Elements of Project Management

Michael Taylor


Elements of a project

Generally there are four main characteristics of a project regardless of its size or complexity.

  1. It has a definite start and end date
    • It is a temporary undertaking within a fixed period of time.
  2. It achieves a goal and outcome.
  3. The project provides a benefit or value to the recipient.
  4. A project requires an allocation of resources.

Project management follows a distinct linear journey which is known as the project management life cycle. This has four phases.


It is the shortest phase but the most important because it is here that the foundation of the project is laid. It is here that the project objectives, success criteria and high-level planning are cristalized. The identification of risks, stakeholders and your team occurs in this phase.


Planning is the primary objectives of any project manager. It requires that you implement a rigourous process to develop plans to achieve your project objectives. The focus here will be scope, scheduling and costing.


This phase is about completing specific deliverables to meet the afore mentioned scope and objectives of the project. The ability to assess risks and implement strategies to reduce or mitigate risks is paramount at this stage. Engagement with stakeholders and your team as leader will be the route to the execution of the project.


This the final phase of the project. Here is where the outcomes are achieved and the benefits of the completed project is experienced by the stake holders. In os doing it is necessary to solicit feedback from your stakeholders and team.

Characteristics of good project managers

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Managing a project can be a highly stressful. Good communication skills are essential in helping you to work effectively, build solid stakeholder relationships, prevent unnecessary misunderstandings, and navigate day-to-day deadlines. Successful project management communication is about being supportive, remaining on top of the day-to-day challenges of the project, being approachable, and considering various points of view before taking action.

Creative thinking and problem-solving

Creative thinking and problem-solving are key skills for any project manager. Projects are essentially a set of activities delivered in the future, which means that they are subject to unknown events not anticipated. Creative thinking is required to best deal with these unexpected challenges and problems that need to be solved. Creative thinking requires proper immersion through the use of various techniques to really think in-depth about problem solving perspectives before responding to it. Take time to facilitate brainstorming sessions to build creativity and look at challenges in new ways with a view to finding a range of alternative solutions that may be more effective than a single (off the shelf) solution approach you might usually take.

Dealing with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty forms part of every project, as projects are delivered in the future - which means uncertainty of what may, or may not happen. Challenges and issues will pop up unexpectedly and you will need to be equipped to deal with such changes. Dealing with uncertainty is in-part about having confidence that you (and your project team) will be able to manage an issue when it arises. It is about being comfortable that although you may not be able to foresee (or plan) for every issue that may arise, you will be able to reduce the impact through a combination of good planning, an experienced team, and contingency planning.


Planning is a core activity in the early stages of any project lifecycle. Planning and organisational skills are essential to being an effective project manager. Taking time to understand what your project is about, the benefits it should deliver, and the essential activities that need to be completed is all part and parcel of laying a solid planning foundation. Thorough analysis and evaluation in selecting the “best approach” to undertaking and completing project activities will inform overall project planning, communication, and stakeholder management by clearly articulating the selected path to successfully achieving project objectives.

To be deemed a ‘project’ your activity must have the following characteristics:

Successful project management requires you to manage each stage of your project from the start to the end.

In successfully managing your project, you will need to:

The initiation (beginning) phase requires you to understand your needs and consider all possible options.

Initiation, Planning, Execution and Closure best describes the phases of your project from start to finish.

Successful project management requires your project to:

Good project managers have effective communication skills.

Risk identification and management is the responsibility of the project manager.

Project management is applicable to policy and process type projects.

In the execution phase of the project life cycle, the project manager is required to deal with the following issues: