Project Execution: A Project Management Phase

man executing project

The project execution phase is often the longest and most complex stage in the project life cycle. If you’re not careful, your team might get off track, run into communication problems, or stop following your carefully outlined procedures.

After investing time and other resources into your project execution plan, you need to make sure you can deliver on your promises. Here’s how to make the execution phase of project management a success.

Table of Contents

What is project execution?

The execution phase in project management involves carrying out the details of your project charter, in order to deliver your products or services to your clients or internal stakeholders.

First comes project planning, then comes project execution. No matter how well you plan, your project won’t be successful unless you can effectively implement your ideas.

They say no plan survives contact with the enemy. They also say no Gantt chart survives contact with reality.

This doesn’t mean ripping up your project plan and starting from scratch. But it does mean creating a plan that’s flexible enough to withstand client concerns, operational glitches and other unseen issues.

The project execution phase can be where teams find the most difficulties, even after effective planning has taken place. That’s why it’s essential that this stage is managed correctly.

Execution gaps.

Execution gaps are the bits of daylight between your original plans which could potentially grow into huge divides as you approach deadlines or milestones. There could be any number of reasons why execution gaps begin to widen as a project rolls on.

Project alignment.

Without clear definition and direction outlined in your project charter, there could be real issues, or just general confusion, before everyone can get on the same page. Take steps to effectively communicate your process and gather all the relevant stakeholders and hold a meeting to officially kick off the execution phase.

This will allow you can run through the plan and get feedback from everyone involved. Not only can this help ensure everyone knows their role within the process, it also refreshes the original project aims and objectives in everyone’s minds.

Scope creep.

Every project involves an amount of iteration and adaptation when the goal posts move slightly. Sticking rigidly to the plan can be one of the main causes of an execution gap if your plan doesn’t account for these changes.

However, too many change requests can alter the parameters of the original brief, leaving you with more to achieve in the same amount of time — or less. Keeping track of where changes have been made and how this will affect resource, capacity and deadlines is essential to avoid too much disruption to your original plans.

Team transition and flexibility.

When delegating the project to another team to continue with, you’d hope the transition goes smoothly and perfectly to plan. But there could be any number of reasons why this doesn’t end up being the case.

You may find your project scheduled benefits from baked-in contingency time, to cover potential time-sinks like team onboarding, status updates and even illness. Take all these into account and ensure that timelines are adapted accordingly.

Parts of project execution.

Project execution typically involves three primary components:

  1. Following processes
  2. Managing people
  3. Distributing information

Following processes.

During the planning phase of project management, you should have outlined systems and procedures to help finish your project within your organization’s requirements. For example, you might have created processes to interact with third-party vendors who supply essential raw materials.

Sticking to your processes can help ensure your project proceeds efficiently. Rather than making a series of time-consuming, one-off decisions, you can look to your plan for guidance and move ahead with confidence.

However, if circumstances or market forces change, don’t be afraid to reevaluate and adjust course. Stubbornly sticking to a plan when a change is warranted can jeopardize your entire project and is one of the main causes of project plans failing.

One way to avoid this is scheduling in regular project check-ins with relevant team leaders within your project. Give everyone a chance to air any issues they’re encountering within their teams and you’ll have a much clearer picture of where things have changed – avoiding a domino effect of projects being disrupted by one another.

Managing people.

Making sure your personnel are following the project plan is essential, but keeping people on task is not your only job. It’s important that you also motivate, encourage, and cheer the team on.

Pausing to celebrate each incremental victory is one way to show the team how much you value them, and it will inspire them to keep up the hard work. Likewise, creating an environment where feedback and critique are welcomed by everyone is important for overall team morale.

Try to foster a healthy level of internal disagreement. If one of your workers spots a fatal flaw in your project, you want them to feel comfortable coming forward to explain their concerns.

Having these open forums also gives people working within a project a greater understanding of everything that is going on. This can be invaluable, particularly if resource is needed to pick up work from other teams at points during the project.

Distributing information to stakeholders and clients.

Involve your clients and stakeholders throughout the execution phase of the project. When you manage stakeholders correctly, you can prevent costly misunderstandings and delays.

The project execution phase may be the most extensive phase of the project life cycle but avoid the urge to minimize communications while you execute. Instead of disappearing for weeks or months while you create the final product, encourage open communication and transparency all along the way.

One way to increase visibility during a project is to schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress. This allows you to cover last-minute changes to the agreed-upon deliverables and plan work on them accordingly.

It also means you can gather a few progress updates to address at once. This is rather than halting work every time something comes up, whether it’s a minor fix or a major problem.

Even better, consider sharing access to an enterprise work management platform with your clients and stakeholders. Boost transparency and trust by giving them real-time visibility over the flow of work and scheduled milestones. This way, no one has to wait for a check-in to know where things stand, including project managers.

Tips for successful project execution.

In addition to the above suggestions regarding processes, personnel management, and communication, these additional tips will ensure your project execution phase is a success.

Make project execution a priority.

Executing your plan might sound like the easy part, considering all the work that went into the planning phase. The truth is that successfully finishing a complex project takes conscious, consistent effort.

A work management platform can centralize all communication, collaboration, and project details into one intuitive space. Meaning you can always see at a glance how much progress you’ve made, what the next best steps are, and how far you have left to go.

Frequently asked questions.

What is the definition of project execution?

Project execution is where you put a project plan into action and all the agreed work starts. You could think of it as the kick-off of sports game, or when the curtain rises at a Broadway show.

At this point, planning is over, so you’ll need to focus on keeping your teams and timelines on track by collaborating with all relevant team members and stakeholders.

Project execution is defined as a distinct phase of the project life cycle, immediately following the planning phase and preceding the monitoring and controlling phase.

How do I measure project execution?

You can measure the success of project execution by creating benchmarks in your project plan. This can help you keep budget, deadlines and output on track once the execution phase is underway.

Measuring project execution is a key part of the monitoring and controlling phase.

What’s the difference between project execution and project management?

Project execution is just one part of project management. Project management incorporates a very wide range of approaches, which all have a different methodology for planning and executing projects.

As a result, you may find that project execution methodologies differ depending on the overarching project management technique.