Embarking on a project journey entails navigating through a series of stages known as the project life cycle. While mastering the intricacies of the project life cycle can drastically improve your project management outcomes, they can be overwhelming.

This post will help aspiring project managers and seasoned professionals aiming to master the various phases of a project life cycle.

We’ll break down and cover each phase from project initiation to closure. By the end of this post, you’ll clearly understand what each phase entails and how the phases work together to ensure project success.

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What is the life cycle of a project?

The life cycle of a project is the series of stages a project passes through from its initiation to its closure. A project life cycle is made up of sequential phases that represent the evolution of a task.

Project management life cycle

Typically, a project life cycle consists of four main phases: 

  1. Project initiation
  2. Project planning
  3. Project execution
  4. Project closure

These phases help project managers organize and complete a project successfully and provide valuable insights into opportunities for improvement in future projects.

We’ll explore the phases of a project life cycle in-depth soon. First, let’s learn about its importance and applications.

Why is understanding the project life cycle important?

While some projects are straightforward, others require careful planning and execution in stages to ensure success. 

Smaller-scale tasks with well-defined scopes may not need such rigorous division. For instance, tasks like organizing a company event or conducting a short-term marketing campaign may warrant a different level of phase-by-phase planning than larger, more complex projects. In these cases, a more flexible and adaptable approach to project management will work fine. 

On the other hand, a multi-million dollar infrastructure project is nearly impossible to complete without being broken down into stages. The same goes for complex projects like software development that require multiple teams’ involvement and many levels of approvals. 

Breaking tasks into project phases ensures that every aspect of the project is covered and completed efficiently. 

Benefits of project life cycles 

  • Providing structure and organization to a project
  • Ensuring all project tasks and deliverables are completed within the scheduled timeline
  • Identifying potential roadblocks early on so that you can take corrective action as needed
  • Facilitating communication and collaboration among project team members
  • Creating accountability
  • Providing benchmarks and standards against which future projects may compare

In short, understanding the project life cycle helps project managers increase efficiency, deliver projects on time and within budget, and produce a high-quality outcome.

Breaking down a project into distinct phases makes managing tasks, resources, risks, and deadlines easier.

“In a digital business where remote work is the norm, grasping the project life cycle is a game-changer. At our company, we’ve embraced this approach, leading to a 25% uptick in project completion rates. A recent initiative, for instance, involved a cross-functional team spread across four time zones. By meticulously aligning our actions with each project life cycle phase, we overcame geographical challenges, ensuring seamless collaboration and timely delivery. This strategy streamlined our operations and fostered a culture of accountability and efficiency. It’s a testament to how understanding and applying the project life cycle can transform challenges into opportunities, particularly in a remote work environment.”

Chris Masanto
CEO of PetLab

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s dive into each project life cycle phase in detail.

The four phases of the project management life cycle 

Let’s dive into the four core phases of a project life cycle. Learning about these distinct phases will help you understand how each contributes to the project’s success.

Phase 1: Project initiation

The project initiation phase marks the beginning of a project. During this stage, you’ll identify your project’s purpose, objectives, scope, stakeholders, and other vital details. 

You’ll also determine your project’s feasibility and create a business case to justify its execution. These early steps are critical because this is your time to garner support and develop the foundation for success by establishing an initiation phase. 

The main activities you’ll carry out at this stage include:

  • Undertaking a feasibility study: This involves evaluating the project’s potential for success and determining if it is technically and financially viable.
  • Identifying scope: Defining the project’s boundaries, including what is included and what is not.
  • Identifying deliverables: Determining the tangible outcomes, products, or services the project will deliver upon completion.
  • Identifying project stakeholders: Identifying all individuals or organizations with a vested interest in the project. This includes anyone who can impact or be impacted by the project.
  • Developing a business case: Beginning a document that justifies the need for the project, including the cost and the anticipated benefits.
  • Developing a statement of work: Creating a detailed narration of the project’s work activities, deliverables, and timeline. This serves as a formal agreement about the project expectations.

The project is approved once these tasks are completed, and the project planning phase can begin.

Phase 2: Project planning

The project planning phase is critical as it sets the foundation for successful execution.

During this phase, you’ll develop a detailed project plan to guide the team throughout the duration.

This phase involves creating a work breakdown structure, estimating resources and costs, and other factors we’ll list next. In other words, this is where you make the project concrete and get everyone on board.

The following are some of the critical activities in this phase:

  • Creating a work breakdown structure (WBS): This hierarchical chart shows all project tasks and how they relate. It simplifies project management by breaking it down into small, manageable components. For example, a new software product might include categories like ‘requirements gathering,’ ‘design,’ ‘coding,’ and ‘testing.’ 
  • Resource planning: Identifying hiring needs and estimating the resources needed for the project, such as personnel, equipment, and budget. You’d detail how many engineers, testers, tools, and other inputs are necessary to realize the project.
  • Cost estimation: Calculating an estimate of the project’s cost to help determine its feasibility. Here, you’d cover team salaries, licensing costs for software, overheads, and so on.
  • Defining roles and responsibilities: Assign roles to team members and outline their responsibilities. This would clarify who is in charge of each task, such as who is writing the code, doing the testing, and managing the project.
  • Project timeline development: Creating a schedule that details when each task should start and finish. Depending on your project size, you would set this up for every task, like designing, coding, testing, and implementation.
50% of project managers said they start a project with a project schedule.

