Project Management Basics

Knowing a few basics about project management may be useful to you professionally, since you may be responsible for and/or involved in a series of team meetings that takes on the nature of a project.  It’s also likely that you will participate in a project at some point in your professional career. A project is a relatively complex series of events with a beginning, middle, and end, much like a task-oriented team multiplied many times.  A project is not an ongoing operation – it does have a lifecycle of its own, and a definite ending point.

Examples of projects might include the following:

  • organizing a summit at work, in which staff from the organization’s offices all around the country come to headquarters for a three-day meeting
  • organizing a community give-back day at work, with volunteers from your organization working on a community project for a day
  • organizing a conference with multiple invited speakers
  • organizing trainers to be brought into the company to do a series of day-long trainings on new systems being implemented
  • and more…

There are whole textbooks, courses, and programs devoted to project management, as well as training to pursue a Professional Project Management (PMP) certification, which is an internationally-recognized credential from the Project Management Institute. However, within the general context of professional communications, understanding some basic project management communication needs may be helpful in many situations.

Project Management Communication Basics

  • Identify information that needs to be communicated.  For example, all stakeholders need to clearly understand the focus of the project, their roles, project deliverables, timelines, and meetings.
  • Identify who needs which information.  Are you coordinating with three different departments at work?  Do you communicate only with the employees designated to work on the project, or additionally with their supervisors, your supervisor, or other stakeholders who are tangentially related to the project?
  • Identify appropriate modes of communication.  There may be multiple modes of communication within one project.  For example, an initial meeting, either in-person or virtual, may be the best way to start a project, as it allows for questions and answers and immediate feedback.  Emails or updates on an internal website may be appropriate as the project evolves.  A final project report may be expected at the end.
  • Identify an appropriate timeline for communications.  Depending on the overall scope of the project, do you need weekly updates from each project team?  Will you connect with various stakeholders and teams on an as-needed basis?
  • Elicit feedback and do followup.  What communication mode works best in your situation to get feedback and make sure that all participants in the project understand their roles and expected actions?  After the project ends, how will you evaluate the project, using what type of communication (survey, team feedback, large group discussion)?  What type of formal evaluative communication is expected after the project’s close?

Project Management Process

All of these communication needs exist within an overall project management process, a series of steps and stages that will help you manage multiple tasks and teams.  A project has a lot of moving parts, from identifying deliverables, to estimating costs, to managing multiple people and teams responsible for pieces of the project.  All of the moving parts work toward the result, your goal, the desired end of your project, which needs to be clear from the start.

According to Nancy Mingus, author of Alpha Teach Yourself Project Management in 24 Hours (a very good text if you want to study project management more fully), any project management process includes 5 steps, all of which involve the basic communication needs listed above:

1. Initiating

Initiating involves identifying your goal or end result, identifying your needs, and assessing whether those needs can be fulfilled within the scope of the project.

2. Planning

Planning – Planning involves many activities:

  • Identifying what needs to get done to achieve your goals
  • When different pieces need to get done – an overall and a detailed timeline
  • Identifying who is responsible for what pieces and activities
  • Identifying who needs to communicate with whom, and at what points, to ensure all relevant project workers are informed

3. Executing

Executing involves both doing and monitoring the work as it gets done.  It may involve identifying when a plan needs to be tweaked, updated, or changed, and the actions and communications that need to be done as a result of that change. Executing sometimes co-exists with controlling.

4. Controlling

Controlling involves monitoring time, costs, and completion of tasks, as well as reporting on project status as needed.

5. Closing

Closing involves not only delivering the project’s results, but evaluating and documenting the project’s effectiveness and lessons learned.


Make sure to read the article Basic Project Management 101, on the website of The Balance Careers. This article summarizes important concepts related to project management, project stages, and related communication processes.

The following two videos provide brief introductions to and summaries of main concepts and stages related to project management.

If you’re interested in studying project management in depth, you may want to access an open educational resource textbook, Project Management: From Simple to Complex.