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“Vision without action is a daydream.”-Japanese Proverb

Every project starts with a clear idea or goal. However, the project will remain a stagnant dream unless we take concrete actions to bring it to life. In project management, this is where project execution or implementation comes in.

As the name suggests, the term means taking actionable steps to reach tangible outcomes. It’s the project management phase where team members create deliverables and identify & manage risks while ensuring that goals are achieved on time.

Going forward, we’ll understand more about project execution, including its importance, challenges, and how it works during the project management cycle. Read on to know more.

What is Project Execution?

This is the phase where all of the project planning is brought into action and actual work is performed to achieve successful completion. It’s one of the most important phases of the project management lifecycle.

A project management life cycle has four main phases, namely-

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Closure

Project execution is the longest phase of the project management lifecycle. That’s why enterprises are opting to use Project Management Offices (PMOs) to deliver the desired outcomes and benefits. PMOs work as a driving force within enterprises, especially when projects get challenging, ensuring that everything is organized and well planned.

To get a clearer picture, let’s imagine a scenario where a project team aims to create a groundbreaking mobile application. During the initial stage, everything is detailed and planned, right from the features of the application to the user experience and its impact on the market. However, nobody takes any action, such as coding, research and development, testing, and so on.

Due to lack of action, deadlines are pushed forward again and again, making everyone involved doubt the process and regret the wasted time. Over time, your idea becomes stagnant and can’t benefit the targeted users or market.

That’s why there needs to be a clear understanding of what goes on during this period, which is what we’ll be discussing next.

What Happens During Project Execution?

This phase of project management isn’t just the longest but also the toughest phase of a project management lifecycle. Projects can be tricky and hardly ever go according to plan. Hence, to simplify things and understand the workings during project execution, let’s break down the process into simpler steps.

7 Essential Steps of Project Execution

Different steps of project execution on a wheel

Every project has different requirements and the steps or elements used during this phase may vary. However, these 7 steps are common and essential, especially when dealing with three key management operations, namely-

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Communication

Let’s take a look at what the steps involved during execution are.

Step 1: Creation of Tasks

This is the first step that helps project managers understand the project plan. Project managers can move on with this step by doing the following things:

  1. Define individual tasks in the project. To do this, create a Work Breakdown Structure that can help divide the entire project into small workable elements. This will streamline the entire process.
  2. Create sub-tasks under the main tasks to easily assign work across teams, making it easier to track and manage the project.
  3. Add details or custom fields to tasks and subtasks so that everyone working on the project is aware of the actions that need to be taken to move forward. Even if a task has been completed, it’ll be visible to everyone with the help of these custom fields.

Step 2: Creation of Timelines

Setting timelines for tasks in a project is important to achieve maximum productivity in a project. Here’s how you can carry out this step:

  1. Set realistic deadlines for individual tasks irrespective of their size.
  2. Look out for dependencies in the project. There will always be certain tasks and/or sub-tasks that can only start when another finishes. A delay in the chain can cause a delay in the entire workflow. So, ensure that you track all changes or delays with a good project management tool to carry out tasks without hindrance and meet deadlines.
  3. Track the changing priorities and meet requirements on time.
  4. Don’t forget to create milestones for your tasks. If needed, break these down into smaller ones and divide the responsibility among teams. Whenever a milestone is achieved, it’ll tell you that you’re one step closer to the goal. Moreover, doing this will boost team members’ morale throughout the project.

Step 3: Assigning Tasks to Teams

With tasks created, responsibilities marked, and timelines set, the next step in project execution is to finally assign work to the teams. During this phase of the execution process in project management, managers can carry out the following responsibilities:

  1. Start by briefing the selected teams about the project and the individual roles of each member. With the help of a work management tool, add the selected individuals to the project team. You can attach a brief of their responsibilities and the required resources for the tasks assigned to them.
  2. Invite any external collaborators and agency partners who are a part of the project. Their presence can aid you in filling up any existing skill gaps or the need for extra hands. If required, you can give them limited access to tasks requiring their expertise, also ensuring that they can communicate with the internal team whenever required.
  3. Provide your team with the essential resources required to execute the project seamlessly. Ensure that you provide the required resources before the project starts so that work isn’t hampered along the way.

