Every project is unique. Depending on the project, its requirements, and the industry, it will go through different phases from inception to completion. These phases are known as the “project lifecycle,” and in today’s blog post, I will discuss the phases of the project management lifecycle in detail.

Let’s get started.

What is the Project Management Lifecycle?

All projects follow a work pattern from beginning to end. This work pattern is known as the “project lifecycle.” The project lifecycle determines how you will start the project, how you will develop and execute plans, and which deliverables the project will produce.

The project management lifecycle provides frameworks and best practices to start, execute, and complete the project.

The objectives of the project management lifecycle are:

  • It provides a structured framework to finish the project.
  • It helps build the product with minimal hassle.
  • It streamlines communication.
  • It provides a means by which to measure and track progress.

A project lifecycle is the project’s progression from beginning to end. How many cycles of stages and their order can vary, depending on the organization and the project.

The 4 Project Lifecycle Phases

The project lifecycle has four project phases: (1) Starting the Project, (2) Organizing and Preparing, (3) Conducting the Work, and (4) Closing the Project. Every project requires these four phases before they can be completed and the deliverables can be produced to the client.

On the internet, many sites say the project lifecycle has five phases: (1) Initiation, (2) Planning, (3) Execution, (4) Monitoring and Controlling, and (5) Closing. They are wrong; these are project management phases, not lifecycle phases. The project lifecycle has only four phases, as mentioned above and below.

1. Starting the Project

In this phase, the project sponsor decides to start the project. They conduct a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis and develop the business case. If they decide to proceed with the project, they will create a project charter and appoint a project manager, who will take charge and start the project.

After being appointed as a project manager, you will identify the stakeholders so they can collect requirements and develop project management plans.

You will identify the stakeholder and get their commitment to complete the project. Key stakeholders include top management, project sponsors, clients, etc. You will collect the project requirements and establish the product scope. Afterward, you will develop the project brief and key steps to complete the project.

Some key activities during this phase are:

  • Review the project’s business case.
  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Conduct a feasibility study.
  • Define the project’s vision, purpose, and objectives.
  • Develop a project charter. 
  • Define high-level scope and project deliverables.
  • Determine the project’s rough order estimate.
  • Identify key risks, assumptions, and constraints.
  • Identify key stakeholders.

2. Organizing and Preparing

In this phase, you will collect the project requirements, define the product, develop the project plans, determine metrics and KPIs, and establish the baselines against which you will measure the project performance.

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

  • What do we intend to do?
  • How will we accomplish this?
  • When will we carry it out?
  • How can we tell when we are finished?

A few key activities during this phase are:

3. Conducting the Work

This is the key phase of the project lifecycle. In this phase, you will spend most of the project budget and time to build the project deliverables. You will measure the project’s progress against the established baselines. If the project is not progressing as planned, you will take the necessary measures to bring the project back on track.

You will monitor risks, and risk managers will implement risk response plans if any identified risks occur. Workarounds will be used for unidentified risks.

A few key activities of this phase are:

  • Execute the project plans.
  • Complete the work.
  • Monitor progress.
  • Control risks.

4. Closing the Project

After building the deliverable, you will hand it over to the client. Afterward, you close all procurement contacts, update the lessons learned, and archive the project management documents and files to organizational process assets.

But the project’s not over yet.

You will hold a post-project review (post-mortem) meeting to discuss the project and the team’s strengths and weaknesses. This meeting helps identify what went right, wrong, and not so well and identify steps for future improvements.

You will also ensure the client realizes the project benefit through a benefit management plan.

A few key activities of this phase are:

  • Project Performance Evaluation: You will determine whether the project was on track or if it deviated from its intended progress. You will compare actual performance against project baselines. You will find answers to the following questions:
    • Were there any unexpected risks? 
    • Did any problems develop?
    • If yes, then how successfully were they handled?
    • Was the project plan modified?
  • Team Evaluation: In this activity, you will find answers to the following questions:
    • Did the team members complete their tasks as directed? 
    • Were they driven and enthusiastic enough? 
    • Were they continually careful and responsible? 
    • Did the project team collaborate productively and healthily?
  • Project Closure: This activity involves concluding procurement contracts with suppliers, approving agreements, releasing the team, and finalizing project paperwork.
  • Post-Implementation Review: In this activity, you will conduct a comprehensive analysis of your accomplishments and failures, then compile the lessons learned and recommendations for future projects.

Project Lifecycle Types

A project can have one of the following lifecycles:

  • Predictive Lifecycle
  • Adaptive Lifecycle
  • Iterative Lifecycle
  • Incremental Lifecycle
  • Hybrid Lifecycle

1. Predictive Lifecycle

Predictive Life Cycle
Predictive Life Cycle

A predictive lifecycle is the traditional form of a project management lifecycle. In this lifecycle, the project manager will develop a complete project-management plan at the beginning, and then follows it until the project is completed. In other words, you will “plan the work, and then work the plan.”

Since the scope of work is fixed, this cycle is known as a “predictive lifecycle.” In this method, risks are rare but costly.

2. Adaptive Life Cycle

Adaptive Life Cycle
Adaptive Life Cycle

An adaptive lifecycle is a change-driven lifecycle.

The project is divided into increments, and the team delivers the deliverable and refines until the client is satisfied. The project team performs activities multiple times.

Since the development is cyclic, updating the deliverables and incorporating the client feedback is easy.

3. Iterative Life Cycle

Iterative Life Cycle
Iterative Life Cycle

In this lifecycle, the project management team will create a plan in advance and iterate it with newly available information until the project is completed.

The first iteration will create a basic product with minimal viability, and the next iteration will further enhance it.

4. Incremental Life Cycle

Incremental Life Cycle 1
Incremental Life Cycle

An incremental lifecycle is similar to an adaptive lifecycle. In this lifecycle, the project manager produces small, usable deliverables for the client. Based on the client’s feedback, the product will be further refined and developed. 

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

5. Hybrid Lifecycle

A hybrid lifecycle combines all the other lifecycles discussed in this post.

You should select the best lifecycle for your project based on your requirements and individual situation.


The project management lifecycle provides a framework for organizations to understand the project, its requirements, and processes, thus helping them complete the project successfully with fewer hurdles.

Fahad Usmani, PMP

I am Mohammad Fahad Usmani, B.E. PMP, PMI-RMP. I have been blogging on project management topics since 2011. To date, thousands of professionals have passed the PMP exam using my resources.