A project can be divided into three major moments: the beginning, the middle and the end. Within these moments, there are some processes that interact with each other over time and make up the project.
5 stages of a project
- The planning;
- The execution;
- Monitoring and control; and
- The closure of activities.
It is worth saying that these processes are not fixed: although they follow an order, they do not wait for the end of the previous one to begin. Thus, throughout the project, several stages are happening at the same time.
In execution, for example, there are still planning processes being carried out, monitoring and control processes and even the beginning of the closure process. Observe in this graph:
As the project proceeds, the level of interaction between the processes increases, until near the completion of the project, the processes slow down until they cease.
The level of costs and personnel involved in the project also follows a similar curve over time:
At the beginning of the project, there is little effort and cost, in planning the level is a little higher, in execution there is a big leap in growth and then it starts to decrease, and then stops at the end of the project. In an agile project, this curve is repeated with each sprint, and in traditional projects it must be repeated only once.
Next, we’ll go a little deeper into each of the stages of a project. Follow:
The 5 stages of a project
Whichever project management methodology you use, the order and relevance of a project’s steps is the same.
Both agile methodologies (such as SCRUM), which focus on planning and progressive deliveries, and traditional ones (such as Cascata), which plan and deliver in a single package, can benefit from this phase structure proposed by PMBOK®.
It is worth remembering that each stage can be subdivided into other stages and, at the end of each stage, it is recommended to do a review to see if the forecast was actually delivered. After all, segmenting the workload into parts makes control much easier.
Without further ado, let’s go to the stages of a project.
In the project initiation stage, an overview of the project should be made, seeking to know what its main objectives are and what should (and should not) be done to achieve them.
It is recommended to start by doing a project feasibility study , taking into account the priority of demand, the availability of resources, technical feasibility, the environmental impact and the return to be generated. Only with positive responses to all of these criteria can the project be considered viable.
The project manager can also develop the project’s business case, which is a document presented to attest to the project’s viability and obtain the approval of other members of the board, whether they are investors or not. For this, the project manager should ask sponsors and stakeholders:
- What problem should this project solve?
- What are the strategic objectives of this project?
- What are the basic requirements for the project?
- What will not be part of the scope of the project?
- What is the ROI of the project?
After this conversation, the manager formulates a less formal document or presentation that presents all the relevant responses. Once the project has been approved, it is possible to proceed to the formulation of the Project’s Charter , which gathers, with little depth, basic information such as:
- The scope description;
- The duration of the project;
- The resources that will be needed;
- Who will be the stakeholders;
- What are the risks, restrictions and assumptions; and
- Who will be responsible for managing the project.
As soon as everyone agrees with the document, planning can begin. But remember that, throughout the project, as changes take place, some processes of the initiation stage can be resumed . Editing the Project Charter is one of them.
Starting a project without planning it first is synonymous with wasting resources. Even though it may seem like a waste of time at first , building a detailed plan for project execution will even save time later.
This is because, if the planning is not done well before the execution begins, it is almost certain that several activities will be performed in the wrong way, causing rework. This rework, therefore, will consume time and resources and may even become a risk to the health of the project.
Therefore, planning is one of the most important moments among the stages of a project.
According to PMBOK®, there are 10 elements that should be part of this stage: integration, scope, schedule, costs, quality, resources, communications, risks, acquisitions and stakeholders.
It is logical that you will not stop to plan each one in the smallest details every time you start a project, one after the other. You will realize that planning will flow organically once it starts. When planning the risks for your project, you can identify the need to add something to the scope or adjust the schedule, for example, and then increment those other parts.
As main results, the project planning stage should generate:
- The project scope description;
- The analytical structure of the project (WBS);
- The project schedule;
- Survey of project risks;
- The survey of the necessary resources for the project; and
- The project’s communication plan.
As the name implies, the execution step is when the planned tasks will be performed, put into practice. For it to start, a kick-off meeting is usually held with those involved in the project.
During execution, it is important that the project manager guides the project team, promotes motivation and engagement with activities, ensuring that everything that has been planned happens in practice in the best possible way.
In addition, it is the GP’s role:
- Manage acquisitions so that the necessary resources are available in the right quantity and at the right time;
- Manage communications so that both employees and stakeholders are aligned; and especially,
- Ensure the quality of what is being produced.
- Monitoring and control
Taking place in parallel with the execution stage, the monitoring and control stage has as main objective to deal with deviations that may happen in the project.
The project manager must be constantly aware of the project’s indicators, comparing them with the goals and checking what can be done if they are below expectations. Close monitoring can be useful, too, to avoid threats even before they happen.
The risk of delay in a particular activity, for example, can be mitigated only by monitoring the team’s productivity. Imagine that you went to check the team’s Burndown Chart and realized that performance is two days behind schedule, and if you continue at that pace, the final product of the sprint will not be finished on time.
Therefore, you decide to talk to the team and see what is preventing them from following the planned baseline, and once you discover and eliminate this impediment, performance returns to normal.
Do you see how constant monitoring and control allows you to anticipate and minimize deviations in the project? This was just a simple example, but on larger scales the importance of this stage is even more significant.
Many project managers tend to go through this final step straight. However, the closure of the project is as important as the initiation, after all, without taking care of the final delivery and closing of the contracts, simple mistakes can happen and end up wasting the work undertaken in the execution.
Therefore, it is recommended that the closing stage include a formal delivery of the product to the customer, the closing of contracts (such as equipment rental and professional outsourcing, for example), holding post-project meetings to give feedbacks and analyze the positive and negative aspects, and also the sum of the lessons learned in the knowledge base for future projects.
If a project model has been tested and approved, it can be stored by the GP to be applied to a future project, or at least serve as a basis for it. This practice favors the optimization of time and makes planning more practical, in addition to reducing the risks of something going wrong. Learn more about this in our project model text .
With this stage finished, our post on the stages of a project also ends. If you want to continue learning about project management, check out our exclusive post with 11 good project management practices or take the time to take a look at our content library on the subject!