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What Are the 5 Phases of the Project Management Lifecycle?

In today's blog post, we're going to cover the 5 phases of a project management lifecycle, which would typically fall under the Waterfall/Traditional project management methodology. These phases can be followed for both large and small projects. A project management process can be as simple or as complex as is needed for the particular project you are working on. We hope you can apply these phases in any capacity that is helpful to you within your organization.

The 5 phases of traditional project management are: Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling and Closing. We will dive deeper into each one of these phases below and identify the core components and activities within each. Initiation The first step within the Initiation Phase is identifying the problem. This can often be the easiest part, as we uncover problems within our businesses each day. The key here is to ensure you have done your research, you fully understand the depth of the issue and you are clear on how this is impacting your business. Once the problem is clearly identified, the next step is one of the most critical - articulating the goal.

It is essential that before a project is launched, the goal is very clear AND it is communicated to all relevant stakeholders. In order to articulate a goal clearly, we recommend following the SMART goal framework:

S - Specific M - Measurable A - Attainable R - Relevant T - Timebound

For more information on SMART goals, see our blog post here.

The final step within Initiation is identifying the 'who'. This should be stakeholders that will be actively engaged in the project (sponsors, champions, project managers) as well as team members that will be impacted by this project. Planning The next phase of this project management methodology is Planning. Now that we have identified the problem, articulated the goal and identified the who - we can jump into defining the solution. A solution is the output you hope to gain from completing this project and that is expected to meet the goal that has been articulated. If the solution does not fully meet the terms of your SMART goal, this will result in a failed project.

The second step within the planning phase is breaking the project down into logical steps. Now that we have the goal and an understanding of what the solution should be, we need to outline how we can get from point A to B. Depending on the project scope, the amount of time spent on this portion of the project can vary greatly. At a high-level, for the planning you should:

  1. Outline the Steps

  2. Identify Action Owners for each

  3. Include Expected Timeline and Milestones

Executing In the executing phase, we are navigating through the steps that were broken down as part of the planning. This is generally led by a Project Manager; this phase can include a regular cadence of status meetings, recurring reports to identify issues or risks along the way, as well as identifying successes and documentation for future use.

The main two pieces within the executing phase is to build the solution and test the solution. Once the solution is built, we want to do various test to ensure the solution meets the goal. Monitoring & Controlling The next phase within this methodology, Monitoring and Controlling, often overlaps with the executing portion. The objective of this phase is to confirm the solution meets the goal after execution. If within this phase, it is identified that we have not yet met the goal - we will enter back into the executing phase to further modify the solution.

We will continue to move through this cycle until it is confirmed that the solution is meeting the goal of the project. Adoption (Hidden Phase) A piece of executing and monitoring/controlling that is often forgotten is adoption within the organization. Although it is often forgotten, it is critical to a successful project closing for if your organization does adopt the solution - the project has failed. According to the Project Management Book off Knowledge, “it is becoming even more important to have a contextual framework for effective adoption.”

Here are pieces of the framework we at Echo Consulting incorporate into our project planning.

  • Cutover Planning: Typically throughout the length of the project, there may be additional stakeholders involved in ensuring the execution goes smoothly (namely the Project Manager). It's important to ensure all duties and responsibilities are outlined for ongoing management (operations).

  • Communication: It is important to ensure the proper stakeholders and team members are informed of the project and solution completed and how this will impact their particular roles.

  • Training: Training is generally needed to ensure the team members are adequately prepared to adopt the new solution.

  • Buy-In: We can make plans to hand-off responsibilities, communicate to the right stakeholders, and train the appropriate teams, BUT if we don't have buy-in from the participants, we will still not be successful in our project closing.

Closing After the project has clearly been executed, monitored, tested, and adopted - we are ready to close the project. Congratulations - you have made it through the 5 phases of project management.


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