project life cycle

Definition: All projects follow a work pattern known as a project life cycle. A project life cycle decides the way the project will deliver the deliverable.

To put it simply, a project life cycle is the project progression through each step from beginning to end. The number of cycles of stages and their order may fluctuate based on the organization and the type of project.

However, because all projects are temporary, they have a distinct start and end date. The project life cycle provides the fundamental framework for the tasks to follow throughout the project, regardless of the type of labor.

The four interrelated stages that must be followed are included in the project life cycle.

Every project phase has a start date, an end date, and a control point. The goal of the control point is to reassess the feasibility of project continuation. To find out if the project is on track, you can compare its performance. The project life cycle describes the procedures for managing a project from start to finish.

Stages of the Project Life Cycle

According to the PMBOK Guide, a project life cycle has four stages:

  1. Starting the Project
  2. Organizing and Preparing
  3. Carrying out the work
  4. Closing the Project

#1. Starting the Project

This stage includes getting a commitment from stakeholders, including management and team, obtaining commitments from project stakeholders, such as management, the team, and the sponsor, gathering project requirements, and establishing the project’s scope of work, cost, and resources, among other things, are all part of this stage.

In this phase, the project brief is created, and it is decided what must be done to successfully complete the project.

You will determine the project’s stakeholders and make sure they all understand the project’s goal and business case. Establishing a plan to fulfill the project objectives is a key step.

Key Steps For This Stage
  1. Review the business case for the project.
  2. Conduct a feasibility study to analyze if the project is worthy of proceeding.
  3. Conduct cost-benefit analysis
  4. Create a project charter. 
  5. Define the project’s vision, purpose, and objectives.
  6. Determine the broad scope and project deliverables, and final output.
  7. Determining the rough order estimate for the project.
  8. Identify key risks, assumptions, and constraints.
  9. Determine the key stakeholders.

#2. Organizing and Preparing

Project planning starts once the project team has been given the go-ahead signal in the starting phase.

The planning process identifies the scope of work and develops a plan to complete the project. 

In this stage, you find answers to the following questions:

  1. What precisely do we intend to do?
  2. How will we accomplish this?
  3. When will we carry it out?
  4. How can we tell when we’ve finished?

The project manager decides how their team will achieve the project objectives.

Key Steps For This Stage
  1. Define the project plan
  2. Planning for resources
  3. Resource allocation
  4. Task delegation
  5. Define project management metrics
  6. Define Key Performance Indicator
  7. Develop the project baselines
  8. Achievements
  9. Recording customer expectations
  10. Success metrics

#3. Carrying Out the work

The plans created in the previous stage are implemented during this stage. The project manager will allocate resources to concerned team members in order to finish the work.

In addition to performing the job, the project manager will keep track of it in relation to benchmarks like cost, schedule, and scope. They take corrective and preventative measures if there is any deviance.

They also keep an eye on hazards; if any materialize, they ensure the risk response strategy is implemented.

Key Steps For This Stage
  1. Carrying out a strategy.
  2. Finishing work.
  3. Monitoring progress
  4. Controlling risk

This stage helps reduce conflict costs by controlling risk throughout the project. It also helps in reducing the risks of being over budget and spayed schedule.

#4. Closing the Project

This is the final stage of the project life cycle.

Project closure involves a product delivery, retrospective, lessons learned, performance analysis, etc.

But the project’s not over yet.

The project manager can hold a post-project review (post mortem) meeting to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the project and team. This meeting helps find what went right, wrong, and not so well and identify steps for future improvements.

Key Steps For This Stage

Performance Evaluation of a Project: To determine if the project was on track or if there were deviations, the project manager evaluates the project performance in relation to the baselines and compares it with the project baselines.

You will find answers to the following questions:

  • Were there any unexpected risks? 
  • What problems developed?
  • If yes, how successful were they handled?
  • Has the project plan been modified?

Team Evaluation: Here, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • Did everyone do their tasks as directed? 
  • Were they driven and enthusiastic enough? 
  • Did they continue to be careful and responsible? 
  • Was the project team’s collaboration productive and healthy?

Project Closure: This entails concluding procurement contracts with suppliers, approving agreements, releasing the team, and delivering all required project paperwork.

Reviewing After Implementation: Carry out a comprehensive analysis of the accomplishments and failures, compiling the lessons learned and recommendations for future projects.

Type of Project Life Cycle

A project can have one of the following life cycles:

  1. Predictive Life Cycle
  2. Adaptive Life Cycle
  3. Iterative Life Cycle
  4. Incremental Life Cycle
  5. Hybrid Life Cycle

#1. Predictive Life Cycle

Predictive Life Cycle
Predictive Life Cyccle

The predictive life cycle is also known as the waterfall life cycle.

This is the traditional form of project management where a project manager develops the complete project management plan at the beginning and then follows it until the project completes. Here, you plan the work and then work the plan.

Since the scope of work is fixed, this cycle is known as the predictive life cycle. In this method, the chances of changes are low. However, if the change occurs, it costs a lot.

