Demystifying the 5 Phases of Project Management

Project managers are the backbone of any successful project, but their roles are often down-labeled to simply reminding teams about deadlines or setting up status meetings. Looking at project management from a traditional perspective, a PM’s job requires a deep understanding of five specific phases, that enable success for a project. These are:


  1. Conception and Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Performance Monitoring
  5. And Closing the Project


The role a PM plays in these phases is defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s largest nonprofit membership association, who detail best practices in their Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Based on the current fifth edition, here are the secrets behind successful project management.


1. Conception and Initiation

Before the project even begins, PMs must define its goals and determine its feasibility. Conception usually begins with a business case, where the PM will determine if the project should be undertaken through feasibility testing. Important stakeholders will also help to decide if the project should receive the green light.


Initiation begins with a project charter or initiation document (PID) that outlines both purpose and the requirements that must be met. This includes the business’ needs, what stakeholders are expecting, and the original business case. PMs are tasked with creating these PID documents before any work can begin.


2. Project Planning

Planning can make or break a project. When done correctly, this phase creates a roadmap that everyone will follow from start to finish. PMs are tasked with creating S.M.A.R.T. and C.L.E.A.R. goals, according to the PMBOK, which break down as follows:



  • Specific – The who, what, when, where, and why of the project
  • Measurable – Developing criteria to measure success
  • Attainable – Identifying which goals are most important and how to achieve them
  • Realistic – The actuality of working towards and meeting those goals
  • Timely – The timeframe for meeting those goals



  • Collaborative – How employees will work together to reach the project’s goals
  • Limited – Keeping the scope narrow and focused, making it more manageable
  • Emotional – Creating goals that employees are passionate about, increasing the quality of work
  • Appreciable – Breaking down large goals into smaller tasks
  • Refinable – Keeping goals flexible to accommodate unexpected challenges


PMs develop a project plan based on these goal parameters while also identifying cost, quality, and available resources. Their plan must also establish baselines for performance that will keep the project on track.


3. Execution

In the execution phase, deliverables are both developed and completed. It begins by informing teams of their responsibilities, going over the project plan created in phase two, and hiring any management needed to oversee the completion of goals.


Status meetings are held to update the project schedule, tracking systems are put in place to monitor project completion, and the plan is modified as needed during this phase. Execution is often considered the “meat” of the PM phases since it requires the most work.


The PM directs and manages the entirety of this phase. Aside from the duties mentioned above, a project manager must also develop teams and assign their resources.

4. Performance Monitoring

This phase is all about tracking project performance and the progression towards established goals. PMs rely on key performance indicators to judge the efficiency of their project, which include:

  • Project Objectives – Determining if the project is on schedule and on budget.
  • Quality Deliverables – Measuring what deliverables are being met from specific tasks.
  • Effort and Cost Tracking – A more in-depth way to track the budget and current performance.
  • Project Performance –This monitors changes or unforeseen hurdles and how they are handled.


PMs use these and any other resources available to them to adjust the project timeline and its resources.  Infrastructure monitoring may also be used during this phase depending on the project. You can read more about this here.


5. Closing the Project

Once the project is completed, the PM takes part in closing efforts. Valuable team members are recognized, and an evaluation of the project’s efficiency is held. This helps to address shortcomings and successes, both of which are vital information for the next project.


The PM must also create a checklist of what the project accomplished and what it did not. They work with their teams to create the list, then move onto an overview of the budget for a final project report. Once their report is complete, they must properly file all project documents in one place for future review.


The Project Management Role

PMs are responsible for a lot more than most realize. Their duties are vast, require expert planning, and a problem-solving mindset. The best in the business take these five phases and blend them with the project at hand, tailoring it to suit the needs of their company.


In order for a project to be successful, several factors need to come together at once. That’s what your PM is for, ensuring as smooth of an operation as possible from start to finish.


If you have any questions about Project Management or how to be a better project manager, email us!


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