The Project Life Cycle
All projects progress through five phases:
Where the ideas are initially generated that "something needs to be done" - we need an update of the regulations, a new procedure, or a change in the way we do things, etc. Sometimes a clear-cut phase, at other times a less clear and lingering phase. Outputs are often in terms of a set of options - "we can do this, or this, or that … ".
Where the options are debated and analysed and a conclusion is reached - "we should do this …. ". Outputs are usually in the form of an agreed proposal or solution.
- Plan and Organise
Where someone thinks through the activities, resources and time needed to develop and implement the agreed proposal or solution. Outputs tend to be in the form of plans and organisation.
Where the changes start to be introduced. Outputs are in terms of changes, drafts, etc.
- Maintain, Establish and Close
Where the project-type activities start to cease and the resulting changes transfer back into "normal business".
All project and project-like activities progress through these phases - take activities either at work or at home. For example, they apply to a new procedure, a new building, a new policy, a move of house or a holiday. They simply represent the dynamics of all projects.
- Which are the key phases?
All projects progress through these five phases. However, for some projects the early phases of concept and feasibility are the key ones, particularly creative projects such as an advertising campaign or a novel. For others the later phases of planning and implementation are the key ones, particularly delivery projects such as building a house.
- Pacing the project
When managing a project, it is important to "pace" the project - manage the time spent in the different phases. For example, not to spend too long on the early phases at the expense of the later ones.
- The work in different phases
The work carried out in the different phases is quite different, and may well be carried out by different groups. Possibly all of us are more suited to one phase than another.
- Overlap of phases
In the diagram the phases are quite clear-cut and distinct. In practice the sequence and move from one phase to another is rarely quite as neat and clear-cut as that. There is often some overlap and lack of clarity where one phase ends and another starts.