Step 4: Tracking Project Progress

This is one of the most important steps of project execution. This step determines whether your project will be completed by the deadline. Here’s how you can effectively track the progress of your project:

  1. Keep track of the tasks daily to ensure that everything is in working order, like the log-in time of team members, completion of the service requests, and updating them on time. Failing to check such important matters may cause chaos in the project.
  2. Don’t forget to create weekly reports to stay in the loop about the progress of each task and the project as a whole. Moreover, these reports help in keeping the management and clients updated on the project’s progress.
  3. Hold status review meetings regularly to recognize bottlenecks that might leave your project in a sticky situation.

Step 5: Open Communication Channels

Communication is crucial during the execution of a project, so here’s what you can do:

  1. Create a network for communicating with your team on one channel, most preferably a work management tool that gives access to real-time conversations and video conferences. This will save you time and improve your team’s productivity.
  2. Conduct meetings with your team regularly to get a clear picture of the progress of tasks and the project as a whole. Doing this regularly also encourages team productivity while boosting their morale.

Step 6: Keep Clients in the Loop

Another essential step of execution is to always communicate well with clients so that they know what’s happening with the project regularly. You can do this by giving them ‘guest access’ to the project dashboard, where they can view all the work being carried out. By doing so, your clients will remain assured about the stability of the project.

Moreover, remember to keep clients connected to key team players who can answer any of their queries about the project.

Pro TipPro Tip

Creating timelines for tasks and milestones in any project becomes easy with project planning tools like project timeline templates. With Replicon’s Project Timeline Templates, you can share any project’s progress easily with your stakeholders or clients.

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Step 7: Be Aware of Scope Creep

Scope creep is common in projects and is often the cause of project delays. This usually happens when clients need to make changes in a project. At times, it happens due to internal miscommunication and conflicts.

You can deal with scope creep by trying to understand the reason for the changes. If required, discuss with the clients why the changes are necessary and when they’d like these to be implemented.

Once all the requirements are clear, get your team members together and communicate the changes that need to be made. Based on the discussion, it’s up to you and your team to devise reasonable timelines that don’t compromise quality. Then, you must relay the same to the client regardless of their demands.

So, these are the seven steps that commonly take place during the execution of the project. Keep these in mind and you’ll get through the phase successfully. Next, let’s take a look at the types of challenges that you might encounter during project execution.

Challenges in Project Execution

You’re undoubtedly going to face many challenges during project management. There could be budget overruns, missed deadlines, or even a lack of resources that might cumulatively result in unsuccessful business outcomes. These challenges may appear at any time during the execution phase and you need to deal with them immediately.

Some of the common challenges that occur during project execution are as follows:

Lack of Communication

Most projects have complex requirements, which sometimes lead to miscommunication among teams. This is one of the biggest challenges that leads to the failure of a project. This usually happens when teams don’t have a shared understanding of their roles in assignments or are unaware of workflow reports in the project.

Inefficient Teams

Another challenge that most project managers face is assembling high-performing teams. To make a project successful, teams must include personnel who can match their skills with the best role, thus ensuring the timely completion of work. With an inefficient team, all that isn’t possible.

Unclear Coals

Most projects fail due to a lack of direction and unclear project goals. Unclear project goals affect business productivity and never allow your work to be truly done. There’s chaos everywhere and everyone is confused about their roles and responsibilities.

Scope Creep

Clients can be unpredictable and may come up with sudden changes that can change the entire dynamics of a project. That’s called scope creep, and project managers must remain alert about it. Scope creep can occur in any project and can quickly throw it off track.

Insufficient Risk Analysis

With the help of risk analysis, project managers can easily predict any factors that could jeopardize a project. Risk analysis is an important part of the project life cycle. That’s why rushing through it could lead to negligence that could hinder a project.

Failure to Engage With Sponsors

It’s important to have a strong relationship with sponsors to make a project successful. If sponsors are not included in a project, challenges will appear. Hence, project managers need to refine this relationship to move a project.

Unrealistic Deadlines

Setting impractical deadlines to meet, given the specifications and requirements, can greatly compromise the quality of work. It makes team members rush through their tasks, thus resulting in a finished project that will fall short of client expectations.

Lack of Good Leadership

A project manager or team leader promotes independence and self-reliance within a team. A project’s success may be threatened by ineffective management of the projects and lack of oversight.

