlenecks, understand if the right resources are assigned to the project, and optimize workflows. This approach ultimately leads to increased productivity and successful delivery. However, it is worth remembering that the team's velocity is not set in stone as it evolves over time.

5. Reporting and documentation

Regularly updated project reports, schedules, forecasts, and financial documents serve as invaluable tools for detecting deviations from the project baseline, monitoring progress, staying well-informed, and achieving specific performance goals.
At the project's outset, it proves advantageous to establish a comprehensive checklist that outlines essential tasks for the Project Manager. This checklist may encompass managerial responsibilities, deadlines, schedules, and documentation that necessitates review, sharing, or approval. In my experience, such a project checklist greatly aids in maintaining organization and ensures the timely completion of critical tasks.
These various documents provide vital information crucial for monitoring and controlling progress. They enable tracking of:
  • requirements,
  • budgetary adherence,
  • forecasting of key metrics, including productivity, customer satisfaction, costs, expenditure, performance, and velocity.
Their content is instrumental in facilitating efficient project management practices.

6. Quality control

Reviews play a pivotal role in ensuring the quality of project deliverables and effectively managing expectations. While they take various forms, the core principle remains consistent: the establishment of a review-feedback-correction cycle for all key deliverables. This cycle aids in monitoring and documenting the outcomes of quality-related activities, enabling the assessment of performance and the implementation of necessary adjustments.
In our teams, we designate 1-2 testers with the responsibility of conducting QA audits and user acceptance tests. Their role is to validate that applications are operating as intended and aligning with business requirements. The feedback collected from these testers serves as a valuable resource. It helps us gauge our progress in relation to the plan, assess our adherence to planned milestones, identify potential risks, and ensure alignment with budget assumptions.
Furthermore, we arrange demonstration meetings for stakeholders or initiate end-user surveys to showcase our latest results. This serves a dual purpose: confirming whether we have met their expectations and obtaining their valuable feedback. These measures collectively enable us to maintain control over our project's trajectory and ensure we are on the right path to achieve our objectives.


As a Project Manager, it is important to have visibility into the different areas that translate into control and a better understanding of the project's current stage. This helps to mitigate risks that could have a significant impact on the client's business goals and the overall value delivered.
I hope to have drawn your attention to the multilevel nature of all activities, which help to manage and control the project properly. And trust me, they’re all equally important. Lack of roadmap, process, communication, prioritization, estimation, planning, or documentation significantly decreases your chances of success.
Most importantly, remember that your team is the heart of any project – take good care of their morale, and it will certainly pay off.
Thank you for staying with me until the end of this article. The ability to finish what we start is a great trait for every project manager out there – a big shout out to you for being one of them!

Maja Sanders-Bochenek

Product Owner / IT Project Manager
Project Manager with a boundless enthusiasm for life and a relentless thirst for knowledge and skill development. She embraces challenges and seizes opportunities, consistently elevating her own limitations. Outside the office, Maja is a devoted runner, tackling half marathons, trail races, and daily jogs with equal enthusiasm.