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The Five Key Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

Emotional Intelligence in Project Management: Why It Matters

Sam Ives, Project Management Consultant at MetaPM, shares The Five Key Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle. Originally shared on Sam's LinkedIn page, June 16, 2023.


Hey there, I'm Sam Ives, and I have been a consultant with MetaPM for over eight years, starting as a graduate in an entry-level position. During that time, I have had the opportunity to participate in various projects. In particular, university education, followed by the not-for-profit industry and, more recently, NBN, before moving on to defence.

One of the things I've learnt during that time is that regardless of what you're planning, every project goes through the same stages—a project life cycle. A cycle that not only provides structure to the execution of project delivery. But if driven well, it can help project teams ensure that client deliverables are met throughout the project management process leading to a successful outcome.

As a Project Manager, I value being cognisant of where I am in the project lifecycle. Having a clear understanding of the project lifecycle and what part I am in at a given time allows me to focus on the most critical tasks to ensure project success.

What Is the Project Life Cycle?

The project life cycle refers to the order of high-level processes and phases required to deliver a project. In short, it’s what makes a project happen. By identifying and describing the steps needed to make things happen, your team can better bring a project to fruition from brief to delivery.

Phases throughout the project life cycle are often sequential in that each phase concludes with fulfilling one or more project deliverables.

What Are the 5 Phases of Project Management?

The Project Management Institute categorised five phases, forming the project life cycle. The five phases of project management are:

  1. Project Initiation
  2. Project Planning
  3. Project Execution
  4. Project Monitoring & Control
  5. Project Closure

I’ll briefly go into each stage of the project life cycle and give an overview of what happens within each phase.

Project Initiation

To start a project, initiating the first phase of the project life cycle is vital in systematically gathering all necessary information—this involves defining the project's scope, cost, and resources and getting the commitment from both your team and the client to start the project.

The goal of this phase is to understand the project's objectives and requirements for it to be successful. It is crucial to identify all project stakeholders and ensure they share the same perception of the project.

During this phase, the feasibility of delivery is also determined. As a project manager, conducting adequate research to propose a solution that will achieve the project's objective is critical to evolving a project.

Project Planning

The project planning phase is one of–if not the most–critical phases within the project lifecycle. At this point, you define the work to be done and create a roadmap to follow throughout the project, bearing in mind that, on occasion, what the organisation needs and what you get don't always match up. Understanding that you may have to adjust your project plan and related procedures as more information comes to light becomes vital.

During the project planning phase, the team and I would identify the tasks and resources required to cover the scope, achieve the deliverables, and meet the overall objective. Project team members will then delve further into the requirements, tasks, timelines, and actions.

As a project manager, I would then wrap myself–so to speak–around the entire team to create the design. I would also enumerate the task list with beginning and end dates, the estimated effort and duration, and an estimation of the budget.

Another critical deliverable is preparing for emergent threats. Risk management goes hand in hand with the likely hood of a project’s success.

Project Execution

At this point, the project team focuses on achieving the objectives established during the previous phases. I believe that the execution of a project ‘should be a journey and not a destination’.

Shifting from discussing a project and creating documentation to getting the green light to proceed with the execution phase is often funding related. Spending adequate time engaging with sponsors and key stakeholders is vital and will keep them updated and the project on track.

Project Monitoring and Control

Tracking and reviewing project performance is the most helpful way to ensure progress and improvement. Similarly, it's crucial to have a proactive approach. Following a project as it unfolds and identifying issues and risks that may impact its success. Once identified, you can create a mitigation plan to help minimise their impact.

It's also essential to keep your stakeholders updated. Especially regarding the project's status, ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding progress and potential roadblocks helps maintain transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.

Project Closure

The final phase of the project management lifecycle is project closure. This includes submitting the final deliverable, fulfilling contractual obligations, terminating relevant agreements, and releasing project resources—and any other activity related to the project's completion.

Project closure is critical as it allows the project team to evaluate its success and identify improvement areas in future projects. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate the team's achievements and acknowledge their hard work.

Final Thoughts

For me, project management is an exciting career to have for the simple reason that every project is unique.

If you are pursuing a culture that supports development, facilitates success and moves the industry forward, then MetaPM is where you need to be, and I really do recommend that you give it a go.

MetaPM was founded in 2006 by a group of management experts with a vision to do project consulting in the best way possible. In 2022, they joined MI-GSO | PCUBED, a world-leading PMO & Project Management Consulting group.

Kickstart your career with the best project management courses on offer.

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