I teach project management courses for STEM-B college students and my introductory lesson details the lifespan of a project. Whether it's a tech project, like upgrading software for a company with 500+ employees, or building business, like leading a marketing campaign to increase sales, every project has a beginning, middle, and end.
But it’s easy to get lost in a project, especially creative projects. Therefore, knowing the project lifecycle (beginning, middle, and end) provides structure and accountability.
There are five project phases (sometimes four, depending on the management style), but each phase requires accountability to keep the project moving forward.
The 5 Project Phases
1. Initiating Phase: a project is clearly defined in a contract, called a Project Charter, with measurable end results, like delivering a product or service
2. Planning Phase: the Project Charter is handed to a project manager who will map out the requirements of the project, including identifying necessary resources like a team, budget, tools, schedule, etc.
3. Executing Phase: the project officially launches according to the instructions laid out in the Project Charter (which is essentially a how-to-make-it-go manual)
4. Monitor & Controlling Phase: setbacks occur in every project. The project manager controls all setbacks by planning for and managing risks. The project manager also motivates the team so that they meet their deadlines until the project is completed according to the Project Charter
5. Closing Phase: when the product or service is delivered, the project is complete. A project manager will formally end the project by signing off contracts, return any resources used during the project, conduct a “lessons learned” meeting with the team, among other tasks
How Is This Info Helpful?
Don't Get Lost: I get lost in my creative projects, like planning for Fight For Our Lives. Along with co-creator Ruth Joffre, we have to publish social media content, wrangle and support our performers, work through Zoom issues, etc. But knowing which phase I’m operating in helps structure my work. For instance, the Planning Phase (actually sitting down and mapping out the project from start to finish) requires a day’s work away from distractions, so I hide away until the Project Charter (again, a how-to-make-it go manual) Is completed.
Balance Yourself: Another example where I get lost is in the Monitoring and Controlling Phase, which takes the longest because it involves the actual work to complete the project, meaning I need to balance my schedule to meet deadlines whenever I’m in this phase.
Beginning to End: Writing my memoir is a project in itself, where the middle (Monitoring and Controlling Phase) feels like an endless loop of editing my manuscript. Still, I know that one day my book will be published and the project will close.
Map out creative projects with a clear beginning, middle, and end
Operate according to the phase order. For instance, don’t execute a project (Executing Phase) if you haven’t planned for it (Planning Phase)
Celebrate the closing of a project by treating yourself with your favorite vice (ice cream anyone?)