#2. Adaptive Life Cycle

An adaptive life cycle is also known as a change-driven life cycle.

As the name suggests, this life cycle welcomes changes. The project is divided into increments, and deliverables are delivered and refined until the client is satisfied. All activities are performed multiple times.

Since it is cyclic, it is easy to make changes to the deliverable and incorporate clients’ feedback.

Adaptive Life Cycle
Adaptive Life Cycle

#3. Iterative Life Cycle

The iterative and predictive life cycles are comparable. Here, the project management team creates the plan in advance and iterates it to account for adjustments.

In this case, the first iteration aims to create a basic product with minimal viability, and the following iteration enhances it further.

Iterative Life Cycle
Iterative Life Cycle

#4. Incremental Life Cycle

The incremental life cycle is similar to the adaptive life cycle. 

Here, the project manager delivers small, usable pieces of deliverables to the client, and based on the feedback; the product is refined and developed. 

All increments are added in the final iteration to deliver the complete product. 

Incremental Life Cycle 1
Incremental Life Cycle

#5. Hybrid Life Cycle

The hybrid life cycle is a hybrid of life cycles discussed in this post. It can be any combination of life cycles. A project manager is responsible for selecting the life cycle best suited for their project.

Significance of the Project Life Cycle

The project life cycle is significant because it is what project managers lead and facilitate.

Every project involves the same steps: defining its goals, developing a strategy to achieve the goals, and carrying it out. Although various organizations may use different terminology to describe the phases of the project life cycle, they are fundamentally the same.

A project is started to address a problem. Decide on a solution, create a plan to implement it, then identify the problem. The project manager must keep track of the implementation process to ensure the plan has the expected impact.

Offers a Framework to Execute Projects

A project life cycle provides a systematic method for project delivery. This allows project managers to track the project’s progress and determine the issues with deliverables or a process. A project life cycle framework provides teams with a uniform road plan to follow. It helps define each phase’s tasks, results, and allocated duties.

Enhances Team Communication

A framework is accessible to and understood by all project stakeholders; it helps facilitate communication and define roles and responsibilities in the project.

Team members easily comprehend what they should do throughout each step. Resource planning avoids wasted and ensures its availability whenever they are required. Most resources are required in the third stage of the project life cycle.

Helps Measure Progress and Development.

A project life cycle offers a structure for organizing and planning each stage of the project. Plans, benchmarks, key performance indicators, project metrics, etc., will be available. You can check the status and determine whether the progress is on track by comparing it to the project baselines.

During the Definition phase, the project management plans are created, including the risk management plan and quality plans. The different product components are developed during the Implementation phase, which is further separated into Design and Build stages.

Allows Project’s Evolution

The stages of the project life cycle give insight into how the project progresses and enable the identification of areas that need special attention, such as risk management in the early phases and project evaluation in the execution stage. The project details expand every next step.

As the project moves forward, the plans are developed and elaborated, and the cost baseline, schedule baseline, and scope baseline are improved.

Helps Organize Reviews and Improve Governance.

Since the project lifecycle will outline when the Project Evaluation Review takes place, the project manager can schedule the performance reports’ completion before the reviews.

It permits people who must attend in advance, enabling quick “go or no go” decisions on product development. The project is feasible and on time, and these monthly evaluations reassure stakeholders that early accomplishments have been validated.

On the other hand, if the project proves to be unprofitable, they might act as exit routes.

Limitations of Project Life Cycle

Following are the disadvantages of the project life cycle:

  1. The works conclude after the completion of the final stage.
  2. High risks and uncertainty.
  3. It is not the best choice for tricky and complicated projects.
  4. It is not a correct framework for object-oriented projects.
  5. Implementing the project life cycle for longer projects is challenging and out of place.
  6. The progress is challenging to measure at every stage as the project progresses.

Example Of Project Life Cycle 

Let’s use a road construction project as an example.

North India’s highways will be designed and built by an Indian construction company. The project manager focused on describing and learning about the team’s capabilities to manage a significant project throughout the project’s initiation phase.

After setting up three offices, the project team began creating project blueprints and applying for permits.

During the planning phase, the project team designed the project schedule that conformed to the design, procurement, and construction activities. The team was able to monitor project expenditures against anticipated spending thanks to a thorough budget created by the project controls division.

The project design department produced conceptual concepts and gave the procurement division precise drawings. This aids the procurement department in setting up the road construction plan, designing and developing labor projections, and ordering equipment for the construction crew.

The project’s work is carried out during the implementation phase. Equipment, materials, and employees were provided to the construction crew throughout the implementation phase. The project team finished the task and met the goals.

The newly built roadways are made accessible to users as part of the closeout phase. A punch list of unfinished business was created. The financial records were balanced and closed. As the project manager transitions to a new project, final reports are produced and disseminated.


To complete a project, stakeholders must understand the project life cycle. A project management life cycle provides a framework for organizations to understand the project, its requirements, and processes that help them complete the project successfully with the least hurdle.