Whether your project is large and complex with many variables, or small with only two or three tasks, completing it likely involves a series of phases. These phases include initiation, planning, execution (or implementation), and closure (or closeout).
Each phase is rarely a set amount of time. Small projects may quickly proceed through the phases because few processes require monitoring or control once the initiation phase is complete. A large project will likely take more time from beginning to end because project managers need to carefully monitor each task and compare it with the overall project objectives. The scope of larger projects frequently requires continual redefinition. This refinement process can be time-consuming since every project team member and stakeholder (the project owner or client) should contribute according to their areas of expertise and influence.
Whether your project is small or large, it is critical to articulate all of the communication avenues early in the project life cycle to ensure every team member, the client, and stakeholders are clearly aware of the project scope and when the work will be complete. Communication should be ongoing throughout every stage of the project: from the moment the client says, "I need this" (initiation) to when they say, "This is exactly what I wanted" (closure).
Here are examples of activities that can occur within each phase of the project life cycle. This list is not exhaustive but should give you a good idea of how each phase differs.
Notice how these four phases align with four of the five processes of project management we discussed in Unit 1. The "monitoring and controlling process" does not have its own phase in the project life cycle because these activities should be part of every phase – from the early planning stage through to closure. Every stage of the project management life cycle has its own issues and areas where the project manager must keep a close eye on how things are going to prevent time and budget overages.
A project fails when it does not deliver its objectives on time and within budget. It succeeds when the project deliverable meets the client's and stakeholders' needs and comes in on-time and within budget.
Let's review some common reasons for project failure.
Planning, controlling, and monitoring: Project failure may occur due to poor planning or a failure to follow the plan created during the planning phase. Failure may result from insufficient monitoring and controlling – the fifth process discussed in learning outcome 2b. Scope creep occurs when the project manager fails to keep tight control over the project tasks: the project's scope gradually morphs into a much larger project than was originally planned.
Team effectiveness: Scope creep may occur when the team's expertise fails to align with the needs of the project. Having the right people for the project is critical. For example, the project manager may contract someone they have worked with in the past, but the project may fail if the individual's knowledge and skills fail to mesh with the needs of the project at hand.
Communication: Did the project manager clearly communicate the plan to the team members and key stakeholders? Communication among the team members, the client, and key stakeholders is critical. Review learning outcome 2a.
Risk: Projects often fall short when they fail to manage risk properly. Things are bound to go wrong in every project, large and small. Project managers need to be aware of potential risks and plan to deal with them should they materialize. If you cannot eliminate possible risks, try to mitigate the damage they may inflict on the project timeline. For example, what will you do when a key delivery arrives late, or the vendor who sells the raw materials you need goes out of business? You may be able to eliminate or mitigate the damage by having more than one source for these critical materials.