Project Management Lifecycle Phases

Our whole life is a long series of projects. Projects follow us everywhere, from learning to ride a bike to school homework, work-related tasks, and business opportunities. Whether we follow our intuition or a concrete plan, project management is a skill we all need to acquire. You can learn the hard way, through a continuous try-and-error process, or the smart way by reading the suitable materials and using the right tools.

A step-by-step approach is the best way to improve your workflow and become efficient. Four project management steps help you successfully apply the dictum “Divide et Impera” (Divide and Conquer) and advance with any project that comes your way. Here is everything you need to know about project management phases.

The Four Lifecycle Phases of Project Management

The project management lifecycle phases cover the entire project, from start to end, and help you track all its processes and resources. By following them step by step, you can avoid wasting time and resources, communication issues, conflicts, and blockages. Instead of letting the project overwhelm you, you stay updated with its development, can quickly react to any unpredictable event, and maintain your team's morale.

The phases of project management describe a precise roadmap that takes you from a concept to a complete project.

Phase 1: Initiating

The Initiating phase includes the project’s conceptualization and defines its goals. The prime step of any project is to find out why you want to implement this project, what it will bring to those involved, and how feasible it is. The Initiating phase defines the need or problem the project aims to solve or the unique concept that needs to come to life.

Furthermore, it creates a clear overview of the project. Having a good idea is not enough. The project needs to be feasible and have a strong business case. Therefore, the Initiating phase usually includes thorough research, state-of-the-art of the industry and similar projects, tests, financial analysis, and stakeholders or investors involved. You may sketch an action plan, request financing, and present a project proposal at this stage.

Project management steps for the initiation phase:

  • Hold a meeting with the stakeholders to discuss the overall purpose and expected outcomes of the project
  • Identify the project scope
  • Determine SMART project goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)
  • Create a business case/project brief
  • Clarify budget and timeline
  • Complete a project charter
  • Draw up the list of stakeholders
  • Define roles and responsibilities.

Helpful tools you can use within the initiation phase:

  • Project proposal - a document that outlines the details and objectives of a proposed project.
  • Project charter - a formal document that authorizes the existence of a project.
  • Statement of work - a formal description that outlines the specific tasks, deliverables, timelines, and requirements for a project or contract.
  • RACI chart - a matrix that helps define and communicate roles and responsibilities within a project or organization. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

Phase 2: Planning

The Planning phase defines the project’s scope, analyzes the budget, and plans concrete actions for implementing the project. You are preparing the project’s roadmap for employees and team leaders at this stage. It’s not about stakeholders, investors, and business partners but the staff that will transform the project into reality.

The Planning stage is practical. It involves resources, communication procedures, meeting schedules, and money. For this step, the project’s goals must be SMART and easy to implement. The project management plan provides the bone structure of the project and includes everything from costs and actions to quality measurements, testing, HR procedures, timelines, realistic deadlines, and reporting tools.

Starting with the Planning phase, everyone knows what they must do, by when, and to whom they report. The project manager starts tracking the project and gathering insights and feedback for statistics, reports, and status meetings. The project manager’s portfolio already has a Gantt chart, a communication procedure, HR processes, a resource inventory, and a meeting calendar. Employees have all the machinery, equipment, software and hardware tools, and HR apps they need to complete the project.

Project management steps for the planning phase

  • Define scope
  • Set key project milestones and the approval process
  • Create a project plan
  • Share a communication plan
  • Anticipate risks and bottlenecks
  • Set a budget baseline
  • Clarify the methods and periods of engaging with the project sponsor and with the team members
  • Holding a kick-off meeting to begin the project.

There are a few tools that you can use at this moment:

  • Gantt charts - a visual representation of a project's tasks, schedule, and dependencies, using horizontal bars to show the duration of each task and their sequential or parallel relationships.
  • Project plan - a comprehensive document that outlines a project's objectives, scope, tasks, timelines, resources, and dependencies to guide its execution.
  • Risk assessment matrix - a tool used to evaluate and prioritize risks based on their likelihood and impact, providing a visual representation that helps identify and address potential risks in a project or organization.

