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The Project Life Cycle – A Definition (#2 in the series PMI Project Life Cycle)
By Brian Denis Egan, B.Sc, M.Sc., M.B.A., PMP – Global Knowledge Course Director

The term “project life cycle” is misleading, because it is neither a perpetual circle of events nor the sequence of events rigidly fixed.

There are five stages to the project life cycle:

  1. Initiate
  2. Plan
  3. Execute
  4. Control
  5. Close

The five stages usually occur in sequence. If the project is relatively simple and there is no need to rethink or re-plan the project, the sequence of stages may be as simple as that depicted above.

If there are problems with the original project plan, then the controlling function leads back to planning. Execution may be delayed while additional planning takes place or may continue during re-planning. The new or modified project plan is then executed. During execution controlling processes are undertaken to ensure that the correct work results are being achieved.

Below is a project life cycle that has been forced by problems to return to planning.

Project Life Cycle Return To Planning

A project life cycle that returned to the planning phase

During large complex projects it is often necessary to return to planning several times. In this case, the project life cycle can become very complex with multiple repeats of planning and even initiating processes.

The following is an illustration of a complex project life cycle involving multiple returns to the drawing board.

Project Life Cycle involving multiple returns

A project life cycle involving multiple returns to multiple phases

About the Author

Brian Denis Egan is CEO of a manufacturing company (Book Box Company) and a management consultant. He has written three professional development manuals and numerous white papers on aspects of management science. Since 2000, Brian has been a part-time instructor for Global Knowledge within the Management product line.

This article was originally published in Global Knowledge’s Business Brief e-newsletter. Global Knowledge delivers comprehensive hands-on project management, business process, and professional skills training. Visit our online Knowledge Center at for free white papers, webinars, and more.

© Copyright 2008, Global Knowledge. All rights reserved.

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