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Last updated on 1/27/23

Manage the Executing Phase of the Project Management Lifecycle

As you have seen previously, the project management lifecycle has four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing.

  • During the initiating phase, the project has the necessary approvals from executive decision-makers

  • The necessary project plan has been created and approved during the planning phase.

  • After this, the executing phase starts, and the monitoring happens concurrently until the end of the closing phase.

The executing phase, third from the left, is highlighted in the project management lifecycle.
The executing phase

Schedule a Kick-off Meeting

Because the executing phase is a transition from planning to doing, it is important to schedule a kick-off meeting at the start.

The project kick-off meeting happens at the start of the executing phase.

This meeting is an opportunity to set the tone for project success among all stakeholders and team members. It is an opportunity to align everyone with the key outcomes and project deliverables. Anyone can ask questions about project outcomes, risks, or deadlines, engage in discussion, and hopefully, leave the meeting clear on the project goals. The topics shouldn't be a surprise if correctly researched, discussed, and agreed on with all team members and stakeholders in the previous stages.

A recommended process for the kick-off meeting is:

1. Set the agenda - The project manager should create an agenda to ensure that the meeting covers all essential points. The final point can be a Q&A session so that attendees can ask any questions. As with any meeting, presentations or notes should be distributed in advance so attendees can familiarize themselves. Appropriate items to present/discuss might include:

  • Motivations for this project

  • The business case

  • Desired project outcomes

  • Key deliverables

  • How the project will be run

  • Milestones

  • Assumptions

  • Risks

  • Communication methods for the project team

2. Conduct the meeting - The project manager should chair the meeting and ensure that team members have read the project charter. During the meeting, they run through each point on the agenda, share the project plan, verify the major stakeholders, and share the communication plan.

3. Close the meeting - It is always a good idea to have a Q&A session at the end of the kick-off meeting to address any questions or concerns. Team members may think of questions later, so let them know they can bring them up later. Write the meeting minutes so attendees can review what was discussed and offer any suggestions. If risks and issues are flagged, note them on a risk and issue log to follow up and keep track of them.

The three major steps for a successful project kick-off meeting are shown from left to right: set agenda, conduct meeting, close meeting.
The steps of a successful kick-off meeting

Key Project Management Activities During the Executing Phase

Besides executing the project scope, the project execution has three major focuses:

  1. Managing people 

  2. Following processes 

  3. Distributing information 

Managing people

At the start of the project, the project manager will assemble a team with the relevant skill set to tackle the tasks. Then, the PM helps manage the team to ensure tasks are completed, and that everyone is coordinating and communicating with each other to make this happen.

However, because of the temporary nature of projects, some people may not have worked together before. Sometimes, people are not used to coordinating their work and tasks, so it can take a little bit of encouragement to stay focused on the delivery dates.

This can sometimes take a little more effort, especially when you get different opinions.

Don’t get me wrong, different opinions can be good, as other points of view can provide new solutions. But, this is also when the project manager might need to help air the different points of view to ensure everyone remains focused on the tasks.

If the project manager notices communication issues as the project unfolds, some coaching or mentoring may be appropriate and helpful. If conflicts arise, they can intervene and facilitate a solution.

Conflict can be an opportunity to resolve differences. Conflicts may arise if two team members genuinely care about the outcome and have different opinions. Further dialogue and a better appreciation of each other's point of view may help them reach an understanding.

Two people having a conflict.
Conflict should not be avoided - it is part of the process of resolving differences!

The project manager does not avoid conflict. If the project is not progressing well or team members are not working together, they should address the issues early on.

An effective project manager knows that issues will arise, but looks to identify and resolve them as early as possible.

Following Processes

Ensure that the team members follow processes or policies agreed upon in the project charter and plan.

For example, team members should have a process for:

  • Identifying which tasks they should be working on at any time.

  • Flagging any problems or obstacles.

  • Ensuring their work complies with relevant quality standards.

  • Logging hours spent on each task.

  • Communicating with other team members.

  • Sharing completed work for quality assurance.

  • Organizing and attending relevant meetings.

The project manager will ensure that all relevant processes are followed. Not doing so would jeopardize the success of the project.

Distributing information

The project needs to be executed efficiently, and the project manager should regularly report and communicate status and updates to stakeholders, especially the decision-makers.

The project manager must circulate the information so that team members and stakeholders can stay updated and make appropriate and timely decisions.

  • It is best to set up regular meetings to keep the team updated on the project’s progress and define actions on flagged risks and issues. 

  • And agree on how information needs to be discussed and circulated between the team (i.e., using email or setting up a project collaboration tool).

A communication matrix is an overview and outline of which stakeholder to inform at what moment. It is an effective way to ensure that everyone is clear on which communications will be sent when and who is responsible for sharing them.

In the first row, from left to right: who, what, why, to whom, how, frequency. An example for these fields is shown in the second row; from left to right: project manager, project status, update, project sponsor, email, bi-weekly.
Communication matrix 

Let’s Recap!

  • Once the project plan has been created and approved, the executing phase of the project management life cycle begins.

  • A project kick-off meeting happens at the beginning of the executing phase and helps align everyone working on the project.

  • Three important activities during this phase are:

    • Managing people 

    • Following processes 

    • Distributing information

Now that you have seen how the project manager sets the team up for success during the executing phase, you will learn how to monitor project progress in the next chapter.

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