Project phases

The project life cycle is the path for your project from start to finish. Each project phase builds toward the subsequent phase and helps to create a structure for the project. To recap, the main phases of the project life cycle are: initiating the project, making a plan, executing and completing tasks, and closing the project.

In this reading, we will summarize each phase of the project life cycle.

The project life cycle

Initiate the project

In this phase, ask questions to help set the foundation for the project, such as:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are the client’s or customer’s goals?
  • What is the purpose and mission of the project?
  • What are the measurable objectives for the team?
  • What is the project trying to improve? 
  • When does this project need to be completed? 
  • What skills and resources will the project require? 
  • What will the project cost? What are the benefits?

Make a plan

In this phase, make a plan to get your project from start to finish. 

  • Create a detailed project plan. What are the major milestones? What tasks or deliverables make up each milestone?  
  • Build out the schedule so you can properly manage the resources, budget, materials, and timeline. Here, you will create an itemized budget.

Execute the project

In this phase, put all of your hard work from the first two phases into action.

  • Monitor your project team as they complete project tasks. 
  • Break down any barriers that would slow or stop the team from completing tasks. 
  • Help keep the team aware of the schedule and deliverable expectations.
  • Address weaknesses in your process or examine places where your team may need additional training to meet the project’s goals.
  • Adapt to changes in the project as they arise.

Close the project

In this phase, close out the project.

  • Identify that your team has completed all of the requested outcomes. 
  • Release your team so they can support other projects within the company.
  • Take time with your team to celebrate your successes!
  • Pass off all remaining deliverables and get stakeholder approval.
  • Document the lessons you and your team learned during the project.
  • Reflect on ways to improve in the future.

Key takeaway

Each phase of the project life cycle has its own significance and reason for existing. By following the project life cycle, you’re ensuring that you are:

  • Capturing the expectations of your customer
  • Setting your project up for success with a plan.
  • Executing project tasks and addressing any issues that arise
  • Closing out your project to capture any lessons learned.

Popular project management approaches

The Waterfall is a traditional methodology in which tasks and phases are completed in a linear, sequential manner, and each stage of the project must be completed before the next begins. The project manager is responsible for prioritizing and assigning tasks to team members. In Waterfall, the criteria used to measure quality is clearly defined at the beginning of the project.

Agile involves short phases of collaborative, iterative work with frequent testing and regularly implemented improvements. Some stages and tasks happen at the same time as others. In Agile projects, teams share responsibility for managing their own work. Scrum and Kanban are examples of Agile frameworks, which are specific development approaches based on the Agile philosophy.

Scrum is an Agile framework that focuses on developing, delivering, and sustaining complex projects and products through collaboration, accountability, and an iterative process. Work is completed by small, cross-functional teams led by a Scrum Master and is divided into short Sprints with a setlist of deliverables.

Kanban is both an Agile approach and a tool that provides visual feedback about the status of the work in progress through the use of Kanban boards or charts. With Kanban, project managers use sticky notes or note cards on a physical or digital Kanban board to represent the team’s tasks with categories like “To do,” “In progress,” and “Done.”

Lean uses the 5S quality tool to eliminate eight waste areas, save money, improve quality, and streamline processes. Lean’s principles state that you can do more with less by addressing dysfunctions that create waste. Lean implements a Kanban scheduling system to manage production.

Six Sigma involves reducing variations by ensuring that quality processes are followed every time. The Six Sigma method follows a process-improvement approach called DMAIC, defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling.

Lean Six Sigma is a combination of Lean, and Six Sigma approaches. It is often used in projects that aim to save money, improve quality, and move through processes quickly. Lean Six Sigma is also ideal for solving complex or high-risk problems. The 5S quality tool, the DMAIC process, and the use of Kanban boards are all components of this approach.
Despite their differences, these project management methodologies require communication and collaboration among various teams and aim to deliver projects on time and within budget.


What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile way to manage a project, usually software development. Agile software development with Scrum is often perceived as a methodology; but rather than viewing Scrum as methodology, think of it as a framework for managing a process. 

A framework is a basic structure composed of a set of practices, techniques, tools or concepts used to solve a problem or guide a specific activity. This framework helps teams work together. Scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve.

While the Scrum I’m talking about is most frequently used by software development teams, its principles and lessons can be applied to all kinds of teamwork. Often thought of as an agile project management framework, Scrum describes a set of meetings, tools, and roles that work in concert to help teams structure and manage their work.

What Are the Scrum Principles?

There is no better way to get to know something or someone than to understand its principles, do you agree? Therefore, we bring each of the principles of Scrum so that you fully understand the concept of this framework.

According to the SBOK ™ Guide (Scrum Body of Knowledge), Scrum has six principles: Control of empirical processes, Self-organization, Collaboration, Value-based prioritization, Time-boxing, and Iterative development

By incorporating Scrum’s values, a team takes on shared responsibility for success and avoids the traps. Unless each Scrum Team member sticks to these values, a team won’t have the foundation it needs to be successful. And whether or not your team follows the Scrum framework, these are solid values for any group.

Scrum events

The Scrum framework is marked by five Events. These are the Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

  • A Sprint is a specified period during which a Scrum team produces a product.
  • Sprint Planning is a meeting where the work to be done during a Sprint is mapped out. During this meeting, the entire team clearly defines deliverables for the Sprint. It assigns the work necessary to achieve that goal.
  • The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute daily meeting where the team has a chance to get on the same page and put together a strategy for the next 24 hours. Work from the previous day is analyzed, while updates are shared for work taking place that day.
  • The Sprint Review takes place after a Sprint ends. During Review, the Product Owner explains what planned work either was or was not completed during the Sprint. The team then presents completed work and talks through what went well and how problems were solved.
  • The Sprint Retrospective also takes place after a Sprint. Retros provide a dedicated forum for the team to analyze their process during the previous Sprint and make adaptations as needed. At Skillcrush, we typically start with some kind of icebreaker game (it’s more fun than it sounds) to get the feedback going and allow ourselves to honestly communicate with our teammates.

Scrum artifacts

Artifacts are just dynamic records that provide project details, including the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Product Increments.