Investment Learning Platform (ILP)

Implement and Monitor

The Implement and Monitor phase of the cycle is about getting the job done and delivering the envisaged results, making efficient use of available resources and fostering learning along the way. Implementation begins once funding is approved and continues until all activities have been completed, within the agreed-upon time frame for implementation. During this phase it is critical that the overall aspirations of the project or programme are translated into step-by-step actions to reach those goals. Regular planning, monitoring and review mechanisms must be established with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that implementation proceeds as envisaged, and to adjust priorities or implementation strategy in light of new information, constraints and opportunities. Transparent communication with all relevant stakeholders and a commitment to continuous learning from and throughout implementation will improve performance. At the end of this phase, the focus must shift to taking stock of results achieved and insights from implementation, formal closure and handover to ensure sustainability.

There are three main stages to implementation: start-up or inception, main implementation and phase-out.1

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Start-up Phase

Establishing or designating a management team

The quality of the project manager and management team is one of the most important factors of success in implementation. Recruiting or designating a management team, whether an existing team in the implementing organization or a dedicated unit (Project Implementation Unit - PIU), is one of the first tasks in implementation. PIUs may be established to operate with a certain degree of independence in order to ensure swift implementation, but they should not be completely detached from the relevant organizations because this reduces the prospects for institutionalization and sustainability beyond project closure.

The project management team has overall responsibility for the day-to-day management of the project to ensure the implementation of activities in line with agreed-upon plans and rules. Depending upon the scope of the project, the management team may be at national or regional level, or it may be composed of teams at different levels, responsible for the implementation of different parts or aspects of the project – for instance, where local or community level activities are implemented in a decentralized system.

In all cases, throughout implementation, project teams should coordinate closely with all other stakeholders, in particular national and local partner organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national and international experts and donor organizations.

Project Implementation Manual

The Project Implementation Manual (PIM), usually prepared at the end of the design phase, is the operations manual for the project. Different financing institutions have their own requirements, and the document may be called differently, for instance project implementation plan, but generally, the following aspects are covered in the PIM:

  • implementation plans – for the overall project duration, and formats for annual work plans;
  • implementation arrangements, including roles and responsibilities of project staff, contractors, service providers and partner organizations;
  • costs and financing, including costs by expenditure category, component and year;
  • financial management, procurement and disbursement procedures;
  • protocols and modalities to ensure safeguards are addressed;
  • approach, formats and schedules for monitoring, reporting and evaluation; and
  • communication strategy and plan.

Project activities should follow the guidelines established and set down in the PIM at all levels. If implementation experience highlights the need to adjust the implementation strategy, this should be reflected in a revision of the PIM.

Annual work plans. Work plans are developed based on the PIM and agreed-upon results framework. The first annual work plan will include all start-up activities.

Equipment, supplies and services. Tendering and procurement of agreed-upon equipment, supplies and consultants/advisory services should begin early, following the procedures established in the loan or grant agreement and procurement plans, PIM or equivalent, as this can be a lengthy process.

Communication procedures. Establish communication procedures with all stakeholders and cooperating agencies, particularly with regard to monitoring, reviews and reporting, including methods (e-mail, telephone, visits, meetings, reports) and frequency for regular events. Contact persons and procedures should also be communicated clearly to all – for instance, through a website – to promote transparency and swift handling of potential complaints.

Monitoring, reporting, and reviews. Monitoring of inputs, activities and results, and related reporting procedures designed during preparation [see Design] should be finalized and relevant systems, such as the Management Information System (MIS), developed. Successful monitoring and evaluation (M&E) during implementation requires that results indicators and target values have been well-defined and agreed upon in the results framework [see RBM]. For each selected indicator, M&E tools need to be defined [see M&E]. Frequency and responsibilities for applying the tools, for analysing relevant information and for reviewing this information must be specified in an M&E plan. Data processing should be planned at the same time as data collection so that insights from data collected can be presented quickly to management in a usable format to inform action. The general rule for how much to monitor is “as little as possible, but as much as necessary” in order to meet key management, learning and reporting needs with a focus on results. Trying to monitor too much can overwhelm the entire M&E system. At the start of the implementation phase, a very important activity – which is often is delayed at some cost to the quality of M&E – is the preparation of the baseline against which all project progress will be assessed [see M&E].