This detailed planning phase ensures that everyone involved in the project charter knows what they need to do, when they need to do it, and what resources they have to accomplish it.

The planning phase is complete once a project plan is in place and the team is ready to move on to the execution phase.

Phase 3: Project execution

The execution phase is where the majority of project work takes place. During this phase, the team works together to complete the project deliverables according to the plan created before.

There’s little to no need to change the plan at this stage. However, the execution should also have room to give feedback for improvements and changes. Project managers must monitor progress regularly and adjust to ensure everything stays on track.

Key activities during the execution phase

This phase involves the following activities:

  • Task assignment: Assign specific tasks to team members and ensure they understand their expectations.
  • Team collaboration: Ensuring all team members work together effectively towards project goals. Encouraging communication, resolving conflicts, and providing support help maintain a productive team dynamic.
  • Performance tracking: This is when project monitoring takes place to assess progress and performance against the plan. Performance tracking involves monitoring key metrics and identifying potential risks impacting the project’s success.
  • Quality assurance: Ensuring that all deliverables meet quality standards set out in the plan.
  • Change management: Managing any changes or deviations from the original plan that may arise during execution.

The execution phase is complete when all planned activities are completed, and the project deliverables are ready for stakeholders to review.

More considerations during project execution

While you might think this phase strictly follows the initial plan, the truth is that it often requires adaptability. This flexibility becomes vital when unexpected situations arise, or new information comes to light that could alter your project’s course.

For example, suppose that midway through your project, a key stakeholder provides new data that changes your project scope. In this case, adaptability will allow you to adjust your strategies and achieve your goals.

Hubstaff Tasks Kanban boards

Another critical consideration is using project management tools and software to support the execution phase. The right platforms streamline communication, promote transparency, and provide real-time updates on the tasks worked on. 

This is where your team will benefit from using a tool like Hubstaff Tasks. Tasks leverages the power of Agile methodologies to help you manage projects of all sizes. You can try a free trial to see what it can do for you. 

Another critical consideration is keeping stakeholders in the loop. Regular updates and open communication lines with your team can strengthen their confidence in your project’s progress and build a strong relationship.

The execution phase is about more than just sticking to the plan. It’s about being flexible and meeting goals in the best way possible.

Phase 4: Project closure

The last leg of the project life cycle is the completion phase. In the completion stage, all the hard work culminates, and the final product or service is handed off to the client or stakeholder. However, crossing the finish line is more complex than it seems.

Carry out a review

You start the completion phase by conducting a thorough review. Here, you must ensure that all project requirements have been met and the final deliverables are up to par. This process can involve running tests, debugging, and making necessary adjustments. It’s all about fine-tuning until you’re confident in the quality of what you’re delivering.

Handover and feedback

Next, you’re ready for the official handover. The handover is when you present the finished product or service to your client or stakeholder. It’s also an excellent time to arrange a project review meeting. Review meetings allow everyone involved to discuss the project’s highs and lows and gather valuable feedback. Remember, this feedback isn’t just a formality – it’s a vital tool for refining your processes for future projects.

Team debriefing

After the handover, it’s time for a team debrief, also known as a post-mortem review. Wrapping up the project this way allows your team to reflect on the entire project, identify successes and areas for improvement, and celebrate the milestones you’ve achieved together.


Don’t forget about paperwork. Make sure all project-related documents and resources are correctly archived. An organized and easily accessible project information record is invaluable for future reference and learning.

And then, just like that, you’ve reached the end. The project closure phase is done, and your team can dive into exciting new projects. 

Manage a project life cycle successfully with Hubstaff

Understanding the life cycle of a project is crucial for successful project management.

By breaking down a project into distinct phases, you can effectively manage tasks, resources, risks, and deadlines while identifying opportunities for improvement.

However, you don’t need to do it alone. Hubstaff is a workforce management tool that can support your project life cycle work so you can focus on the big picture. Workforce management is where Hubstaff shines. Try it for free today, and you’ll find it easier than ever to manage projects of any size. 


1. What are the four stages of the lifecycle of a project? 

The four stages of the lifecycle of a project are initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Some projects can have more stages depending on their scale and purpose. 

2. What is the difference between the project management life cycle and the project management process?

The project life cycle refers to the different stages a project goes through from start to finish. In contrast, the project management process is the procedures and methods used to oversee and control a project during its life cycle. In other words, the project management process is how you manage the project life cycle. Both are essential for successful project management.   

Category: Project Management