The 5 Phases of Project Management

Written by
July 9, 2024

Are you looking for a guide to help take your project from start to finish? If so, you’ve come to the right place. A project's lifecycle can be broken down into five phases called the Project Management Lifecycle and this guide explains how it works.

What is the Project Management Lifecycle?

The Five Phases of Project Management, or the Project Management Lifecycle, was conceptualized by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It includes five project phases and serves as a framework that guides projects through well-defined phases that all contribute to the overall efficiency and success of a project. The five stages of project management can help you create a project plan and execute it efficiently.

The 5 stages are:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring and Adjustment
  5. Closure

Why is the Project Management Lifecycle Important?

By breaking down the stages of project planning, Project Managers can create consistency and structure for all their projects. These phases in project management also provide opportunities to identify potential pitfalls, mitigate risk, and align with stakeholders.

In short, the Project Management Lifecycle helps you create a project plan, outlines each phase of a project, and encourages continuous improvement.

What are the 5 Phases in project Management?

Phase 1: Initiation

The first stage of a project is the Initiation. This is where ideas start to come to life. Some of the steps in this phase include:

Defining the Project

Be as specific as you can whilst defining the core purpose along with the exact deliverables of the project.

  • What are the main goals and objectives of the project?
  • What are the project deliverables? What assets need to be delivered and to whom?
  • What is the scope of the project?

Identifying Stakeholders

Every project has people who are a part of the approval process. Figure out who those people are and how they’ll be involved in the project.

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What role will each stakeholder play?
  • How often do you need to report to stakeholders?

Developing a Project Charter

One way to effectively communicate with stakeholders and keep a project focused is with a project charter. A project charter is a formal, written document that outlines the fundamental aspects of a project before it begins. It serves as a foundational reference and provides essential information for all stakeholders involved.

For a deeper dive into developing a project charter, you can refer here.

Phase 2: Planning

In Phase Two, or the planning phase, the project's blueprint takes shape. Steps in this phase include:

Defining Tasks

Break down the project into manageable, individual tasks. Assign roles and responsibilities and set timelines for structural clarity.

  • What tasks need to be completed to finish this project?
  • Who or what team needs to complete each task?
  • What is the timeline for the project and how does each task fall into the timeline?
  • Which tasks are dependent on other tasks? How do these task dependencies affect your scheduling?

Setting SMART Goals

SMART is a method of goal setting that keeps your goals focused and productive. Ensure objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals can also be used as OKRs or KPIs.

For more information on setting SMART goals refer here.

  • Do you and your team understand SMART goals? 
  • Are the project's objectives SMART, ensuring clarity and achievability?

Ample planning before you start will set your project up for success. For more on project planning, check out our Complete Project Planning Tutorial.

Phase 3: Execution

Execution is where the project materializes. In this phase, Project Managers play a crucial role in overseeing activities, resolving issues, and ensuring that the project stays aligned with the defined goals and objectives.

The Execution phase is often referred to as the "action" phase, where the project transitions from planning to doing. It's a period of intense activity as the project team works on the tasks and activities outlined in the project plan. 

Steps to take in this phase include:

Completing The Task List

Team members start working on their assigned tasks, following the project plan and ensuring that each activity is carried out according to specifications.

Resource Allocation

Project Managers closely monitor and manage resources, including personnel, time, and materials, to ensure each task is completed as efficiently as possible.


Effective communication is crucial during this phase. Regular team meetings, progress reports, and updates to stakeholders help keep everyone informed about the project's status.

Risk Management and Monitoring Progress

Continual assessment of risks and mitigation strategies is vital during this stage to minimize potential disruptions. By keeping tabs on each part of the project, Project Managers can see problems coming and pivot accordingly. Predictive project management software can help. 

Phase 4: Project Monitoring and Adjustment

Phase 4 happens at the same time as Phase 3 to ensure quality control and monitor the progress throughout the project. The Project Monitoring and Adjustment Phase involves systematic monitoring, utilizing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or other goals, and making real-time adjustments for seamless progress. Project management metrics pave the way to success and this is the phase where you will utilize those metrics to gauge your project’s progress and success.

Quality Control and Issue Resolution

Quality assurance measures are implemented to ensure that the deliverables meet the predefined standards. This may involve regular checks, testing, and reviews. As challenges or unforeseen issues arise, the project team addresses them promptly to prevent delays and maintain progress.

In this phase you can ask yourself:

  • Are we making progress to meet project metrics?
  • Is the project budget on track?
  • Are there any tasks that should be adjusted to better align with project goals?
  • Does anything from the original plan need to be changed?

For metrics and formulas that will help you track team performance refer here.

Phase 5: Closure

The closure phase involves completing outstanding tasks, compiling comprehensive project documentation, and celebrating successes.

Steps in this phase include:

Complete Outstanding Tasks

Tie up loose ends to ensure every part of the project has been completed.

Deliver the Deliverables

A project isn’t finished until every deliverable is approved and sent to where it needs to be. 

Compile Project Documentation

Develop essential documents that serve as a reference for future projects. Ensure all documentation that needs to be kept for the project is properly stored.

Wrap Up Contracts with Contractors

If you hired any contractors specifically for this project, now is the time to verify that both ends of the contract have been upheld.

Finalize Budget and Reports

Make sure the “Actual” line in your project budget is updated. Create any reports you need to share data or successes related to the project.

After Phase 5 you can have a post-mortem meeting with your team and stakeholders to determine how the project went and what adjustments you need to make for the next project. These five established project planning stages provide a framework that you can use and customize to the needs of your team, your resource capacity, and the scope and timeline of your projects. 

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