Once the project management team and relevant systems are in place, all staff should be briefed and trained on the project commitments and implementation arrangements, to ensure the smooth running of the project. The management team must ensure that all staff and contributors are aware of the requirements and use of the M&E system, and that they are able to contribute and eventually use the information most relevant to them.

Main Project Implementation Phase

Once the activities of the start-up phase have been completed, the project should implement the regular activities set down in the annual work plans and budget, in line with agreed-upon rules and procedures in the PIM. The main focus is on results being achieved rather than simply activities being conducted [see RBM]. The management team also needs to ensure transparency and involvement of all major stakeholders to maintain commitment to the project and eventual continuity and sustainability [see M&E].

Annual work planning and budgeting

The review of implementation of the previous annual plan should inform subsequent work plan development, with expected delivery targets, timing and levels of funding adjusted to reflect emerging implementation capacity. Annual work plans should give consideration to sequencing, to ensure that interventions build upon each other and that activities that depend upon others are scheduled accordingly. Appropriate time scheduling is critical for successful delivery. Planning of start and completion dates for the various project activities must reflect the earliest time that an activity can begin, and the latest time that an activity can be completed without delaying the project completion [see RBM].

Planning must ensure that the overall levels of activity are manageable within existing resource constraints. Budgets need to be linked to these annual work plans, and the plans must reflect budget availability throughout the implementation period, taking into account government budget cycles and disbursement procedures [see Planning and Budgeting].

Monitoring, reporting and reviews

Leadership by the project managers on using M&E as a tool to enhance project performance is a critical factor for success. M&E is of little value if it is seen as the job of the M&E officer or unit without clear links to informing management decisions.

Information should be collected regularly, in line with the agreed-upon plans and protocols, and relevant synthesis reports should be made available to decision-makers and relevant stakeholders. Progress should be reviewed with a view to progressing towards achieving intended results [see M&E and RBM]. The regular review of operational matters such as appropriate financial management and procurement is essential to ensure smooth implementation.

Regular reviews should also focus on the appropriate implementation of safeguard mechanisms and on risks to successful implementation, as identified during the design phase [see Risk]. Action can then be taken to implement the contingency plans if the risks materialize or appear likely to be realized, depending on the type of risk (technical, financial, social or political). Reviews should also ascertain whether cross-cutting aspects such as gender, climate change, or nutrition are addressed appropriately, and if targeting is effective and intended beneficiaries are reached with interventions – technologies or approaches – that are appropriate to their needs and aspirations [see Social Analysis].

The capacity of all institutions with implementation roles should be regularly assessed, throughout and beyond implementation, in the context of M&E processes. Emerging bottlenecks should be identified and addressed through additional capacity development support or through a change in implementation processes or arrangements.

Insights from regular monitoring and reviews should be presented in relevant formats and through appropriate communication channels to inform learning by implementers and partners, and should result in commitments to action by management [see M&E].

Halfway through implementation, it is valuable to undertake a more systematic assessment of progress and adequacy of project strategy and implementation mechanisms by means of a mid- term review, which can then lead to adjustments for the second half of the project period [see M&E].

Supervision and implementation support

For supervision of externally funded projects, the financing institution (directly or through an external partner organization) regularly reviews progress to ensure adherence to agreed-upon project commitments as well as rules and regulations for implementation. This regular external viewpoint can be a helpful addition to internal monitoring. Where weaknesses are identified, the financing agency can put in place short-term or regular expert support to the implementing agency to address problems, enhance performance and ultimately strengthen capacity [see Implementation Support].

Some Factors for Successful Project Implementation

Management leadership capacity – a good manager or management team with a solid understanding of the context, overall potential and limiting factors, as well as the ability to communicate, form alliances, address and resolve problems rapidly and inspire high performance and – where appropriate – change.

Design – comprehensive but realistic scope of work, agreed upon with the relevant stakeholders and institutions.

