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Project Management and the Phases of a Project Plan

project management phases

There are many different projects a business can work on, and it doesn’t matter what type of project you are working on; you will probably follow the same project management flow that 95% of the rest of the leaders follow.  

The five stages of project management are crucial and follow guidelines set forth by the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) publication, formally known as the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide).

These guidelines consist of the following:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring
  5. Closeout

Organizations use structured works such as the PMBOK Guide to have better control over the process and increase the output quality of the project they are working on. 

Each stage has specific requirements and specific output goals and is done in precise order.

Throughout the project, each phase will be reviewed by a project leader so that it can continue down the path to the next phase.  This review ensures that the entire team handles any issues that may hinder the project from moving to the next stage.

This review process also helps work out any kinks in the project that could negatively affect it down the road.

Today we will look at the various phases of project management and how each stage is broken down so that your organization can have a successful result no matter the task.

Let’s dive in!

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Project Management and the Phases of a Project Plan

As mentioned above, the PMBOK Guide is designed to establish rules and guidelines for project management from the production of deliverables, the team members involved, and how each project will be monitored and approved throughout each phase.

The PMBOK Guide provides project controls to provide timely processes and helps benefit the project’s stakeholders.  The project manager also uses the PMBOK guide to understand what needs to be accomplished. 

Phase 1: Project Initiation 

Your team must first define the project during the project initiation phase.  Typically this phase starts with a project charter or possibly a business case.  If you plan on doing any initial research, the project initiation phase is the best time to perform this.  

Stakeholders in the project will do their research so they can help if the project is a good fit for the organization.  Once the stakeholders decide it is ready, you will need to create a project initiation document (PID) that gives purpose to the project requirements. 

This PID should describe your business needs, your business case, and the stakeholders in the project.  Several templates online can be used for this phase of the project.

To help during this phase, below is a set of questions you and your team should contemplate. 

  • Is this project possible to do?
  • What’s the goal we are trying to accomplish?
  • What problems do we need to find solutions for?
  • What is the final outcome that we are trying to achieve?
  • What is the best way to measure our project and whether or not it is successful?
  • What stakeholders will be involved in this project?

You and your team will also need to define what initiatives you will be delivered at the end of this first phase. Here are some examples:

  • Participants in the project, objectives, and entire scope of the project.
  • You will need a PID that lays out the details of the project, who will be running the project, and what the key performance indicators will be.  
  • Include a briefing of the project, why the project is being conducted, and the strategy behind the project. You can also define the scope, what you plan on delivering, the timeline of the project, and specific milestones during the project.

Related Links: Three Steps To Drive Results Without Micromanagement 

Phase 2: Project Planning

phases of project management

Just like the name implies, the project planning phase is designed to communicate the timeline and roadmap for the rest of the team to follow.  During this phase, the managers can set goals, gather tools for project collaboration, and set the project’s final plans.

There are two popular methods for setting goals in the project planning stage.  

The first is defined as “S.M.A.R.T. Goals.”  This type of goal-setting ensures that the goals have been researched thoroughly and provides an understanding of the process involved in reaching these goals. 

Let’s take a look at what each letter in the acronym stands for: 

Specific – You want your team to set clear goals in this stage. Define the who, what, when, where, and why of the goals that the project contains. 

Measurable – Develop measurable key performance indicators and make sure to hit them accordingly. 

Attainable – What will it take to achieve the most important goals of the project? Ensure the entire team understands the sacrifices and dedication it will take to get the job done.

Realistic – Ensure that everyone on your team can dedicate the time and effort to their specified roles on the project. 

Timely – Develop a timeline for reaching the project goals.

The second popular method for reaching project goals is “C.L.E.A.R. Goals.”  This method is slightly newer and accounts for a faster-paced business environment. 

Collaborative – Whatever goal you choose for the project, you should encourage your team members to work together. 

Limited – Ensure your goals are manageable to limit the amount of time it takes to reach them.

Emotional – Try to tailor the goals to the passions and emotions of the employees.  This way, the team will work hard to make the project successful.

Appreciable – Chunk down larger goals into smaller ones to achieve the overall goal faster. 

Refinable – If goals need to be changed, ensure your team is flexible so they can continue to achieve the original overall success metrics. 

The project’s scope is usually mapped out, and the plan to achieve it is created.  You will also need to know your costs, available resources, and the time it will take to complete your project. 

