3.1 Project Phases – Project Management from Simple to Complex (2023)

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify the phases of a project.
  2. Describe the types of activities in each phase of a project.

Projects, by definition, have a beginning and an end. They also have defined phases between the project kickoff and project closeout. A phase represents a grouping of similar activities that has a very loosely defined beginning and end. Phases are also typically sequential, where the prior phase is essentially complete before the beginning of the next phase. Phases do not have clear-cut end dates and some activities in an early phase of the project will continue into the later phases. This is in contrast to project beginning and ending dates and milestone dates, which do have clearly defined dates with the expectation that these dates will be met.


The initiation phase of a project represents the activities associated with starting up the project. Activities during the initiation phase include project kickoff meetings, identifying the project team, developing the resources needed to develop the project plan, and identifying and acquiring the project management infrastructure (space, computers). On projects where the scope of work for the project is not well defined, the project team will invest time and resources in developing a clearer scope of work. On projects where the major project stakeholders are not aligned, the project team will expend resources and time creating stakeholder alignment.

The activities that occur within the initiation phase of the project vary on each project. They include all the activities necessary to begin planning the project. The initiation phase typically begins with the assignment of the project manager and ends when the project team has sufficient information to begin developing a detailed schedule and budget. Unlike project milestones, some activities associated with project initiation may be delayed without delaying the end of the project. For example, it is advantageous for the project to have the major project stakeholders aligned from the beginning, but sometimes it is difficult to get the commitment from stakeholders to invest the time and resources to engage in an alignment process. Sometimes it is only after stakeholders begin observing progress on a project that the project manager can facilitate the stakeholder alignment processes.

The knowledge, skills, and experience needed on the project can vary in each phase. During the early phases of a project, the project leadership needs good conceptual skills, the ability to build a team, and the experience to build a project roadmap. During project closeout, the project leadership provides a high degree of motivation and attention to details. On a large project, lasting two or more years, it is common to see the project management team change leadership to provide skills that are appropriate to the final phases of the project.

The Project Management Institute (Project Management Institute, Inc., 2008) identifies four major phases of a project as characteristics of the project life cycle. These four life-cycle phases are initiation, planning, execution, and project closeout. The initiation phase, which PMI labels “starting the project,” includes all the activities necessary to start the project. These activities include holding the project kickoff meeting, confirming or developing conceptual schedules and budgets, and acquiring project execution resources such as office space, computers, and communications equipment.


The planning phase, which PMI labels “organizing and preparing,” includes the development of more detailed schedules and a budget. The planning also includes developing detailed staffing, procurement, and project controls plans. The emphasis of the planning phase is to develop an understanding of how the project will be executed and a plan for acquiring the resources needed to execute it. Although much of the planning activity takes place during the planning phase, the project plan will continue to be adjusted to respond to new challenges and opportunities. Planning activities occur during the entire life of the project.


The execution phase, labeled by PMI as “carrying out the work,” includes the major activities needed to accomplish the work of the project. On a construction project, this would include the design and construction activities. On an information technology (IT) project, this would include the development of the software code. On a training project, this would include the development and delivery of the training.


The closeout phase—or using PMI’s nomenclature, “closing of the project”—represents the final stage of a project. Project staff is transferred off the project, project documents are archived, and the final few items or punch list is completed. The project client takes control of the product of the project, and the project office is closed down.

The amount of resources and the skills needed to implement each phase of the project depends on the project profile. Typically, a project with a higher-complexity profile requires more skills and resources during the initiation phase. Projects with a profile that indicates problems with alignment among key stakeholders or political and legal issues will require specialized resources to develop plans that address these issues early in the project. A project with a lower complexity level will invest more resources in the execution phases to execute the project as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Project Phases on a Large Multinational Project

A United States Construction company won a contract to design and build the first copper mine in northern Argentina. There was no existing infrastructure for either the mining industry or large construction projects in this part of South America. During the initiation phase of the project, the project manager focused on defining and finding a project leadership team with the knowledge, skills, and experience to manage a large complex project in a remote area of the globe. The project team set up three offices. One was in Chile, where large mining construction project infrastructure existed. The other two were in Argentina. One was in Buenos Aries to establish relationships and Argentinean expertise, and the second was in Catamarca—the largest town close to the mine site. With offices in place, the project start-up team began developing procedures for getting work done, acquiring the appropriate permits, and developing relationships with Chilean and Argentine partners.

