Have you ever wondered how different projects, big or small, all seem to follow a similar path from start to finish? Despite their unique tasks, they share a framework with distinct starting, progressing, and ending phases. This framework is called the project life cycle.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) established the project management life cycle as a guide for project managers. This framework ensures smooth and efficient project execution.

Understanding this life cycle is vital for effective project management. Each stage presents its challenges, tasks, and people involved, requiring the project manager to navigate them for a successful outcome adeptly.

But what exactly is a project life cycle?

Read on to find out!


What is Project Life Cycle?

The Project Life Cycle is a set of stages that projects go through, each with its own tasks and goals. It’s like a recipe for success, ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards the same result.

Whether building a new bridge or creating a software application, the Project Life Cycle provides a structured approach. Just like a series of traffic lights, ensuring that the project moves smoothly from green (start) to yellow (caution) and ultimately to the satisfying green (completion), a project progresses through phases like initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & control, and finally closure.


The 5 Phases of Project Life Cycle

The project life cycle typically involves these five stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure. The phases make up the path that takes a project from beginning to end.

1. Initiation

Imagine you’re about to build something exciting – a treehouse. The first thing you do is figure out what you want to achieve. In the project world, we call this the initiation phase.

During initiation, we do a few essential things:

  1. Feasibility Study: Just like you’d check if you have the right tools to build your treehouse, we look at whether the project is possible. We identify the problem the project will solve and check if it can be done.
  2. Defining Scope: You wouldn’t want your treehouse to be too small or too big. Similarly, we decide how much work the project will involve – what needs to be done and what doesn’t.
  3. Identifying Deliverables: This is like listing down the things your treehouse will have – maybe a ladder, walls, or a roof. In a project, we list down what the project will create or provide.
  4. Project Stakeholders: These people care about your treehouse – your friends, maybe your family. For a project, we find out who’s interested and will be affected by it.
  5. Business Case: Do you know how you think about the cost of materials and the fun you’ll have in your treehouse? In a project, we compare the costs and benefits.
  6. Statement of Work: It’s like a map for your treehouse – where and how it should look. In a project, we write down its goals, what it will do, and what it will create.


2. Planning

Now that you know what your treehouse will look like, it’s time to plan how to build it. This is where the planning phase comes in for projects.

In planning, we do these things:

  1. Project Plan: Like drawing a step-by-step plan for your treehouse, we create a roadmap for the project. This plan includes the timeline, tasks, and rules.
  2. Workflow Diagrams: Just as you sketch out how each part of your treehouse fits together, we draw diagrams to show how different tasks and people are connected.
  3. Budget and Financial Plan: Like knowing how much your treehouse will cost, we figure out how much money the project needs and how to use it wisely.
  4. Gathering Resources: For a project, we gather a team and tools, just like you’d gather friends and tools to build your treehouse.
  5. Managing Risks: Just as you think about what could go wrong while building, you think about problems in the project and how to solve them.
  6. Project Kickoff Meeting: Like explaining your treehouse plan to your friends, we tell the project team what will happen and what’s expected.


3. Execution

Now that you have your plan and team ready, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work – just like building that treehouse!

  1. Creating Tasks and Workflows: Think of it as assigning specific jobs to each friend helping you with your treehouse. Tasks are assigned to team members in a project, and workflows are organized to keep everything running smoothly.
  2. Briefing Team Members: Similar to explaining to your friends how to put together different parts of the treehouse, in a project, team members are informed about their tasks and provided with guidance.
  3. Communicating with Stakeholders: Just like updating your parents on your treehouse progress, stakeholders in a project are kept in the loop about how things are going.
  4. Monitoring Quality: Remember to ensure each part of the treehouse is sturdy and well-made. In a project, the quality of work is continuously checked to meet the set standards.
  5. Managing Budget: Just as you keep track of the money you spend on nails, wood, and paint, in a project, the budget is closely monitored to ensure things stay on track financially.


4. Monitoring and Controlling

While the project is in full swing, observing to ensure everything is going according to plan is essential.

  1. Setting Up Controls and Metrics: Think of this like putting up signs to guide everyone working on your treehouse. In a project, key performance metrics are established to measure progress.
  2. Measuring Effectiveness: Just as you might step back and admire your treehouse progress, the work’s effectiveness is assessed in a project.
  3. Ensuring Alignment: Just like making sure each nail goes where it’s supposed to in your treehouse, in a project, execution is checked against the initial plan to ensure it’s on track.
  4. Managing Resources: Just as you made sure everyone had the right tools for your treehouse, in a project, resources like people, time, and materials are managed efficiently.
  5. Monitoring Performance: Remember how you tracked who was doing what in your treehouse team? In a project, performance is monitored to ensure everyone contributes effectively.


5. Closure

Finally, after all the hard work, it’s time to wrap things up – like putting the finishing touches on your treehouse.

  1. Analyzing Project Performance: Just like you’d step back and admire your completed treehouse, we analyze if the goals were achieved in a project.
  2. Evaluating Team Performance: Just as you’d think about how well each friend contributed, the team’s performance is evaluated in a project.
  3. Documenting Project Closure: This is like taking pictures of your treehouse and listing everything you’ve done. All the details are documented in a project to ensure everything is completed.
  4. Learning from Experience: Just like thinking about what you’d do differently next time you build a treehouse in a project, we conduct reviews to learn from our experiences.
  5. Managing Resources: Just as you organize your tools after building your treehouse, any remaining resources are allocated for future projects in a project.

These five stages bring a project to its conclusion, just like seeing your treehouse come to life and being able to enjoy it.


Final Thoughts

The project life cycle is an ongoing journey that spans your entire career. Much like life, projects are intricate, involving numerous variables and plenty of grey areas. Leading a project introduces a constant stream of challenges. Resources may fall short; budgets might exceed predictions. Stay optimistic. As a manager and leader, you can effectively steer projects toward success by implementing a robust project life cycle.

Guiding your team through the five phases of the project life cycle maintains focus and consistency throughout the endeavor.

Remember, the rules apply across fields. So, construct your project’s life cycle and effortlessly deliver successful projects.

Good Luck!

Further Reads:

How To Write A Clear Project Brief?

Project Baseline: What is it, Its Importance, & How to Set it?

11 Agile Project Management Tools You Should Use in 2023

The Benefits of Contract Documents in Project Management!

Project Scope Management: Definition, Importance & Process!

Program Manager Vs. Project Manager : The Key Differences Explained!

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