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One of the most basic competencies a project manager needs to know is what are the five stages of project management. These are the project management stages that any PM can use as a basic guide to understand how a project is progressing.

In brief, the five stages of project management are:

  1. Project Initiation
  2. Project Planning
  3. Project Execution
  4. Project Monitoring
  5. Project Closure

Though all of these different phases are a lot more detailed, at the most basic level, if a project manager is starting out and wondering how to structure their project they can just ask, “what are the five stages of project management?” and then plot their course following this outline.

Project Initiation

The first of the project management stages is all about giving the project a relatively broad definition and establishing whether or not it is feasible. The stakeholders responsible will usually use two methods to decide whether or not the project gets the go-ahead:

  • Business Case Document: This will set out the justification for the project in terms of what the organization needs, how it will benefit them and produce potential financial profit.
  • Feasibility Study: This document assesses the resources necessary for the project to be completed and compares them to what the organization has available. In this way the project is judged on its timeline and cost and whether it is the right option for the organization.

If the project passes these two checks, then the next part of the initiation phase is drawing up a project charter or project initiation document (PID) to give a summary of the project’s objectives, the stakeholders involved and its business case.

Project Planning

In the project planning stage, a more in-depth outline of the project’s goals and requirements is created. This is where a project manager really brings their skills to bear. Project planning includes:

  • Defining the scope of the project
  • Identifying what exactly needs to be done
  • Finalizing the timeline for deliverables
  • Organizing a work flow schedule
  • Assessing and arranging necessary resources

Just as it is vital for a PM to know what the five stages of project planning are, it is during the project planning phase that your team will be given their roadmap of what’s required for project success.

Project Execution

This is the beginning of the creative stage, where the carefully laid project plans are turned into tangible deliverables. There will usually be a kick-off meeting to give everyone an overview of what their objectives are and after which, each team member will be aware of what is expected of them.

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For you and your team, project execution includes:

  • Creation of individual task strands
  • Procuring required resources
  • Assigning tasks to team members
  • Executing assignments
  • Providing deliverables within deadlines
  • Updating project progress

Project Monitoring

The project manager is a key point of contact between the project team working at the “coalface” and the other stakeholders who are more removed from the day-to-day details of what’s happening. For this reason and to make sure that everything is progressing as it should, a project manager needs to be able to effectively measure and communicate project progress.

There are several metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which can be used to monitor a project’s performance, such as adherence to timelines, keeping to the planned budget, success of deliverables and many others. Any combination of these can be used, but the most important thing is that they are measurable and used consistently so stakeholders can easily understand how the project is going at a glance.

Project Closure

This is the last of the project management stages, when the final deliverables are handed over or go live. This stage provides you, your team and stakeholders with an opportunity to evaluate how successful the project was and what lessons were learned during the process. It is also wise to create an ongoing process to capture this knowledge and formally and feed it back into your project management system. Tools that give you an audit trail and a way of recording what’s taken place are useful for leveraging past projects and team efforts. Flexible systems that can easily incorporate change are especially powerful as they can be optimized quickly and immediately take advantage of new knowledge.

Following project closure, the resources of the project can be reassigned, and team assessments drawn up. Many project managers hold an official closing meeting or even a more informal closing party to congratulate the team.