Project Management Lifecycle

The project management lifecycle drives success and is imperative to the initiation, construction, and execution of incredible projects. It provides project managers with the structure they need to carry out each phase of their endeavors with precision and care.

What is the Project Management Lifecycle?

Projects follow a structure called the project lifecycle. This lifecycle is somewhat like our own. It has a well-defined beginning, middle, and end with all sorts of formative events occurring in each major phase. This is true whether you’re developing innovative design software, pioneering eco-friendly vehicle construction, or anything in between.

In its most basic terms, the project management lifecycle is an organizational structure that breaks entire projects down into five primary phases. From the birth of an idea to its planning, execution, monitoring, and closure, each phase is integral to ensuring that a project is destined to succeed. 

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Phase 1: Initiation  

The first phase of the project management lifecycle is called initiation. In this phase, the vision for a project is conceived and developed into something that could exist. This is where key stakeholders with potential interest in the project are identified.

In this stage, project managers will also identify core aspects of their project, such as:  

  • The problem the project aims to solve 

  • The resources required to achieve the project goals 

  • The method for securing buy-in from stakeholders 

Once these components are identified, engagement with them begins. For instance, you and your team may start creating a business case and formalizing a project pitch. You may also reach out to secure buy-in from desired stakeholders and research how to obtain the resources needed to achieve project goals.


Phase 2: The Game Plan  

Once you identify and engage with the fundamental components of your idea, the second phase of the lifecycle—the game plan—begins. As the name suggests, this stage is all about formulating a detailed plan for how you will execute, monitor, and ultimately close your project.

Think of your game plan as a road map that outlines specific instructions on how to execute your project from start to finish. Everything from your tasks, timelines, budgets, and risk assessments needs to be accounted for and effectively structured in this phase.

Project Management Lifecycle | PMI

Phase 3: Execution  

Eventually, projects must move into the third—and longest—phase of the project management lifecycle: the execution. This part of the process puts that game plan you spent so much time on into action.

The specific objectives of your team in this phase should look something like this:

  • Planned activities and tasks are executed
  • Deliverables and products are constructed
  • Deliverables and products are presented to key stakeholders

Your duties as a project manager in this phase should look something like this:

  • Primary focus pivots from performing and supervising to creating project deliverables
  • Continual tracking of the project’s progress to ensure everything stays on schedule
  • Taking on a more passive role so that your team has space to reach goals on their own 

During your project’s execution, it’s essential to give teams the autonomy to do things in ways they feel are most effective. Equally important is your ability to ensure your project stays on track through excellent management of:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Communication

Striking a balance in these things generates projects that are completed on time and within budget. It also ensures that teams and stakeholders stay motivated and satisfied throughout the process.  


Phase 4: Monitoring and Controlling  

Once a project has been executed, the monitoring and controlling phase of the project management lifecycle begins. Not all projects will require a monitoring stage. But for some—like those with results that won’t show until much later—this phase is crucial to measuring the success of a project.  

The purpose of the monitoring and controlling phase is to track, control, and maintain: 

  • Results
  • Processes
  • Lessons Learned

Tracking these things is imperative to understanding your project’s success long-term.  

It also allows you to set new standards, such as:  

#1. Tangible Standards (schedules, budgets, production rates, overtime and waste) 

#2. Intangible Standards (Team morale, manager and leadership performance, customer satisfaction) 

#3. Key Takeaways (Overall team performance, performance vs. standard comparisons, deviation analysis, corrective actions taken) 

Once all this information is documented, it can be used to build more successful projects in the future.  

Phase 5: Closure and Transition  

Finally, the last phase of the project management lifecycle—closure and transition—begins. This is where deliverables, products, and documentation are organized and handed over to the proper parties. Additionally, any teams that contributed to the project attend a final gathering to discuss important insights and celebrate the project’s completion.

The closure phase also enables you and your team to:

  • Tie up any loose ends
  • Take stock of project insights
  • Move on with a clearly defined sense of accomplishment
  • Archive lessons learned for the benefit of your team/organization

The Value of Following the Project Management Lifecycle  

The project management lifecycle is essential to creating successful projects that are more effective and efficiently executed. Further, projects with this structure are more valuable, even if they don’t reach all their intended goals. Why? Because this lifecycle structure allows project managers to create the most comprehensive plan for their projects.

It also provides more value to project teams by tracking and controlling their contributions, as well as gathering key insights about the project in each unique phase. Through this, the value of the project lifecycle—and following it in your own endeavors—becomes abundantly clear.