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Project management Five stages of project management

The project management process is usually broken down into separate phases that take the project from start to finish. These stages include:

Project management Five stages of project management

  1. The initiative
  2. Planning
  3. execution
  4. Monitoring and control
  5. ending

These phases often overlap with the project life cycle. They can help you define the right flow and sequence of processes to finish your project. Our project management checklist can help you break down tasks for each stage of a project.

1. Start the project

The initiation is the official start of the project. It usually begins with a project delegation that briefly describes the purpose of the project and authorizes budget expenditures.

At this stage, the project should be defined at a broad level. This often starts with:

  1. a business case - justify the need for the project and estimate the potential benefits
  2. a feasibility study - assessing the problem and determining if the project will solve it

If you decide to implement the project, you must then create a Project Initiation Document (PID). This is the basis of your project and an important reference point for the next stages. The main components of your PID should be:

  1. your business status
  2. Project objectives, scope and scale
  3. Organization of the project (defining the “who, why, what, when and how” of the project)
  4. project limitations
  5. Project risk
  6. actors
  7. Project controls and reporting framework
  8. Project closing and evaluation criteria

2. Project definition and planning

Project planning is the key to successful project management. This stage usually begins with setting goals. The two most common approaches include:

  1. The SMART Method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely)
  2. CLEAR method (cooperative, limited, emotional, gradable, revisable)

In this stage, you will also define the project scope, develop the project plan and timeline for the division of labor. This includes specifying:

  1. Time, cost and resources at your disposal
  2. Project roles and responsibilities
  3. Quality
  4. Milestones
  6. Progress checkpoints
  7. Risks and resources to solve unexpected issues

During this stage, you may also want to develop a communication plan (especially if you have external stakeholders), as well as a risk management plan.

3. Project launch and implementation

Execution (also called project implementation) simply means putting your project plan into action. It often begins with a "kick-off meeting" for the project.

During this phase, you will implement the tasks and activities from your project plan to produce project deliverables. For example, if you are creating a promotional package for a trade show, early deliverables might be to collect product and pricing information, complete all photographs of your product and have the customer sign it.

Project managers can direct this work through:

  1. Supervising a team
  2. Budget and resource management
  3. Communicate with stakeholders

Close monitoring and control at this point can help you keep your project plan on track. You can use a range of tools and processes to help you manage things like time, cost, quality, and risk, or to communicate progress and manage customer acceptance.

4. Project Monitoring and Control

Monitoring and control often overlap with implementation as they often occur at the same time. It requires measuring project progress and performance, and dealing with any issues that arise from day-to-day work.

You can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine if your project is on track. Things you can measure include, for example:

  1. If your project is on schedule and on budget
  2. If specific tasks are completed
  3. If issues are handled appropriately

During this time, you may need to adjust schedules and resources to ensure your project stays on track. Learn how to measure performance and set goals.

5. Close the project

During this last stage, you will complete your work and solve the project. Closure does not necessarily mean success, but simply the last point of the project - for example, closure can occur when projects that fail are canceled.

Project closing often includes things like:

  1. deliver the outputs
  2. Release staff and resources
  3. Archive or hand over any relevant project documents
  4. Cancellation of supplier contracts
  5. Completion of all activities throughout the project
  6. Preparing the final project budget and report
  7. Delivery to business as usual if applicable

After closing, you can conduct a post-implementation project review (sometimes referred to as a "post-mortem" meeting). This is an opportunity to assess what went well and what did not. Understanding the failures, if any, can help you learn lessons and improve the way you implement future projects.