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What Are the Five Steps of Project Management?

Learn what the five phases of project management are, how to set effective project goals, and how to successfully complete a project using the steps.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Jul 11, 2023
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What do project managers actually do? Team members are frustrated when it seems like a project manager only assigns tasks and asks for status updates. Why don’t they do something to help with project delays instead of pushing harder for it to meet a deadline?

There is much more to being a good project manager than passing out work and harping on due dates. But when projects run smoothly, you might not notice.

According to the Project Management Institute, organizations that undervalue project management have a 67% project failure rate.

Let’s take a look at what project management involves and how it keeps a project running smoothly.

This article will cover the five phases of project management:

  • Project initiation
  • Project planning
  • Project execution
  • Project monitoring and control
  • Project closing

We’ll do this by walking through a fictional example.

First, some background on the project management steps

These 5 “steps” are more commonly called phases or the project management lifecycle. The Project Management Institute created and documented them in the 7th Edition of the Product Body of Knowledge.

Using these project phases leads to the successful completion of project goals. Let’s take a look at what each step entails.

Project initiation

During the project initiation phase, the project is broadly defined with an end goal specified.

Let’s use an example of an engineering team bringing a new product to market. Our hypothetical engineering team designs various bathroom plumbing products. For this project, they are designing a new bathroom sink faucet that turns itself on and off. Their client is a (pretend) plumbing supply store called “Faucets R Us.” For our example, we will say that Faucets R Us has 15 stores throughout the Midwest.

During this phase, the team should create a project charter. It’s easiest and best to use a template or project management tool to keep charters consistent across projects.

Let’s look at some elements to include in a project charter and an example of each element. We will use the new bathroom sink faucet we discussed as our example.

Project name

The project name should be specific. Our team might choose “Touchless Bathroom Faucet to Reduce Unnecessary Water Usage.”

Project manager

Who is responsible for overseeing the project’s completion? We’ll pretend our team’s project manager is Joshua Jones.


Who has a vested interest in the project?

The customer, Faucets R Us, has a vested interest in the success of this project since they are planning to sell the product.

Our VP of Engineering, Elizabeth Davis, is the project’s sponsor and wants to ensure a good return on investment.

Roles and responsibilities

Who are the team members, and what is their responsibility?

  • Project manager: Joshua Jones is responsible for keeping the project budget and project objectives on track.
  • Project sponsor: Elizabeth Davis, VP of Engineering, is responsible for communication between the engineering team and the client (Faucets R Us).
  • Senior product development engineer: Marie Martin is responsible for the design and development of the new faucet. She will also be responsible for making adjustments and fixes based on testing.
  • Production team: Mark Johnson will lead the team and be responsible for making prototypes for testing. They will also make the final products for shipment to our stores.
  • Test engineer: Benjamin Bowers will be responsible for testing the faucet.
  • Technical writer: Patrick Allen will create the user manual for the new faucet.
  • Marketing specialist: Stephanie Smith will create ads to market the new faucet.

Goal of the project

What is the end goal of the project?

Our touchless bathroom faucet project will stock each of the 15 Faucets R Us locations with 100 of our new faucets by March 2024. The stores can place orders for additional supply based on demand.


How much does the team have to spend on this project? Let’s pretend our bathroom faucet project has a budget of $100,000.

Project risks

What foreseeable risks must the team be aware of when completing the project? A risk assessment can help the team prepare to address potential issues.

Project scope creep is a common risk. Adding expectations to a project can cause the project to miss a deadline or exceed budget.

An example of a project charter to show the components

‎Supply issues can also put a project at risk. If our production team does not have the project materials they need to make the faucets, this will push back the schedule.

Project charter vs. project plan

In project management, the project charter is different from the project plan.

A project charter is an overview of the project.

A project plan is created after the project charter. It is the more detailed execution plan for the project.

Project planning

During the project planning phase, the project manager develops the project roadmap.

The team should also define the goals of the project. The team can set SMART or CLEAR goals.

A SMART goal is:

  • Specific: Describe the goal clearly.
  • Measurable: Make sure the goal is quantifiable.
  • Achievable: It needs to be possible to reach the goal.
  • Relevant: The goal should align with long-term objectives.
  • Time-bound: The goal should have a defined completion date.

Let’s look at an example of setting a SMART goal.

The first part of our team’s goal in our project charter section was “Our touchless bathroom faucet project will stock each of the 15 Faucets R Us locations with 100 of our new faucets by March of 2024.”

This goal is specific. It is linked to one activity – making a particular faucet for a particular client.

The goal is measurable because the team needs to make 1,500 faucets. There is an exact target to meet.

