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A Phase by Any Other Name: The 5 Project Phases
By Shelley Brodie

Note: This article was slightly edited by PM Hut.

While there are a few different schools of thought on how to manage a project, the one thing all agree on is the fact all projects will go through certain phases before it’s done.

Typically, a project will move through 5 phases with the length of time spent in each phase influenced and impacted by the size and nature of the project.

The project phases are:

Initiation → Planning → Executing → Controlling → Closing

  • Phase 1 – Initiation is exactly what it sounds like, getting the project started and it’s in this phase where the decisions on the direction the project takes are made. This is also the phase were we get our Project Scope Statement from…a literal statement of what we intend to do, not do and accomplish with the project.
  • Phase 2 is Planning and this is the time to sit down and figure out all the details of the work we are doing, who’s going to do or help do the work and how long we think it’s going to take. The more time that is spent in this phase, the easier the next two become and this is the phase that delivers our actual schedule.

  • Phase 3 & 4 are easily lumped together since Executing refers to actually doing the work we planned in Phase 2 and Controlling refers to making changes or tweaks along the way, when and where necessary. These two phases are considered iterative…which means they happen as a cycle instead of one after the other. You perform work, you tweak, you perform more work, you tweak more. The Scope statement you wrote in Phase 1 guides what you do in these phases and the schedule you created in Phase 2 guides when you do that work.

  • Phase 5 is the Closing phase…where you pat yourself on the back for a job well done and you identify things you’d do differently next time. Resist the temptation to rush through this phase or skip it all together. Taking a step back now to figure out what you’d do differently can be carried forward to help you when you start your next project.

Even though each phase is different, no one phase truly stands alone.

Shelley Brodie began her Project Management career in 1996, while in the Entertainment Industry. She spent a considerable amount of time working on projects across the Caribbean and in Canada, specializing in Casino start-up and development projects. She discovered she loved project work so on her way to Macau, China in 2004, she stopped in Calgary to visit with family and formalize her Project Management education at Mount Royal College. You can read more from Shelley on her blog.

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