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The Five Phases of a Project
By Michelle Symonds

Project management techniques have undergone a bit of a shakeup over recent years. With agile still featuring heavily in many spheres and cascade still hanging about, there seems to be little to agree on when it comes to the ‘right’ way to manage a project. Whatever your preferred technique or style, being able to identify the various phases of a project is helpful to assist you in segmenting your workload for better management of time and resources.

Unfortunately this is yet another area on which there is no agreement to be made. Some will state that there are three phases in a project, others that there are seven. Here we will consider the five phase project management structure, which seems to be one of the more flexible and easily managed takes on phased project management.

What are the five phases?

  1. Initiation: Project initiation is the part where we name our project and officially start working on it. At this stage the definition is broad and it is simply time for funders and stakeholders to undertake due diligence to see if this project will go forward. If your project requires a feasibility study or analysis, this is the point at which it is performed.
  2. Project planning: After the initiation phase is over and the project has been deemed to be a goer, the mammoth task of planning needs to take place. This phase can involve setting out costs, scope, project plans, Gantt charts, milestone planning and more. By the end of this phase the project manager should have a good understanding of the scope of the project, and of the key deliverables they are expected to produce.

  3. Execution: This is where the action happens. From the planning stage, the project manager now launches their team into actioning the required deliverables for their project. Of course there may be a need to have a nod back or to revisit planning, should there be major changes to scope, budget or timescales, but otherwise it’s all action stations.

  4. Monitoring and control: Up until now each phase has happened largely in isolation, but this phase is the one which operates in tandem with the project execution phase. Throughout execution, the monitoring and control of the project needs to keep an eye on performance and progress, as well as gathering project metrics for reports, status updates and reviews.

  5. Closure: Many project managers tend to breeze through this final project phase, but should not do so. The closure of a project is just as important as the initiation, and without proper processes being followed, silly errors can be made which will spoil all the hard work the team has been doing. This phase needs to include formally delivering the project to the client, termination of contractors, post project meetings and reward and recognition of the team involved.

When there is an exciting project in the offing, it can be tempting to skip over a certain project planning phase and get straight down to the execution. However, in truth there is no benefit from doing this, and it will only mean those phases need to be revisited at a later date. Each of the five phases should be given equal weight in terms of importance as they all add up to make a better organized project, something you will understand as you learn about project management in greater depth.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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