Your entire team will also need to understand the performance metrics surrounding the project. You can generate these performance measurements using the schedule, the costs, and the scope of the entire project. 

In addition to the above, everyone on the team needs to understand what they are responsible for.  Below is a quick outline of some of the documents that a project manager may create during the planning phase to help their team stay on task:

  • Scope Statement – The scope statement will define the project as a whole and include the needs of the business, the project benefits, project objectives, important milestones, and key deliverables. If your scope statement changes during your project, a manager should have final approval for conducting these changes. 
  • Work Breakdown Schedule – A Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) is a way to visually present the scope of a project and how it will be broken down by team members. 
  • Gantt Chart – Present your milestones and top-level goals in your project using a Gantt Chart. This chart will allow you to see, for example, the different activities, when each event starts and ends, and how long each event or activity is scheduled to last. 
  • Communication Initiatives – If you work with outside stakeholders, your communication plan will be important.  Having a solid plan and create schedules around when to communicate things such as milestones, project updates, and deliverables. 
  • Plan for managing risk – Know what the risks are in your project before you start.  Write this down and create a strategy for getting ahead of any problems that may hinder your team from reaching their goals.  

Finally, when working through the planning phase, make sure to discuss and answer these questions with your team:

  • What is the best project management software we can use to accomplish our goals? 
  • What is the budget we have for our project? 
  • What type of resources do we have for our project?
  • How much time do we have, and what is our deadline?
  • What risks are we taking by doing this project?

At the end of this phase, you and your team should be able to deliver the scope of the project, the communication and risk management plan, a Gantt Chart, a milestone chart, and a breakdown of the workload for each team member. 

Related Links: What Is Executive Coaching And How Does It Work?

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Phase 3: Project Execution

The project execution phase is one of the most exciting.  This is where the team brings together and also completes the deliverables.  

Typically the project manager will start this phase by calling a kick-off meeting with the entire team and reporting on the status of the project, giving any necessary updates, and then transitioning into how the team will monitor and control the progress of the project as a whole.

There are a few documents that the project manager will need in the execution phase, including work orders, quality assurance documents, and meeting minutes, for example. 

On top of this, below is a quick list of some of the tasks that should be completed during the execution phase:

  • Project introduction and formal kick-off documentation
  • Determine what teams will be working on what tasks
  • Determine what resources will be used in the project
  • If you need to find a project manager, now is the phase to do it.
  • Develop your project execution guidelines
  • Set up monitoring systems for the project
  • Status meeting updates
  • Project schedule updates or modifications if needed

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Phase 4: Project Monitoring and Controlling

 5 phases of project management

No project is complete without being able to measure its success.  This is where developing key performance indicators (KPIs) for your project becomes essential.  Below are some common KPIs for project management performance.

  • Objectives of the Project:  Determining whether or not the project is on schedule and meeting original budget requirements to meet stakeholders’ goals. 
  • Deliverable Quality: The quality of the deliverables will determine if specific tasks are on track.
  • Tracking Costs: Project managers are responsible for keeping the cost of resources on track. Tracking costs will ensure the project is completed on time based on its current performance.
  • Project Performance: This keeps track of any changes in the project.  During this time, project leaders may need to adjust schedules to ensure the project is on track and meeting its original goals.

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Phase 5: Project Closing

Five stages of project planning

You’ve made it! The fifth and final stage of project management is project closing, where all the deliverables are passed down so that the project can get pushed live.  

You and your team can take this time to look back at the project and praise yourselves for what you did well while also learning from your mistakes so that you can all get better the next time. 

Before the project is officially closed, the project manager needs to create a project list of items that didn’t get completed and find a way to get the team to accomplish the last-minute details.  The project manager should also have a final project budget and a final report that can be stored securely.

Related Links: 10 Tips For Managing Virtual Teams Like A Pro

Need help establishing structures, processes, and technical systems that will grow your business?  Let B STATE lead your team down the right path to growth.  Book a free consultation today!

Summarizing Project Management Phases

If you are focused on achieving the best possible outcome no matter what project your team is working on, implement the five project management stages defined above.  

Don’t be afraid to use collaboration and planning tools, software, excel spreadsheets, and outside consulting companies to help manage teams, send progress reports, monitor KPIs, and plan meetings as a team. These tools will keep your team connected throughout the entire process and ensure your entire project becomes a success.

For more information on how B STATE can help improve project management systems within your organization, contact one of our experts today!

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