Flexibility – clear procedures in the project design and the PIM for review and change within the project, in light of implementation experience, with a view to achieving the envisaged results. Project strategy should evolve to take into account changing circumstances at all levels, from a change in government policy, to a change in prices for key inputs to project delivery, to changes in local institutions.

Stakeholder commitment – commitment at all levels, from field level to national authorities. The more directly organizations and stakeholders are involved in all aspects of project preparation, implementation and monitoring, and the better the communication, the better the chances of maintaining commitment and ensuring sustainability beyond project funding. Political backing is often critical to project success, to ensure that there is an enabling environment conducive to successful implementation, that there is no sudden reallocation of staff, that bureaucratic and financing delays are avoided or resolved and that there is no risk of subversion of project resources to other objectives.

Transparency and accountability – involvement of all principal stakeholders in monitoring and reviews of project progress through discussions and review meetings [see M&E], with findings reflected in annual work planning. Reporting – and thus accountability – of successful completion of activities should also be made to those who are most directly affected, as well as to the financing agencies and national leaders. The composition of the project Steering Committee, which regularly reviews progress, should reflect the roles of the key institutions and stakeholder groups. Mechanisms for multi-stakeholder accountability should be put in place at all levels of project implementation, preferably avoiding the creation of new institutions, but rather linking to existing multi-stakeholder committees and/or dialogue processes.

Management authority – investing the project management team with the required authority to steer implementation, foster agreement on resolving implementation problems and then ensure that agreed-upon action is taken by all institutions involved. This will depend both upon the capacity of the managers and on the commitment by all agencies involved. The appropriate composition and level of Steering Committees, effective preparation for and running of their meetings and follow-up of agreements are important levers in this regard.

Communication – sufficient information flow to keep all relevant institutions engaged. Effective choice and presentation of information, to avoid overload and ensure relevance, as well as mechanisms to receive feedback, are critical to enhance stakeholder commitment during implementation and for sustainability beyond the project’s end.


During the final phase of implementation, the task of the management team shifts from a focus on implementation to a focus on reporting and handover. Completion reporting should identify the results achieved and highlight the lessons learned and report these to the Steering Committee and relevant stakeholders, for accountability and to inform future programming [see Scaling up]. External financing agencies usually have specific reporting formats to respect and require formal closing steps that may include external audit and closure of special accounts.

Beyond formal closure, the management team and implementing agency need to ensure that continuity and sustainability is ensured through effective handover. End of project or programme evaluation can further ensure that lessons learned from the implementation phases will be noted for subsequent projects and programmes. These aspects are covered in more detail in the last phase: Evaluate and Capitalize.


1Adapted from EuropAid PCM guidelines P39 (see key references)

Key Resources

Handbook on project implementation (ADB, 2012)

Detailed handbook for project administration and implementation, including an online tutorial and templates for ADB projects. See particularly sections 5 and 6 on project implementation and management.

Ten Steps to a Results-based Monitoring and Evaluation System
(World Bank, 2004)

A guide on how to design and construct a results-based M&E system in the public sector, with the goal of preparing to plan, design and implement a results-based M&E system within the organization. The handbook contains a comprehensive ten-step model that will help guide the user through the process of designing and building a results-based M&E system.

Aid Delivery Methods - Project Cycle Management Guidelines (EU, 2004) 

Project design and management tools to enhance effectiveness of programmes and projects supported with EC funds.

A guide for project M&E (IFAD)

Overall guide to facilitate the development and use of effective and participatory M&E systems as tools for impact-oriented management (RBM), shared learning and accountability

Results-Based Management Handbook (UNDG, 2011)

Guide on the use of RBM to support national programme planning and implementation efforts based on best practices in the RBM field. Mainly aimed at UN staff, but a useful general guideline throughout and beyond implementation for use of RBM in project management

Stocktaking of M&E and Management Information Systems (FAO, 2012)

Key points about which ME&L approaches, methodologies and processes best serve projects in achieving results, as well as how to combine MIS and ME&L systems to ensure their usefulness for project management.