Lack of Flexibility

The team or organization will be faced with obstacles such as delays and budgetary constraints if they don’t have the flexibility to manage projects. Conversely, those who are implementing dynamic project management can easily attain the ability to swiftly respond to unforeseen large problems and maximize their chances of success.

Poor Visibility Into Task Dependencies

According to Wellingtone’s The State of Project Management 2020 report, a lack of visibility is one of the top challenges that projects face. Thus, clarity is one of the most important requirements for the successful completion of the project. The lack of it creates several project management issues, while successful communication leads to successful projects.

The fact that you need to communicate is one of the characteristics that’s often overlooked. A project management communication plan can go a long way in helping your project succeed.

By understanding these potential challenges in project execution, you can greatly minimize the complications that suddenly creep up in your projects.

Next, let’s talk about gaps in project execution and how to deal with them to make your project a success.

What are Project Execution Gaps?

These are gaps that occur when a project fails to meet the goals that were developed during the planning stage. These are commonly a result of broken communication or mishandling of project activities. However, other factors like setting unrealistic goals or disengagement with key stakeholders can also cause this.

The best way to avoid these gaps is to identify the root cause along with the threats these pose to the project.

According to Todd Williams, author of Filling Execution Gaps, there are six primary execution gaps to be taken into consideration. These are-

  1. A lack of shared understanding
  2. Misalignment with strategic goals
  3. Low engagement/disengagement with stakeholders
  4. Poor change management
  5. Ineffective corporate governance
  6. Lackluster leadership

Moving forward, let’s take a look at some of the most common execution gaps, their causes, and ways to prevent them so that your project runs smoothly.

Execution Gap 1: Lack of Shared Understanding

This indicates that team members are unaware of the project’s overall requirements as well as their roles and responsibilities. When this happens, the project is poorly executed, fails to meet its goals, or has to be abandoned.


  • A lack of communication among team members about the planned strategic goals
  • There’s no collaboration strategy to strengthen team bonds.


This execution gap negatively affects organizational productivity and team efficiency.

How to Prevent It

  • Schedule check-in sessions with team members before the launch of the project.
  • Ensure that all team members attend the kickoff meeting so that you can receive their agreement on the project goals. You can also utilize check-in methods for your team members, where feedback and suggestions can be openly communicated.
  • Give all the team members a quick reference about the project strategy after the project charter is made. This will give team members a quick overview, which they can easily refer to.
  • Don’t skip orientation and onboarding since this is where they’ll learn about useful management techniques.

Execution Gap 2: Lack of Internal Communication

Poor internal communications can harm your project and team members. Ineffective communication can easily lead to poor productivity, stress, and misunderstandings, thus affecting teamwork as a whole.


  • Poor channels of communication
  • The absence of defined roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of reporting structure


  • Delay or failure of a project
  • Disengagement of employees
  • Poor productivity

How to Prevent It

  • Don’t expect people to communicate on their own. Instead, encourage them to communicate regularly.
  • Ask team members whether they have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in the project as well as those of others.
  • Keep the project organization chart handy to help define and provide references to team members.

Execution Gap 3: Low Engagement with Stakeholders

If you fail to engage with your clients regularly, it’ll decrease their support towards your efforts and make them unhappy, thus hindering the project indirectly.


Assumptions that clients or stakeholders will engage themselves if required and that they’re as imbued in the project as the project manager is.


  • Missing out on useful insights, required feedback, or support
  • Stakeholders having unrealistic expectations about the project’s overall potential and outcome

How to Prevent It

  • Keep stakeholders in the loop via a stakeholder engagement plan and regularly communicate about the project strategies and timelines.
  • Always schedule update reports for the stakeholders.
  • Adopt a proactive outlook in engaging sponsors and clients as a fundamental aspect of project management responsibilities.

    For this, visualization tools like PERT Charts and Gantt Charts can be very handy in having a readymade progress report. For real-time insights, you can also deploy PSA software that can offer the following:

    • Consistent execution with proper governance
    • Intelligent resource management
    • Time tracking and schedule management
    • Management of client metrics like costs, billing and profitability through detailed dashboards

Execution Gap 4: Scope Creep

This refers to the growing requirements of a project over time, which, in turn, negatively affects the timeline.