During the planning phase, the project team developed an integrated project schedule that coordinated the activities of the design, procurement, and construction teams. The project controls team also developed a detailed budget that enabled the project team to track project expenditures against the expected expenses. The project design team built on the conceptual design and developed detailed drawings for use by the procurement team. The procurement team used the drawings to begin ordering equipment and materials for the construction team; to develop labor projections; to refine the construction schedule; and to set up the construction site. Although planning is a never-ending process on a project, the planning phase focused on developing sufficient details to allow various parts of the project team to coordinate their work and to allow the project management team to make priority decisions.

The execution phase represents the work done to meet the requirements of the scope of work and fulfill the charter. During the execution phase, the project team accomplished the work defined in the plan and made adjustments when the project factors changed. Equipment and materials were delivered to the work site, labor was hired and trained, a construction site was built, and all the construction activities, from the arrival of the first dozer to the installation of the final light switch, were accomplished.

The closeout phase included turning over the newly constructed plant to the operations team of the client. A punch list of a few remaining construction items was developed and those items completed. The office in Catamarca was closed, the office in Buenos Aries archived all the project documents, and the Chilean office was already working on the next project. The accounting books were reconciled and closed, final reports written and distributed, and the project manager started on a new project.

Key Takeaways

  • The phases of a project are initiation, planning, execution, and closeout.
  • The initiation phase, which PMI calls “starting the project,” includes activities such as holding alignment and kickoff meetings, identifying the project team, developing the resources needed to develop the project plan, and identifying and acquiring the project management infrastructure.
  • The planning phase, which PMI calls “organizing and preparing,” includes developing detailed staffing, procurement, and project controls plans.
  • The execution phase, which PMI calls “carrying out the work,” includes the major activities needed to accomplish the work of the project.
  • The closeout phase, which PMI calls “closing of the project,” includes transferring staff, archiving documents, closing offices, completing punch list tasks, and turning over the results of the project to the client.


  1. Completing the items on a punch list occurs during the _________ phase.
  2. The ______ phase includes start-up activities and is called “starting the project” by PMI.
  3. The phase in which the project work is mainly accomplished is the _______ phase.
  4. How does the initiation phase differ from the planning phase?
  5. What is a punch list and in which phase is it used?
  6. What are the four phases of a project?

Project Phases

Consider a personal project that you have been involved with in the last few years, such as moving your residence, buying a car, or changing jobs. Describe the activities related to that project that fit into each of the four project phases.


Project Management Institute, Inc., A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 4th ed. (Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc., 2008), 11–16.


What are the 3 phases of project management? ›

The phases of a project are initiation, planning, execution, and closeout.

What are the 5 phases of project management process? ›

Developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the five phases of project management include conception and initiation, project planning, project execution, performance/monitoring, and project close.

What are the 7 phases of a project? ›

Take a look at the seven stages of the project management lifecycle to achieve optimal results regardless of your industry.
  • Planning. Also called initiating, the planning stage is the most important part of the project management lifecycle. ...
  • Analysis. ...
  • Design and analysis. ...
  • 4. Development. ...
  • Testing. ...
  • Implementation. ...
  • Maintenance.
11 Jul 2022

What is the 3rd phase of project phases and life cycle? ›

The third phase is labeled Execution. This is when the actual work of the project is performed. Required materials, tools and resources are transformed to reach the project goals. During this phase, performance is continually measured to ensure the project is successful.

What are the 3 parts of a project? ›

The triple constraint theory, also called the Iron Triangle in project management, defines the three elements (and their variations) as follows: Scope, time, budget.

