Project management is an intricate process involving the strategic planning, organization, and controlling of resources to achieve specific results within a pre-determined amount of time—while staying on budget and meeting milestones. Those responsible for these duties are typically referred to as project managers. However, they may serve as supervisors or hold other organizational leadership positions. Ultimately, they are responsible for any project’s success or failure and must manage all aspects, including time, resources, and people.
Because of the immense responsibility project managers hold, they must have a skill set that aligns with the duties required. These include good communication skills, project risk management, leadership skills, and a knack for problem-solving. In addition to these core characteristics, they must be familiar with the five project management steps most projects undergo.
Here’s a breakdown of the different phases of project management and how they go into effect during a project.
Project Initiation Phase
The project initiation phase is usually the first of the stages of project management. At this point, the purpose of the project and its feasibility are heavily evaluated. Once the project is determined to be valuable and relevant with the potential to produce the results desired, a project manager is selected. The project manager will meet with stakeholders/leaders to discuss the project.
Then, the project manager will define crucial information, such as the project’s scope, objectives, and overall goals within a project charter. Risks, limitations, and any other perceived obstacles that may be encountered are also discussed within this project management step.
Also Read: Project Management Phases: A Full Breakdown
Project Planning Phase
After objectives and goals have been clearly defined, the project planning phase can begin. The project manager will work closely with stakeholders and other leaders/team members to develop a more comprehensive and detailed project plan. Some information discussed in this phase includes budgeting, timelines, resources allocated, and developing a risk management plan. This plan will also detail how to mitigate foreseeable risks and include a plan of action that should be taken should these risks interfere with the project. Common tasks in this phase include:
- Project team assembled
- Detailed roadmap created
- Schedule defined with milestones
- Project constraints identified
- Breakdown of workload developed and assigned
- Risk analysis
Project Execution Phase
Once all plans have been hashed out, the next project management step is the execution phase. Here, the plans are put into action. Team members get started on their workload, and all parties prepare to create deliverables to meet the first milestone/goals. At this stage, adequate communication between the project manager and the team is imperative.
Properly preparing each team member in this phase can prevent catastrophic misunderstandings. Project managers should speak with team members individually to ensure that each one understands their role in the project and which duties fall under their responsibilities. Likewise, the project manager will need to be heavily involved to ensure the plan is interpreted and employed properly.
Project Monitoring/Controlling Phase
Project monitoring and controlling is the fourth phase of project management. This project management step starts once all members have completed their portions of the project and begun to work independently. After some progress has been made, the project manager must monitor the progress that is being made. If certain portions are not up to par or are not aligned with the original plan, they must be addressed at this point to ensure the success of the project.
If risks or unexpected issues arise while working on the project, it is also up to the manager to speak with leaders/stakeholders to alter the original plan as needed. When changes are made for this reason, project managers are responsible for implementing them and re-directing their teams. This is a continuous process that must be carried out until the completion of the project.
Project Closure Phase
Once all work and deliverables have been produced, the project manager can initiate the project closure phase. This is the final project management step in the lifecycle and involves reflecting on the project to identify areas of success/areas of weakness that can be applied to future projects. They must also end all contracts, ensure that all objectives outlined have been met, and receive a final sign-off of approval from stakeholders and leaders. At the end of each project, it is also good practice to note any lessons learned along the way. These same lessons can often be applied to additional projects to streamline certain tasks or prevent misunderstandings.
Project Management Knowledge Areas
Aside from being well-versed in the stages of project management, those who act as project managers must be familiar with the tools of the trade, the terminology, and best practices. The most common tools include risk management software, Gantt charts, diagrams, and individual project management software systems. All of these tools aid in keeping projects on track and within budget while identifying areas for improvement or risks that impede progress.
Furthermore, project managers must have an innate ability to communicate and listen to the needs of those they lead throughout the process. This is crucial for delegating tasks, communicating needs, sharing information with stakeholders/leaders, and ensuring that everyone involved remains on the same page. By the same token, they must be solid leaders who exude confidence and can successfully motivate and inspire their team members even in the face of challenges. When these natural abilities are paired with solid training and exceptional organizational skills, project managers can keep all projects they are a part of on task and on budget to meet the needs of everyone involved.
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