Podcast Episode 2: Five steps to create a project structure

Not in the mood for reading? Check out our inaugural podcast episode on YouTube.

This episode focuses on the practical setup and structuring of a project in five key phases: Initiation, Definition, Planning, Control/Execution, and Completion. On the basis of a “pool installation” case study, you will gain insights into how to solidify your idea, assemble a team, and define clear objectives. I will walk you through each phase of my sample project, providing practical tips along the way. Learn how to successfully manage and complete your project.

In the following passages, you will find many actions that each of us already takes intuitively in everyday life.
This methodical approach should serve as a guideline for your everyday business activities.


The key to success is to structure your project according to these five phases:

Phase 1: Initiation
Phase 2: Definition
Phase 3: Planning
Phase 4: Control/Execution
Phase 5: Completion

You can always organize your project according to this template. I have provided an example below to explain the five phases in more detail and to illustrate what the considerations are for each phase.

Phase 1: Initiation

Now let’s consider our example: Imagine you are dissatisfied with how your back yard looks and wish to make some changes to it.

Before you go into your yard and start digging about with a shovel, you first need to take some time to consider the specific changes you want to make. You are currently in the first phase of your project, Initiation.

First of all, you should document your idea for transforming your back yard; let’s say your idea is to install a pool.
For instance, you could sketch out a design or gather inspiration from landscaping magazines to solidify your concept.

You should then assess the feasibility of your idea. Questions such as:

  • Do I have enough money for a pool?
  • Is the soil and subsoil of my back yard suitable?
  • Do I need to get a permit to install a pool? Will I be able to get this permit?

can assist you in determining the feasibility of your idea.

If your feasibility check yields positive results, it’s time to appoint a project lead. You may want to take on the management of your back yard project yourself, or you may want to ask someone else to do it for you. Perhaps a member of your family would be interested in taking charge.

In any case, you or your designated project lead will need a team to assist with the implementation. You have the option to rely on either internal or external support here as well. You might ask your family members, friends, or colleagues for help. Or you could hire a landscaper and their team to carry out the project.

Let’s assume you decide to hire a landscaper or pool builder. Before they can get started, it is essential to conduct a workshop to kick off the project.

At this point, certain questions need to be clarified, such as:

Before implementation can begin, a few questions need to be clarified.
Before implementation can begin, a few questions need to be clarified.

Phase 2: Definition

Now it’s time to establish the objectives for your project and clearly define what is not within the scope of the project. You have now entered the second phase – the Definition phase.

Let’s assume your goals are:

  • To have a pool in the back yard by the summer
  • To spend no more than 10,000 euros on the project
  • An in-ground pool that is 3 meters wide and 8 meters long
  • A pool enclosure with an electric rolling cover

If, for example, you absolutely don’t want to have a springboard as part of your pool, that would be something you would clearly define as not within the scope of the project.

Based on the specific objectives, the next step is to analyze the environment. This involves examining the factors surrounding your project. In our example, this might involve looking at the weather, for instance. In view of the weather conditions, in which months does it make the most sense to install a pool? Such considerations will help prevent project delays in advance.

You should then carry out a stakeholder analysis. This means identifying the people who have the ability to impact your project. These are typically the people who have a strong interest in having a pool built. They include:

  • Your spouse, who has a financial stake in the pool and has their own opinions about it
  • Your kids, who want ample space to play and run around
  • Your neighbors, who may feel disturbed by the construction site noise


To ensure that the roles within the project are clearly defined and responsibilities are transparent, it is essential to clearly define and document them.

The roles in our example are:

  • Customer
  • Project lead
  • Consultant
  • Engineer
  • Construction worker
  • Landscaper
  • Plumber

All information you gather during the definition phase must be documented in the project profile at the conclusion of this phase.

You can conveniently download a practical template for your project profile here.

Phase 3: Planning

Welcome to Phase 3 – Planning

You can’t get started yet – you still need to create your work breakdown structure, which involves arranging all tasks within your project as a hierarchical diagram, as well as scheduling, budgeting, and allocating the necessary resources.

Only then will you know which tasks need to be completed. But that’s not all. It also makes the dependencies within the individual work packages transparent. You can download a project plan template created by us here.

Even with thorough planning, it’s important to remember that projects are always exposed to both risks and opportunities. A risk analysis must be carried out in order to identify, evaluate, and manage risks and opportunities. In a separate podcast episode, I will go into more detail about what to watch out for. That would go beyond the scope of this episode.

Another step in the planning phase is to draft a communication plan.

This involves clearly defining which stakeholders and team members are to receive which information and updates via which channels.

For this to be successful, it is also necessary to establish clear rules regarding who is responsible for which channels. The goal is to ensure targeted and well-coordinated communication within the project.

Some important questions to consider here include:

  • Which channels will we use, and who is responsible for each channel?
  • What information do we want to discuss in person and what can be shared using alternatives such as e-mail?
  • What should our status updates look like, and how frequently should we communicate them?

Resource and cost planning should also be completed at the end of the planning phase.

This involves clearly defining both the project’s resource utilization and the project implementation costs. For example, company compulsory vacation periods, bridging days, and so on must also be taken into account.

In a work breakdown structure, the project tasks are organized in a hierarchical manner, with schedules, budgets, and necessary resources allocated to each task.
In a work breakdown structure, the project tasks are organized in a hierarchical manner, with schedules, budgets, and necessary resources allocated to each task.

Phase 4: Control/Execution

Finally, things can get started – in the fourth phase, Control/Execution, the defined work packages are implemented. This means that an excavator is now actually deployed to dig a pit. During this phase, it is important to continuously monitor progress to avoid any issues with time, budget, and resource planning. Just because someone is operating the excavator today does not automatically mean that they will still be there tomorrow. If we have only scheduled this equipment for two days, it will be gone on the third day – and we’ll be left wondering why work can’t continue. We must therefore regularly check whether the original planning is still up to date and reasonable or in need of adjustment. This also includes regular reporting as part of the defined communication plan.

The topic of change management is also part of the Control/Execution phase. I will also create a separate podcast episode to discuss the ideal change management process.

Phase 5: Completion

But now let’s imagine that your pool is finally finished and installed in your back yard. Welcome to phase 5, project completion.

Before you put on your swimming attire, you need to attend to the following:

  • Lessons learned: If you want to tackle other back yard projects, it’s important to take note of the experience and knowledge acquired from the current project.
  • Ensure that all agreed requirements for your objectives have been met. If this is not the case, the defects must be rectified – meaning that attention must be turned to claim management
  • Create a final report that documents the goals, planning, and outcomes of your project.
  • Finally, don’t forget to celebrate the success of your project!

If you structure your project according to these five main phases and work through all the individual steps, you can lead your projects to success.

Through the use of this simple project example, I hope I have been able to make the following easy for you to understand:

  • The phases into which projects are segmented
  • How a project can be effectively structured
  • What is important in each individual phase

In the next episode, we’ll talk about which personalities are most suited to the project manager role and how you can build a successful project team. As your podcast host Tobias, I hope you’re able to listen in again next time.



Tobias Wisst presents Snacksize Project Management

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