What are 3 main areas of a project? ›

There are three main interdependent constraints for every project; time, cost and scope. This is also known as Project Management Triangle.

What are the 5 types of project management? ›

Here are seven of the most popular types of project management, as well as their pros and cons.
  • Waterfall project management. ...
  • Agile project management. ...
  • Scrum project management. ...
  • Kanban project management. ...
  • Lean project management. ...
  • Six Sigma project management. ...
  • PRINCE2 project management.

What are the 5 classification of a project? ›

There are many ways to classify a project such as: By size (cost, duration, team, business value, number of departments affected, and so on) By type (new, maintenance, upgrade, strategic, tactical, operational) By application (software development, new product development, equipment installation, and so on)

What are the 4 phases of a project? ›

Planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout.

What are the 7 C's of project management? ›

There are seven core elements that if considered will contribute to the organization's project decision-making process. The seven elements (7 C's) are: customers, competitors, capabilities, cost, channels, communication, and coordination.

What are the seven 7 processes of project time management? ›

The seven processes in the Project Time Management knowledge area are:
  • Plan Schedule Management (Planning process)
  • Define Activities (Planning process)
  • Sequence Activities (Planning process)
  • Estimate Activity Resources (Planning process)
  • Estimate Activity Durations (Planning process)
  • Develop Schedule (Planning process)

What is a 3 stage life cycle called? ›

3 stage life cycle (incomplete metamorphosis). The three stages are egg, nymph, adult. When the young hatches they look similar to the adults except they are smaller, and don't have wings. Examples of insects with a 3 stage life cycle include: True bugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets and earwigs.

What is the third stage of a project? ›

Phase 3: Project Execution

The third phase of a project life cycle is the execution phase. This is when the tasks and milestones meticulously planned in the previous phase are tackled to produce the deliverables. Before this stage commences, the project manager will tend to preface this phase with a team meeting.

What is Level 3 project schedule? ›

Level 3: Project Coordination Schedule (PCS)

This includes all the major milestones, the main design, procurement, construction, verification, and start-up elements. During the project execution phase, this planning defines the general critical path and is the main coordination tool for the project as a whole.

What are the 3 critical elements of project management? ›

The project management triangle is made up of three variables that determine the quality of the project: scope, cost, and time. The triangle demonstrates how these three variables are linked—if one of the variables is changed, the other two must be adjusted in order to keep the triangle connected.

What are the 3 critical elements in a project plan? ›

Scope, Schedule, Budget; Three legs of equal importance and strength, working together to support one central vision.

What are the 4 types of approaches to project management? ›

The project management methodologies list
  • Waterfall methodology. The Waterfall method is a traditional approach to project management. ...
  • Agile methodology. ...
  • Scrum methodology. ...
  • Kanban methodology. ...
  • Scrumban methodology. ...
  • eXtreme programming (XP) methodology. ...
  • Adaptive project framework (APF) methodology. ...
  • Lean methodology.

What are the 4 elements of project management? ›

The four basic elements of project management are further elaborated as:
  • Resources: People, equipment, hardware/software.
  • Time: Task durations, schedule management, critical path.
  • Money: Costs, contingencies, profit.
  • Scope: Project size, goals, requirements.
6 Nov 2009

What are the 5 project key elements? ›

5 Key Elements To Success In Project Management
  • IDENTIFYING CLIENTS NEEDS. Accurately identifying the client's needs is the key to ensuring that you produce the right product. ...
  • PLANNING. ...
7 Sept 2021

What is Phase 4 of the planning process? ›

Implement the plan! The basis of the plan, as well as its elements, should be communicated to all staff. Include why and how it was developed, how it will be applied, and the impact it will have on staff and the organization.

What are the 6 project constraints? ›

To remember the Six Constraints, think “CRaB QueST” (Cost, Risk, Benefits, Quality, Scope and Time).

