Project Management Phases: Exploring Phase #1 – Initiation

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Phase 1Projects originate from various sources, including an internal business need for a product or service upgrade, an external client request or some kind of demand in the market. Whatever the project’s origin, a project manager must have a great plan in order to execute that project well.

As a perpetual student, continuing to hone your project management craft, perhaps you’ve previously stopped by our website. If so, earlier this month, you may have come across the article “Top 5 Project Management Phases” written by Roli Pathak.

In her article, Roli mentions that there are different ideas about exactly how many stages or phases are needed or should occur in order to spell out each step in a project plan effectively so that things can run smoothly. She references the book titled Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) by the Project Management Institute, saying that it “points-out that the number of phases is determined by the project team and type of project.”

Further, she explains, that “project management is solely based on the idea that a project goes through a number a phases characterized by a distinct set of activities or tasks that take the project from conception to conclusion.” Roli provides an overview of an organizational strategy that includes the following 5 phases: 

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring & Control
  5. Closure

Exploring Phase #1 – Initiation

In this article series, we’re going to delve further into the details for each of these 5 phases of a project. Roli describes Phase 1, the Initiation Phase, as the formal start time of the project during which the general scope is “named and defined.” There are several pieces to consider within this first stage of the project’s life cycle.

Phase #1 Documentation 

  • Concept – Initially, the decision makers will analyze all aspects of the project in order to determine if it offers any benefit to the organization as a whole. During this phase, they will consider feasibility, resources, profit, etc. as they decide whether or not to move forward and how. While conceptualizing, they will fine tune the concept into a description statement which will include the objectives, purpose and deliverables, and, will serve as the foundation on which all other project details are based.
  • Proposal – Once the decision makers have approved the project concept, they may prepare a written proposal detailing the scope of the project as well as the financial benefits. This document will provide details about the “what, why, how and how much” of the plan. Using a risk assessment tool would be useful during this documentation step, as this information would then be given to stakeholders and investors for their consideration while they contemplate moving forward with the project.
  • Charter –The project charter may also be referred to as a project initiation document or PID. This document includes all the details regarding the project, why it is necessary, etc. and will include everything that will be required to accomplish the project objective. This is the formal and final documentation of phase #1 that authorizes the selecting and enabling of the project manager to take charge of the appointed team and to acquire specified resources. Once this document is approved, the initiation phase ends and the planning phase begins. The project charter would include an informal plan on which Phase 2, the Planning phase, will be built. It should include a task list, time estimate and projected resources needed to complete the project.

Working through the documentation process assists decision makers with creating a well-defined, thoroughly evaluated plan so that they are able to set decisive goals. These documents also show the commitment of executive management to the project, which reflects positively with investors.

Project Manager Selection

As previously mentioned, during the charter step, the Project Manager is chosen. Since this person plays such a pivotal role as it pertains to the success of the project, the charter should also include a detailed list of criteria that decisions makers take into account when selecting the person who will fill this critical position.

Spending the appropriate and necessary time making this crucial choice will help company leadership mitigate issues throughout the project life cycle. Some attributes of a qualified Project Manager would include the capability to deliver on the following:

  • Oversight ensuring timeliness and budget consciousness while delivering a high quality result,
  • Management of daily project requirements by providing leadership, support and direction for team members, resolving any conflicts that affect progress and
  • Organization of the project plan via scheduling, planning and reporting while looking for ways to expedite quality.

Wrap-Up & Additional Resources

QuoteYour path to being a project manager may differ drastically from others you know who hold the same title. Perhaps you have a degree or 2 in the field, or maybe you’re just extremely organized, so your boss put you in the position, and you picked up the terminology along the way. Whatever your background and education, what you learned in the past only goes so far, and that’s probably why you’re here!

Someone once said, “If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you” (Anonymous). You’re proof of the latter is learning more about the business you work for and how to do the job better!

To go even further into aspects of the Initiation Phase, check out this video!


If you’re looking for more info about how to draft an effective project charter, here’s a video that will help!


For some helpful online resources to get moving in the right direction when creating documentation for the initiation phase, check out Project Management Docs or Project Management Templates.

Rebekah Peterman

Rebekah Peterman

Rebekah has a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling and a Master of Science Degree in Personnel Services in the School of Education. She’s participated in projects including editing/writing/publishing and blog articles, and is currently writing informative articles on the topic of project management.

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