  • Stakeholders changing their requirements in the project
  • Internal conflicts and miscommunications
  • Unclear scope definitions


  • Missed deadlines
  • Budget overruns
  • Financial losses
  • Client dissatisfaction

How to Prevent It

  • Define clear and concise project prerequisites.
  • Developed a detailed project plan that helps track project progress and prevents any deviations from the original scope.
  • Conduct scope reviews regularly to ensure the project stays aligned with its original goals.

Parts of Project Execution

The execution phase may require many elements, but below are some of the most important parts that make it up. Let’s take a look.

Project Scope

It’s one of the most important parts of the execution plan that aids project managers in identifying a project’s goals in a clear and detailed manner, which can then be relayed to clients.

The scope of a project can include the following elements:

  • Statement of Work (SOW): This is an extensive document that entails the duties and roles of every team member along with other requirements like tasks, project requirements, and deliverables.
  • Project limitations and boundaries: This defines the scope and limits of a project. Project limitations and boundaries mark a limit as to what’s included or excluded in a project.
  • Timeline and milestones: These are sometimes included in the project scope to evaluate a project’s progress toward the final goal.
  • Final deliverables: This part of a project scope could be anything from products/services to reports or test results. It’s the final output received by stakeholders once a task has been completed.

How It Helps: A good project scope includes detailed reports about the entire project, which ensures that any gaps are constantly filled.

Graphic showing monthly project timeline with different tasks

Quality Standards

Another important element of project execution is the specification of quality standards. This is a document that defines the requirements and parameters for delivering consistent quality across projects from the beginning to completion. Some of these parameters which may be included in the documentation are as follows:

  • Clear definitions of relevant terms and concepts that can assist team members in completing their tasks more efficiently.
  • Adding specific timeframes to processes so that every individual involved in the project is aware of any ongoing developments.
  • Using descriptive language along with measurable quality standards that can prove helpful in identifying items and processes.
  • Setting attainable goals for teams to keep them motivated and committed to the project.

How It Helps: If the execution phase doesn’t proceed according to plan, quality standards help in taking corrective measures to ensure that the final deliverable is error-free.

Project Goal Statement

This is a document that entails the goals that a project wants to achieve. The document outlines a project’s purpose, perspective, and quality focus. The goal statement aligns with the company’s goals, aiding its progress and improvement.

How It Helps: The project goal statement explains the anticipated outcome via measurable action items that help achieve the objective. They’re important for promoting improvement and helping to move the progress forward.

Resource Allocation

The project execution phase may include resource allocation to help identify the required resources and determine which task needs to be assigned. It’s important to allocate resources as these help plan for project implementation and achieve objectives.

How It Helps: An accurate resource gap analysis helps to identify the resources that you’ll need for upcoming projects, as well as your current resources. One major reason why projects run out of funds, exceed budget, or completely fail is a lack of resources. Therefore, the way to achieve success from day one is through a preventive mindset.

Project Scheduling

Scheduling is another important part of the project execution phase. It’s the stage when a project’s vision starts transforming into a time-based plan. With the help of a project schedule, you can-

  1. control and monitor project activities
  2. determine where you can allocate resources needed or if there’s an excess that you can allot to another project
  3. evaluate the delays that might impact your project
  4. track the progress of the project
  5. manage risks

How It Helps: A well-structured schedule provides a clear roadmap of the project for delivery and allows managers to make an informed decision on how best to exploit resources in case of problems or delays.

Power up Your Projects via Effective Execution

Project execution is the process through which a project is conceptualized and completed. It’s a crucial stage in the project life cycle, as this is where projects start being implemented.

You may facilitate the successful implementation of a project through the main steps i.e. planning, organization, funding allocation, implementation, quality control, and evaluation and the tips listed we’ve discussed.

You require more than just a plan to get your project wheels turning. Project execution is the engine required to achieve a project’s envisioned goals.

Implementing strategic execution after navigating through all the challenges and gaps will ensure that you reach the finish line successfully.

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Namrata Diengdoh


Namrata Diengdoh

Namrata is a freelance writer with Deltek | Replicon. With 12 years of experience in the content industry, she has never settled for just "good enough". She believes in content that can engage and attract readers, whether the niche is fitness, food, or tech. When she is not typing on her laptop, Namrata is crafting or painting. Other than that, she loves spending time with her family and pets.

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