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Progress is all about how to control the project and know where you are against the current Plan . Each company and Project Manager will have different ideas on how best to do this. If you are Project Manager in a company the one good question to ask your Project Board is “How do I best keep you informed of the progress of the project?" The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the maturity of project control in the organization.

The most important points that a Project Manager has to keep in mind are:

Most poor Project Managers make the following mistakes:

You will find this chapter on PRINCE2 easy to read and understand, and you will also learn how tolerances are used to help each management layer manage the layer below. The last point is that the Project Manager should make sure they have time during the project to manage progress and control the project.


The purpose of the information in the Progress Theme can be explained in three parts:

Progress is about checking progress compared to the plan, checking project viability and controlling any deviations.

Three of the seven principles are represented in the Progress Theme; they are:



Progress is checking and controlling where you are compared to the plan. This is done for the Project Plan, Stage Plan and Work Package . Controls

One layer to monitor the progress of the layer below it uses progress Controls. For instance, the Project Board wants to monitor the progress of Project Manager or Project Manager wants to monitor the progress of the Teams that create the products. The layer above can do the following:

Exceptions and Tolerances

An Exception is a situation where it can be forecast that there will be a deviation beyond the agreed tolerance levels.

Tolerances are the deviation above and below a plan’s target. For example, the project should take 6 months, with a tolerance of ±1 month. Tolerance levels could also be set for all six tolerance areas, i.e., Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk. These are also known as the project variables.


What do you think would be the result if Tolerances were not used in a project between the Project Board and the Project Manager levels?

In that case, the Project Manager would escalate each issue to the Project Board and they would end up working on the project 8 hours a day and therefore would be doing a lot of work or all the work for the Project Manager.

Remember the Project Board are busy people and we don’t want the project to take up much of their time. Setting tolerances allows the Project Manager to handle smaller issues and only bother the Project Board for bigger issues (more efficient use of time for Project Board).

Tolerance Example: A 6-month project with a tolerance of ±1 months. If the project is forecast to be 1 week late, the Project Manager would deal with this and not escalate it. But if the project is forecast to be two months late, then they would escalate it to the Project Board. This is a more efficient use of the Project Boards time.

PRINCE2 Approach to Progress

Progress is about checking actual progress against the performance targets of Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk.

PRINCE2 provides control through four main ways:

How these controls will be used in the project is decided early in the project and documented in the Project Initiation Documentation under the Progress heading.

Delegating Authority

Corporate or Program Management

The Corporate or Program Management is outside the project. They set the overall requirements and tolerance levels for the project (they set the project tolerances). If project tolerances are exceeded, then escalate to Corp/Program Management.

Tip: Remember the Project Tolerances are set by Corporate or Program Management.

The Project Board

The Project Board sets the tolerances for the stages. Therefore the Project Manager will escalate issues as soon as it is identified that they will go out of tolerance on any of the project tolerance targets.

If this exception affects the project’s tolerance, then the Project Board has to escalate this to Corporate and Program Management.

The Project Manager

The Project Managers have day-to-day control over the stage and they work within the tolerances set by the Project Board. They also set and agree to the tolerances in the Work Packages.

The Team Manager

The Team Manager has control for a Work Package and works within the tolerances agreed with the Project Manager.

The 3 Project Board Controls

The Project Board has three main controls available to them to manage the levels below.


Progress Updates

Exceptions and Changes

This includes Exception Reports and Issue Reports.

Exception Reports advise the Project Board that the stage is out of tolerance, allowing the Project Board to control the next move.

Issue Reports provide a way to gather information on an issue (request for change, an Off-Specification or a problem/concern) and send it to the Project Board.

The 3 Project Manager Controls

These have the same names as the Project Board but are at the level of the Project Manager. The three controls are:

Use of Management Stages for Control

Management stages are partitions of the project with decisions points for the Project Board between each stage. A management stage is a collection of activities to produce products and is managed by the Project Manager.

Why are Management Stages important for the Project Board?

As you can see, stages are important for the Project Board. Also, with the help of tolerance, the Project Board can give the day-to-day authority of running the stage to the Project Manager.

Minimum stages in a Project

The minimum number of stages in a project is two:

So even for a 2-day project, you may spend one hour the first morning deciding what will be done, how you are going to do it, who is responsible for what, and other such details. The rest of the time will be creating the products in the 2nd stage.

How to decide on the number of stages?

This depends on a number of items and as you can see, it’s a bit of a balancing act. Start by considering the following:

How long should a stage be in PRINCE2?

The main consideration is the level of risk or complexity. If there is a lot of risk and complexity, then it is best to keep the stages short. If there is less risk and complexity and you have done a similar project before, then stages could be much longer.

PRINCE2 mentions the following points to consider when deciding the length of stage:

Technical Stages

Technical stages are how most companies and teams work. The best way to understand this is to look at how they differ from Management Stages, and use the following diagrams:

Event-Driven and Time-Driven Controls

All controls can be divided into two parts in PRINCE2:

Capturing and reporting lessons

One of the principles in PRINCE2 is that the project team must learn from experience. Lessons have to be sought, recorded and executed during the project. PRINCE2 uses the word “sought” to ensure that everyone in the project checks for previous lessons. Any useful experiences are then recorded into a Lessons Log.

Lessons can be about anything that could help the project. These include how best to communicate, how to deal with a supplier, how certain documents should be tailored for this kind of project and which product specialists to get help from when doing the product breakdown structure. The Project Manager continues to add new lessons to the Lesson Log during the project.

Lessons Report: The Lessons Learned report is used to document lessons that might be of value to future projects. A Lessons Learned report has to be created at the end of the project during the Closing a Project process. In larger projects, a Lessons Learned report might be created during the project, for example, during the Managing a Stage Boundary process.


Checkpoint Reports

The Team Manager uses the Checkpoint Report to report to the Project Manager. Information on the progress of the work done compared to the agreed Team Plan is also included in it. The Project Manager will agree on the frequency for these reports with the Team Manager when they are accepting the Work Package.

The Highlight Report

The Highlight Report is used by the Project Manager to report on the status of the current stage compared to the Stage Plan. The important word here is ‘highlight’ as a 1- to 2-page report should be sufficient. Tip: Think of tip of an iceberg.

The Highlight Report allows the Project Board to manage by exception between each stage end, as they are aware of the tolerances agreed with the Project Manager in the Stage Plan, so the Highlight Report should report the current status of tolerances of Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk.

The End Stage Report

The End Stage Report is created by the Project Manager towards the end of the stage and compares the performance of the stage compared to the Stage Plan. It is used by the Project Board to decide whether to modify the project scope or shut down the project.

The End Project Report

The End Project Report is produced by the Project Manager towards the end of the project during the Closing a Project process and is used by the Project Board to evaluate the project before they take the decision to authorize closure.

Raising Exceptions

This is quite easy to understand and it is linked to the principle Manage by Exception . The best way to explain this is with a question, i.e., “When is an exception raised and by whom?”

An exception is raised when an agreed tolerance is exceeded or is forecast to be exceeded. You raise an exception by alerting the level above you.

Roles and Responsibilities

discussion icon PRINCE2 wiki is open-source and published for free under a Creative Commons license.

discussion icon Written by Frank Turley (his LinkedIn profile)