To determine if the goal is achievable, the team would need to evaluate the schedules of the team members and the supplies needed. Are there enough time and resources to meet the goal?

For a goal to be relevant, it must align with long-term objectives. In our example, if the engineering firm aims to make more environmentally friendly products, this would align with a long-term goal. The touchless faucet would save water by making sure it turns off when not in use.

The goal is time-bound because it has a definite completion date (March 2024).

Chart showing the meaning of the SMART goals acronym

A CLEAR goal is:

  • Collaborative: Bring the team together.
  • Limited: Shorter-term goals that lead to the completion of an objective.
  • Emotional: Be emotionally important.
  • Appreciable: Be built upon each other.
  • Refinable: Be flexible.

Let’s look at an example of setting a CLEAR goal.

To complete our bathroom faucet project, our product development engineer needs to design the faucet. The product development engineer should not design the project in a silo by herself. She should get input from the customer.

An example collaborative goal would involve having the product development engineer meet with the customer and project manager to gather input on what the customer is looking for.

To limit the goal, we would only include the design meeting itself in the goal. It is part of the project that needs to happen but is not the entire project.

The goal should be emotionally important. Here, our customers will be happy to get their input at the beginning of the process, so their ideas and feedback can be considered.

Having the design meeting goal is appreciable because it can be built on. The design, development, and testing should consider the design meeting results.

The goal can be flexible. If there are additional ways to involve the customer to get feedback, the team can modify the goal.

A chart showing the meaning of the CLEAR goals acronym

‎The result of the team’s CLEAR goal setting might be the first goal: “Our product development engineer and project manager will meet with Faucets R Us to get their feedback on the new touchless faucet design.”

Project execution

During the execution phase, the project manager allocates and manages resources. The team completes the actual work to make the project happen.

Using our bathroom faucet example, the senior product development engineer would design and develop our faucet. The production team would make the faucets. The test engineer would test any prototypes and the completed faucet. The technical writer would create the user manual. The marketing specialist would create ads to get the word out about our new product.

Throughout the project, deliverables are presented to stakeholders. Using our example, if Faucets R Us wants to approve the design, the team would deliver it to them for feedback.

The team should work together to fix issues as they occur. For example, if a supply issue arises for our bathroom faucet team, they should brainstorm what can be done. Can the project manager find another supplier to order supplies from?

Project monitoring and control

Although project monitoring and control is a separate step, it runs concurrently with project execution. The project manager should make sure the project is reaching project milestones.

During the project monitoring phase, ensure that objectives and deliverables are met. Motion can help teams track work and keep projects on track.

Critical success factors are monitored during the project execution. A critical success factor is an objective the team must accomplish to consider a project a success. For example, staying on budget is a vital success factor. The project manager should ensure the team stays within the budget. If the budget is at risk, the team should evaluate what changes to make to stick to the budget.

Motion Project Management Dashboard

Key performance indicators should also be monitored during the project execution. A key performance indicator measures progress toward a goal. An example is if our team needs to make 1,500 new faucets, there could be a set number to make each day to reach the goal. A progress tracker can help with this.

Using the bathroom faucet project as an example, the project manager should check to ensure the project is running on schedule and work to address delays. For instance, are supplies available for the production team to make the faucets? If not, the team should order them. Is the delivery date enough time for the team to finish their work? If one supplier cannot meet the deadline to have the supplies on time, is there an alternate supplier who can?

Project closing

The final phase of the project is project closing. During the project closure, confirm that all project deliverables have been received for a successful outcome.

In our example, the project manager should verify that all 15 stores received their 100 faucets on time.

It is also good practice to have a retrospective meeting so the team can discuss the project. What went well that should continue for future projects? What didn’t work? What can the team do differently next time for items that didn’t work?

The bathroom faucet project team in our example might discuss any supply issues and if additional suppliers are needed for future projects. They might discuss if the team worked well together and if there are ways to improve communication for future projects.

Using Motion to organize projects

When projects run smoothly, team members are less likely to experience disruptions by project managers about concerns about meeting a project deadline.

Once you have defined your project, your team can use Motion to prioritize tasks needed to complete the project. Motion helps prioritize work so no tasks are left behind. Your team members can focus on getting actual work done instead of planning and stressing about what task they should be working on. If a new priority arises, Motion will reorganize the schedule for your team members to account for the latest issue.

As a bonus, teammate calendars in Motion allow project managers to see what happens with a task without bothering a team member. They can see where the task falls on their calendar and the expected completion date. Fewer check-ins by the project manager asking about the status of a task makes everyone on the team happier.

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