What is 7c principle? ›

The seven C's of communication are a list of principles for written and spoken communications to ensure that they are effective. The seven C's are: clarity, correctness, conciseness, courtesy, concreteness, consideration and completeness.

What are the 7 characteristics of a project? ›

These seven characteristics are;
  • A single definable purpose, end-item or result. ...
  • Every project is unique. ...
  • Projects are temporary activities. ...
  • Projects cut across organizational lines. ...
  • Projects involve unfamiliarity. ...
  • The organization usually has something at stake when undertaking a project.
19 Apr 2015

What are the 7 elements of a project plan? ›

Let's dive into the details:
  • Step 1: Define your goals and objectives. ...
  • Step 2: Set success metrics. ...
  • Step 3: Clarify stakeholders and roles. ...
  • Step 4: Set your budget. ...
  • Step 5: Align on milestones, deliverables, and project dependencies. ...
  • Step 6: Outline your timeline and schedule. ...
  • Step 7: Share your communication plan.
13 Jul 2022

What are the 3 general cycle stages? ›

It is composed of three main stages: the fetch stage, the decode stage, and the execute stage.

What are the 3 life stages? ›

During each stage, most people will share common interests, actions, and behaviors. When we talk about the concept of life stages, three distinct phases come to mind: childhood, adulthood, and old age.

What are the 3 phases of the growth cycle? ›

There are three phases of growth – meristematic, elongation and maturation.

What is Project Plan 3 used for? ›

Microsoft Project Plan 3 includes Project for the web, creation of Roadmaps and Project Online Profesional, and can be used by administrators, portfolio managers, portfolio viewers, project managers, resource managers, team leads, and team members.

What is L1 L2 L3 schedule for a project? ›

After talk with a senior PM, he said L1 is referring to "planned date" before charter submit. L2 refer to the date in charter. L3 refer to the actual date (update after project close).

What is c3 in project management? ›

As Project Manager, C3 takes responsibility for managing every detail of the project from the groundbreaking to the ribbon cutting. We manage the general contractor and the many subcontractors to ensure the project stays on schedule and on budget.

What are the 3 project performance dimensions? ›

Three major dimensions that define the project performance are scope, time, and resource.

What is the correct order of phases in project management? ›

This project management process generally includes four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Some may also include a fifth “monitoring and controlling” phase between the executing and closing stages. By following each step, a project team increases the chance of achieving its goals.

What is the 5 project management Process explain each process? ›

The five process groups described in the Project Management Body of Knowledge are initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. They might be used in many places in a project life cycle and are not sequential steps for completing a project.

What are the 5 C's in project management? ›

The 5 Cs of managing projects, Complexity, Criticality, Compliance, Culture and Compassion, tell you how much and how often to do the things we do. There are five, they fit on your hand, and they go in order. The first three, complexity, criticality and compliance, are about the work, and that's where we begin.

What are the 5 phases of agile project management? ›

There are five different phases of Agile Project Management framework that occurs within a project development.
  • Envision Phase: The envision phase is the initial phase of project management within an APM framework. ...
  • Speculate Phase: ...
  • Explore Phase: ...
  • Adapt Phase: ...
  • Close Phase:

What are the 5 major variables of projects? ›

First of all, here are the five variables, with brief explanations:
  • Cost. The financial budget for the project. ...
  • Timescale. 'How long will it take? ...
  • Scope. ...
  • Quality. ...
  • Benefits.
2 Aug 2016

What are the 5 management styles? ›

There are many management styles, but five stand out above the rest: autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, visionary, and servant leadership.

What does the 5 C stand for? ›

The "5 C's" stand for Company, Customers, Competitors, Collaborators, and Climate. In a nutshell, a 5c analysis will help you evaluate the most important factors facing your business.

How do you do a 5 Cs analysis? ›

How to conduct a 5 C's analysis
  1. Analyze your company. ...
  2. Analyze your customers. ...
  3. Consider your competitors. ...
  4. Review your collaborators. ...
  5. Analyze your climate.

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