A global survey conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2018 showed that organizations around the globe wasted nearly $1 million every 20 seconds because of “ineffective implementation of business strategy through poor project management practices.” The study further highlighted that around one in three projects (31%) fails to meet targets, 43% aren’t completed within budget and 48% aren’t completed on time.
With contrasting viewpoints and multiple variables and degrees of stakeholder engagement, projects can be complex in more ways than one. So, what can you, as a project manager, do to ensure your organization doesn’t fall into the trap of ineffectual project management? Develop a thorough understanding of a project management life cycle and its phases. We’ll guide you through it all!
What Is Project Management Life Cycle?
A project management life cycle or project management cycle is a five-phase process that traces the life of an entire project from beginning to completion. Proper implementation of these five phases of project management allows managers to successfully execute projects by defining project objectives, adopting best practices to run the project and monitoring progress to deliver quality results.
Project life cycle and project management life cycle are interrelated concepts. Project life cycle refers to the various stages that a project goes through to meet its requirements and deliver expected outcomes. Developed by the Project Management Institute, the book A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge says the stages of project life cycle should identify:
- What is the work that needs to be accomplished?
- What are the project deliverables that must be generated?
- Who is going to be involved? Who are the stakeholders?
- How to monitor, control and approve each phase?
The stages of project life cycle are the same as the steps of project management. They help organizations strategize on what needs to be achieved first before moving on to the next stage of a project.
Phases Of Project Management Life Cycle
Each phase of a project management life cycle acts as a roadmap for successfully running the project. The stages of project management also offer managers an overview of the entire project at all times, helping them maintain focus, clarity and momentum while keeping budget, resources and time concerns in mind. The five main phases of project management life cycle are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control and closure. Let’s look at each stage in detail.
Among the five phases of project management life cycle, initiation is the first. In this phase, managers determine the purpose of a project, assess the resources needed to complete the project and conceptualize ways in which the requirements of the project can be met. In many ways, the initiation phase of the project management cycle acts as a visualization stage where project managers determine the scope of work and long-term objectives. The initiation phase of a project management cycle and a project life cycle involves:
- Conducting a feasibility study to assess the practicality of the project
- Ascertaining the primary business need that the project will address
- Aligning project objectives with those of the organization
- Identifying stakeholders and their requirements
- Developing a project brief or charter with all relevant details
Many consider the initiation phase of the project life cycle the most significant of all the steps of project management. In the absence of proper initiation measures, projects are liable to fail or go off track. For a project to proceed to the next stage, stakeholders must approve the project charter.
Once relevant stakeholders have approved the project based on the project brief, the planning stage of project management life cycle begins. Of all the phases of project management life cycle, this defines a roadmap for the successful progression of the project and is, therefore, often the most time-consuming phase. Project managers break up the project into smaller, more manageable tasks, build cohesive teams, assign roles and responsibilities, set up a project timeline and determine project goals.
The goals of the project are usually established following the SMART and/or the CLEAR methods. Goals based on the SMART method are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, while goals based on the CLEAR method are Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable and Refinable. The planning phase of a project management cycle and project life cycle also involves:
- Identifying project milestones
- Determining budget, time and resource availability
- Allocating tasks based on available resources
- Establishing key performance indicators
- Setting up a change management strategy
Along with these, in the planning phase of a project life cycle, project managers must also develop a risk mitigation plan. Such a plan traces the potential risks and obstacles in the path of a project and includes strategies to overcome or minimize them.
The execution phase of both a project life cycle and a project management cycle is also known as the implementation phase. In this phase, the plan developed in the previous stage is put into action. Once the workflow has been established, project managers direct the execution of the project. They ensure the project is moving on track by holding status check meetings, adapting timelines according to project requirements and communicating with everyone involved in the project, including stakeholders. A well-developed plan is crucial to the success of the execution phase.
The execution phase is the busiest among all the project life cycle phases because this is where all the actual work is done. Managing the workforce is also an integral part of the execution phase. Project managers must not only ensure roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled but also keep their teams invested in the work they do through recognition, appreciation and words of encouragement. In case of setbacks, managers must also be prepared to fine-tune the project plan as needed and/or implement corrective actions. The execution phase is often the longest among all the phases of project management life cycle.
3. Monitoring And Control
Next in the steps of project management comes the monitoring and control phase. Among all project life cycle phases, this phase runs simultaneously with the execution phase. The monitoring and control phase of a project management cycle deals with performance measurement. The set key performance indicators are utilized to ascertain whether the project is progressing according to expectations and within budget. This is the stage where project managers control project costs, mitigate risks, evaluate roadblocks, strategize ways to overcome them and monitor change requests.
Change requests happen when a team member, client or stakeholder requests changes in terms of project deliverables that had been determined in the planning phase. It’s a project manager’s responsibility to ensure the change request aligns with the scope of the project, identify the resources required to implement the change and also decide whether approving the change request will be beneficial for the project in the long run.
Project closure is the final stage in both a project management cycle and a project life cycle. Of all the phases of the project management life cycle, this is where the project achieves completion. In this phase, project managers finalize and hand over project deliverables to the client, prepare a thorough project report, release resources, close out contracts and review project documentation to ensure everyone involved has received their dues.
Formally closing a project also requires project managers to announce the completion of the project to all relevant stakeholders, top-level management and team members. At the end of it all, a reflection meeting, also known as a ‘post-mortem’, is held to recognize the success of the project and identify areas needing improvement. The performance of the project is evaluated in terms of expenses incurred, adherence to timelines and final project quality.
The diverse phases of project management life cycle—from initiation to closure—provide managers with a structured approach to successfully track and deliver projects on time and within budget. Project life cycle phases are essential to controlling costs, promoting communication and enhancing transparency within an organization.
Set An Example
Effective completion of all the stages of project management life cycle requires project managers to be critical thinkers, efficient problem-solvers and effective decision-makers. This is where Harappa’s Executing Solutions course comes in. This online strategy execution course will train you to handle the ins and outs of project management life cycle and project life cycle phases while offering you some neat ideas on how to execute projects faster and better. You’ll be able to effortlessly take a solution from a mere idea to successful implementation while learning to manage expectations, navigate roadblocks and calmly respond to crises.
Frameworks such as the Bifocal Approach will help you monitor projects by balancing short-term focus with long-term objectives. You’ll also learn the best ways to plan out your projects and create a roadmap for success, develop a mindset to tackle any obstacle you face and efficiently delegate tasks to team members. Want to set an example before your team members and peers? Sign up today for Harappa’s Executing Solutions course!
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