Phase 3: Executing

During the Executing phase, the project’s team implements the project following the action plan created in the Planning phase. The phase includes all activities and tasks that need to be done, status meetings, reports for stakeholders and investors, HR management, and data analysis.

Even if the project management plan belongs in the Planning phase, the plan may change during the Executing stage of the project management lifecycle. Events impossible to predict may take place. You may experience people leaving their jobs, internal conflicts, acquisition problems, or financial delays. Communication or collaboration issues may decrease people’s morale, making them stay behind schedule or take more time off. However, all problems have solutions. And the action plan will change accordingly, including any adjustment that helps the project move forward.

Project and HR management tools have you gather data in real-time, prevent problems, and be one step ahead each time. They also help you be flexible and responsive and keep everything organized without creating stressful situations or overwhelming your staff.

Project management steps for the execution phase:

  • Allocate project resources (human, financial, software, hardware, etc).
  • Execute the project management plan
  • Setup project tracking systems
  • Manage the actions according to the timeline & KPIs
  • Set the tasks and brief team members on what needs to be delivered
  • Share status reports with the stakeholders
  • Modify the project plan as needed
  • Meet often and fix issues as they arise.

Useful tools during the execution phase:

  • GANTT charts – to track progress 
  • To-do lists – to ensure for each goal, each specific action is considered
  • Change request document – A change request document is the list of modifications needed to ensure good execution of the project according to the actual status.
  • Burndown charts: to highlight the time/budget remaining versus the actual work done.
  • A project management tool to track budget, timeline, resources, and goals.

Optional Phase: Monitoring and Controlling

Monitoring and controlling the project’s development is sometimes considered a separate phase in the project management lifecycle. It coincides with the Executing phase but refers only to gathering and analyzing data, tracking employee work, creating reports, and ensuring the project will finish on time. It also involves many indicators, measurements, and statistics that keep the project on track. The most common are deliverables and their quality, project performance measurements, costs and effort tracking, and employee feedback.

Project management steps for monitoring and controlling phase:

  • Track effort and costs
  • Monitor project progress and performance
  • Ensure quality of the deliverables
  • Ensure cohesion to plan & achievement of the goals according to the timeline
  • Prevent project disruption
  • Review team performance.

Tip: The Project Management Body of Knowledge Methodology, also known as PMBOK explains the project management life cycle, which consists of 5 phases, and monitoring and controlling is the fourth one. 

Phase 4: Closing

When discussing the project management lifecycle, the last step includes turning on the project’s products and services, analyzing data, assessing the entire project, and concluding. It’s a rewarding stage that often includes celebrations, teambuilding, offering prizes to employees and acknowledging their hard work, and planning future projects.

The Closing phase is also the stage for creating final reports, publishing results, and sharing your conclusions with your peers. You will need accurate data for each part of the project, such as costs, resources, activities, and human resources. You may need to generate a complete closure report or individual reports for each domain. A retrospective meeting with people involved in the project will help you clarify your issues and what you can improve for the future.

Project management steps for the closure phase:

  • Handover deliverables
  • Review project deliverables
  • Get project results approved
  • Hold a retrospective meeting and document learnings 
  • Celebrate results.

Valid documents and tools valuable at this phase:

  • Impact report Also known as the final report, the impact report is practically the document communicating the effects and consequences of a project, highlighting the benefits and outcomes achieved in relation to predetermined goals and intended targets.
  • Project closeout report -  a comprehensive document that summarizes the outcomes, achievements, lessons learned, and overall performance of a completed project, serving as a formal record and reference for stakeholders

Related: We have an article explaining the core details of project management.



The project’s phases help you understand what to do and straightforwardly organize everything. They also provide a sense of direction and structure. You know exactly where you started and why you are doing the project. Employees also know where they stand in the project and what is expected. Use any project management tools that may help you improve your work. Many valuable resources relieve you from time-consuming, repetitive tasks, such as time-tracking apps, leave management software, collaborative tools, online calendars, and meeting apps. Your focus should be on the project.