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The Project Management Life Cycle - Successfully Guide Your Projects to Completion

written by: Gary Picariello • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 6/27/2011

You could be a manager fresh out of the box or one that has been in the trenches for years. No matter. Understanding the project management life cycle is invaluable for successfully guiding your project from its initial stages to completion.

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    The Five Steps in the PM Life Cycle

    Project Management Life Cycle No matter what project it is that you’re preparing for, the project management life cycle can assist you and your team in narrowing the project's focus, keeping it's objectives in order and finishing the project on time, on budget and with a minimum of headaches.

    Every project management life cycle contains five steps: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring/Control and Closure. No one step is more important than the other and each step plays a crucial role in getting your project off the ground, through the race, down the stretch and across the finish line.

    1) Initiation

    In this first step you provide an over-view of the project in addition to the strategy you plan on using in order to achieve the desired results. During the Initiation phase you’ll appoint a project manager who in turn - based on his or her experience and skills - will select the required team members. And lest you think you need to be a Bill Gates or Donald Trump in order to see your project take on a life of it’s own, fear not: there are some great technological tools available to get you through the Initiation phase of the project management life cycle.

    2) Planning

    The all-important second step of any successful project management life cycle is planning and should include a detailed breakdown and assignment of each task of your project from beginning to end. The Planning Phase will also include a risk assessment in addition to defining the criteria needed for the successful completion of each task. In short, the working process is defined, stake holders are identified and reporting frequency and channels explained.

    3 & 4) Execution and Control

    Steps Three and Four take you into deeper water. When it comes to the project management cycle, execution and control just may be the most important of the five steps in that it ensures project activities are properly executed and controlled. During the Execution and Control phases, the planned solution is implemented to solve the problem specified in the project's requirements. In product and system development, a design resulting in a specific set of product requirements is created. This convergence is measured by prototypes, testing, and reviews. As the Execution and Control phases progress, groups across the organization become more deeply involved in planning for the final testing, production, and support.

    5) Closure

    By the time you reach Step Five - Closure - the project manager should be tweaking the little things to ensure that the project is brought to its proper conclusion. The Closure phase is typically highlighted by a written formal project review report which contains the following elements: a formal acceptance of the final product (by the client), Weighted Critical Measurements (a match between the initial requirements laid out by the client against the final delivered product), lessons learned, project resources, and a formal project closure notification to higher management.

    The Project Management Cycle saves time and keeps everyone on the team focused. Fortunately, modern technology provides a variety of templates that will take you from start-to-finish, which makes the Project Management Cycle user friendly no matter what your level of management experience!

    Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Alphamu57


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