6 Stages of Project Management

Planning a project can often feel like a complex, overwhelming process. This article aims to simplify the task by breaking the project down into six stages and demonstrating some techniques to help you both look at the ‘big picture’ and focus on the details.

6 Stages of Project Management

What you’ll learn:

  • The core features of project management and the role of the project manager.
  • The main project stages and what actions you need to complete in each.
  • Reviewing and learning from your project’s successes and failures.

Content Summary

Types of Management
Stages of a Project
Planning Stages
Evaluation
Key Takeaway
Note

Types of Management

So, what are the different types of management?

Day-to-Day Management

General managers, who are concerned with the day-to-day management of a company are required to manage the organization’s operations and establish its needs.

Project Management

Project management usually concerns both the planning and managing of change within an organization and has a limited lifetime, as it’s designed to achieve a single aim.

Stages of a Project

Projects are divided into six stages.

Agreeing on the Brief

Before work can begin on a project, the brief, a detailed written document that states the project’s purpose and aims as well as who’s involved must be agreed upon. It offers a framework to keep the project on track, a means to measure success, and can protect the project manager from being accountable for issues beyond the original scope. The brief can go through several drafts before an agreement is reached.

Picking the Team

Gaining the commitment of your team can prove vital to the success of the project. Although you need to be sure of a person’s capabilities before selecting them, the earlier in the process they’re chosen the greater their sense of ownership over the project which can increase the quality of work produced.

Overview Planning

Start the planning stage by looking at the ‘big picture’ involving team members to get a range of perspectives on the whole project and attempt to identify any issues that could have a significant impact.

Detailed Planning

Once the ‘big picture’ has been studied move onto planning the details as these will determine what each team member will do throughout the project. Ensure all areas have been considered as anything that’s not planned is unlikely to get done.

Implementation

Before it can be implemented the plan must be communicated to both the team and anyone, even remotely connected to, or affected by the project. At a team meeting or one-to-one, in advance of the agreed start date, instruct the relevant person to initiate their task so the project can move forward.

Review

Once complete the project should be reviewed so lessons can be learned for future projects. Discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done differently both in terms of the project’s outcomes and overall team performance.

Planning Stages

Planning a project can often feel like a complex, overwhelming process. However, it doesn’t need to be as the following techniques help you to both look at the ‘big picture’ and focus on the details.

Mind Mapping

Initiated by a team member, or the project manager, the first step of the planning process is to conduct a mind-mapping session. This is designed to encourage the free-thinking of creative ideas which are focused on the overall aim of the project but are otherwise unlimited in terms of the scope.

Fishbone Diagrams

Fishbone diagrams are used to identify potentially significant hidden factors in the early stages of planning a project. The diagram has a central spine, running left to right, around which the main factors that contribute to the outcome are built. These main factors include people, materials, environment, processes, training, and systems, and form the bones that connect to the spine, while the primary and secondary elements create their offshoots.

Project Critical Path Analysis

Normally shown as a flow diagram, in a linear format, a Project Critical Path Analysis is useful for showing the interdependent factors, those whose timings either overlap or coincide. Start by writing down all the issues, resources, and activities required in order of what needs to be done, and by when, making a note of the ones that occur in parallel to each other.

Gantt Chart

To schedule and budget a project effectively, it’s recommended that you use a Gantt chart as its flexibility means it can be altered to reflect actual progress against the original plan. To create a project timeline, each activity is given a separate line, which includes scheduled review points and ends with a breakdown of that activity’s costings.

Evaluation

Question 1

What is a project brief?

A. A written agreement between the client and the project team
B. A business proposal
C. A meeting to agree on the project’s content
Correct Answer:
A. A written agreement between the client and the project team
Answer Description:
The project brief is a written agreement between the client and the project team which outlines the scope of a project, specifies requirements, and details how success will be judged.

Question 2

What states the outcomes the project must achieve?

A. The business objectives
B. The project objectives
Correct Answer:
B. The project objectives
Answer Description:
The project objectives state what the project must achieve while the business objectives will state the reason or reasons for undertaking a project.

Question 3

Do regular progress reports help you stay on top of the project?

A. Yes
B. No
Correct Answer:
A. Yes
Answer Description:
Regular progress reports, from the team to the project manager, and from the project manager to the client, are a useful tool for staying on top of the project.

Question 4

What is discussed during the review stage?
Select all that apply:

A. What went well
B. What didn’t work
C. What could be done differently
Correct Answer:
A. What went well
B. What didn’t work
C. What could be done differently
Answer Description:
The purpose of the review stage of a project is to discuss what went well, what didn’t work, and what could be done differently in the future, looking at both the project’s outcomes and the overall team performance.

Question 5

What’s the main benefit of using the Gantt chart?

A. It’s color co-ordinated
B. It can be altered to reflect actual progress
C. It includes scheduled review points
Correct Answer:
B. It can be altered to reflect actual progress
Answer Description:
The main benefit of using the Gantt Chart is that it can be altered to reflect actual progress made against the original plan meaning you can track where you are against where you should be.

Key Takeaway

  • Start by writing a project brief that outlines the purpose, aims, and objectives.
  • Conduct a mind-mapping session to encourage free-thinking and creative ideas.
  • Once complete, the project should be reviewed so lessons can be learned.

Note

Project management is a skill in high demand as many organizations opt to pull together an in-house team to fulfill a specific need, instead of hiring a full-time project manager.

The role of a project manager is to bring the project in on time, within budget, and to an agreed quality standard.

But how does project management differ from day-to-day management?

The biggest difference is that a project has a limited lifetime, with a definite beginning and end, instead of being a continuous process.

And…while general management skills, such as leadership, effective communication, and problem-solving are a required element of both, projects also present specific management problems, requiring special skills.

So where do you start?

Well as a project manager, you have to determine what needs to be achieved, ensure the project meets its objectives and predict as many of its problems as possible.

Start by creating a Project Brief, a detailed written document that outlines the scope of the project, specifies the client’s requirements, and details how its success will be judged.

The brief should also discuss the objectives.

The business objectives will state the reason for undertaking the project while the project objectives state the outcomes the project must achieve.

To keep track of your progress, it’s important to identify key milestones that will take place between the start and end of the project.

The budget should also be clearly specified in the brief, having been agreed upon before any significant work takes place. What about potential problems?

Most project failures are due to unforeseen issues that emerged too late for anything to be done.

Therefore, it’s important to identify potential issues and come up with solutions during the planning stages, taking advantage of the team’s knowledge and experience in the process.

The next step is to create a detailed plan which can be used to track progress and allocate tasks to team members.

These tasks are identified by breaking down activities into distinct pieces of work, which are assigned to one or more people and completed to a set deadline.

The plan can now be put into action.

This involves initiating planned tasks, tracking progress, and taking any necessary modifying actions if circumstances cause the plan to change.

Regular progress reports, both from the team to the project manager and the project manager to the client, are a useful tool for staying on top of the project during this stage.

So…what’s next?

The final step in the process is to conduct a project review. Consider what went well, what didn’t, and what you could do differently next time.

Try to see the review as a positive part of development as it’s an opportunity to learn from what you’ve done and is not about apportioning blame.

Finally, ask yourself whether both the business and project objectives have been met. If the answer is yes, then the project can be considered a success.

Remember, project management centers on the planning and control of everything involved in delivering the result and is something everyone involved in the project should embrace, understand and execute.