The 5 Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 7, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Managers have a variety of tasks, objectives, budgets, and timelines to keep track of, so they need an organized plan to deliver successful projects. A standardized approach to the project management process increases the success rate of projects and helps deliver consistent, good-quality results. Using a project management life cycle can help you produce results that are within budget and on schedule as a project manager. In this article, we discuss what a project management life cycle is, explore each phase of the life cycle, and compare the various types of life cycles.

What is a project management life cycle?

The project management life cycle is five phases that most projects go through, from initiation to closure and review. A successful project management cycle can save organizations money, improve efficiency, and foster teamwork to deliver high-quality work within the allocated budget and deadline. Project managers ensure their team has what they need to complete their tasks, including time, resources, and direction.

Successful management ensures team members are motivated and work hard to meet client expectations. They work with various departments and stakeholders to gather project objectives and support team members as the project proceeds. A well-thought-out project management plan helps leaders and team members better understand their responsibilities and how the project moves along the timeline.

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Why are standard project management life cycle processes beneficial?

A standard project process is beneficial because it keeps project managers organized and on task throughout the project. It's an effective organizational tool that helps clarify procedures within a team or organization. It's beneficial for larger organizations where there are many team members and stakeholders involved in a project. Some key benefits of using a project template are:

  • Improves communication: When people are working on different parts of the project, communication is essential to ensure everyone stays organized and has the resources to complete their tasks. Good communication also allows for better progress tracking and structured reviews for feedback between project managers and team members.

  • Offers consistent project results: Using an organizational template for planning and executing projects allows managers to deliver consistent levels of work across the organization. It also helps managers provide consistent feedback and results when working with clients with differing needs.

  • Provides an organized structure for the project delivery: Everyone involved in the project can easily identify how far the project has progressed and who is working on which task. It also outlines the tasks needed at each phase of the life cycle and creates a common project timeline that team members can reference.

  • Leads to faster project completion: Early established project plans help team members easily oversee different project components and understand their expectations within the larger team. They can also ensure that every step in the project is complete before moving to the next phase, making it easier to manage deadlines and define roles for everyone involved in the project.


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5 stages of the project management life cycle model

There are five stages involved in a project management process, and each stage has multiple steps to follow. While there are different models that project managers can use, these stages are the most common:

1. Project initiation phase

The project initiation phase helps managers identify a problem, a business need, or an opportunity to improve. Then, managers brainstorm ways their team can solve this problem or seize the opportunity. Project managers plan project objectives and define the business case and the project scope. Stakeholders typically want to identify the people involved and the end-users of the project outcome. With a clear goal and project scope in mind, project managers can easily start each phase of the project and ensure objectives and roles are clear, then monitor communication throughout the project.

2. Project planning phase

During the project planning phase, the project manager establishes the details of the project to create a clear roadmap to follow. The primary goals of the planning phase are to determine technical requirements for completing the project, a project budget, a communication plan, and a project schedule.

Project managers often use SMART or CLEAR frameworks to define their goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. It helps managers critically analyze the requirements of the project and communicate each stage of the project clearly to the team. CLEAR stands for collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable. These goals are similar to the SMART goal framework, but they also indicate how teams can work together to leverage unique skill sets, stay motivated throughout the project, and segment larger goals into smaller, more attainable objectives for the team to celebrate.

3. Project execution phase

The business plan becomes actionable in the project execution phase. Once the team members start working on their tasks, the project manager ensures everyone has what they need and are organized to complete the project within the specified deadlines. Project managers also provide support to team members when they need help. Specific steps in the project execution phase can include:

  • creating task workflows

  • briefing team members and stakeholders on new or completed tasks

  • communicating with team members and stakeholders regarding project updates

  • monitoring quality of work for reporting and governance

  • managing the budget to ensure no overspending

4. Project closure phase

In the project closure phase, project managers wrap up the project and prepare to deliver the final product to the stakeholders. The project nears the end of its life cycle, and managers prepare the necessary documents and reports for team members, senior managers, and relevant stakeholders. Project managers submit the results to the relevant stakeholders and clients at this stage.

Many project managers analyze the project completion process and gather feedback from team members and stakeholders. Some project managers hold team meetings during this phase to reflect upon the entire process and identify any areas for improvement. The closure phase ensures continuous improvement within the organization to enhance the team's productivity and success for future projects.

5. Project monitoring phase

Most managers like to include a project monitoring and control phase in their project to ensure that the project meets success factors and performance indicators. Although project monitoring and control is the last phase, it can happen simultaneously with the execution phase. Project managers often monitor overall performance throughout the project process to achieve the planned objectives and deadlines. After delivering the project, managers evaluate the budget, consider resource allocation, and develop strategies for how to improve the project roadmap and framework for future projects.


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Types of project management life cycle models

There are five types of project management models. Project managers choose from one of the following life cycles to implement based on the specific requirements of the project:

1. Predictive life cycle

A predictive life cycle follows a highly detailed plan. Project managers define the broad scope at the beginning and create detailed plans throughout each phase. Project managers plan the best possible roadmap for the project and ensure that everyone follows the guidelines closely. This type of life cycle makes tasks predictable and easily comprehensible.

2. Adaptive life cycle

The adaptive life cycle is change-driven and adapts according to the various situations that occur throughout the project. It also involves a broad scope strategy, but project managers create a detailed plan for the next phase before it reaches that stage instead of at the very beginning. Teams repeat project activities several times and deliver milestones to stakeholders in increments. Project managers can implement changes to the next iteration of the life cycle without disrupting the current work. Project managers can also incorporate feedback into the upcoming cycle or change the project scope as needed.

3. Iterative life cycle

An iterative life cycle involves a structured plan, but iterations can accommodate changes in project scope when necessary. The goal is to create the basic functionality of the product in the first iteration. Team members then build on the existing plan with additional features in the later project iterations.

4. Incremental life cycle

The incremental life cycle delivers increments of the project to stakeholders at a time. The stakeholders provide feedback on each piece of the project. Every small piece combines in the final iteration at the end of the project.

5. Hybrid life cycle

The hybrid life cycle is a combination of the predictive and adaptive life cycles. It combines the structured approach of a detailed plan with the speed and lean benefits of the adaptive life cycle to get work done. The project manager determines how to create the broad project scope and where to use adaptive approaches throughout the project.

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