As a Project Manager, you are most likely familiar with the 5 project phases (also known as the project life-cycle or “process groups”) outlined in the PMBOK® Guide: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing.
However, do you know the 47 PM “processes” that these 5 phases encompass? How do you know you’ve moved from one project phases to the next?
For this issue of the Know How Network, we want to sharpen up your knowledge on the distinction between the project phases through the metaphor of “rites of passage”. Just like the seasons, project phases follow a life cycle marked by certain activities (like spring cleaning) that indicate you’ve entered the next phase. By knowing the “rites of passage” into each new project phases, you’ll be better equipped to keep track of which processes belong in each project phase, and, ultimately, better manage your projects.
From Initiating to Planning
The first project phases, initiating, involves just 2 processes: developing the project charter and identifying stakeholders. You know you’ve moved to planning when you start working on anything more detailed about how the work will be done: collecting requirements, creating the work breakdown schedule (WBS), and defining the project scope, for example.
The rite of passage into planning, then, is marked by asking, “how?” and “what?”
What work needs to get done?
How will the work get done?
What resources are needed to complete the project?
While in “initiating” you tend to ask “who?,” you know you’ve moved to planning when you start asking “how” and “what” questions about planning details.
From Planning to Executing
The transition between planning and executing may seem obvious: the former is “talking,” the latter is “doing.” However, it’s not quite that simple; you’ll still be doing quite a bit of “talking” in the executing phase. The rite of passage into executing is that your “talk” turns its attention to the project team: acquiring, developing, and managing the project team. As a PM, you may not be directly involved with the team’s work, but your “doing” takes the form of keeping the team on-track, and making sure there’s adequate and appropriate communication between the project team and other stakeholders.
From Executing to Monitoring & Controlling
In a way, monitoring and controlling is just an extension of executing — more “doing.” You know you’ve transitioned from executing when the project begins to change (as it inevitably will).
As a PM, your job is to make sure the project doesn’t get “derailed” onto a new track, away from the project scope and budget. Keeping the project on track will involve controlling costs, monitoring risks, and verifying scope — but also making changes to the scope and schedule when needed. This requires ongoing communication with project stakeholders to make sure everyone is on the same page about project changes large and small.
From Monitoring & Controlling to Closing
Finally, the move to “closing” is marked by the rite of passage of successfully turning over the project deliverables to the customer. Closing doesn’t always happen all at once at the end of the project; if your team using agile methodology, for example, you may “close” many times throughout the lifespan of the project as you hand over small work packages to the customer. What marks “closing” is that your project team stops working on a particular deliverable and the customer accepts it — not necessarily when it happens.
Spring Cleaning as a Rite of Passage
Know the “rites of passage” that distinguish the 5 project phases will help you adhere to PMBOK® Guide Project Management processes, and keep your project team and stakeholders on the same page about the project life cycle. Even if you haven’t memorized the 47 PM processes, knowing these project phases and their rites of passage will help keep your management practices, and projects, on-track for successful completion. On every project, you go through these project phases at varying levels of conscious awareness and capability. The better you get at each phase, the better you get at delivering value doing your projects. Your projects will go more smoothly and make the experience better for all involved.
This is why it literally pays to treat some things you do as the seasons change like a project — for example, spring cleaning. It’s for this reason why we at Cheetah Learning created a course called the PM of Spring Cleaning: to help people better put into practice the 5 phases of a project on a common project many have already done at least once in their lives. And what we’ve heard from our students — a surprise of all surprises — they actually really enjoyed doing spring cleaning the Project Management way.
You too can take advantage of the PM of Spring Cleaning and kill 2 birds with 1 stone. You can hone your PM skills, and you can make your home or your office sparkle with a spring cleaning project. Register for PM of Spring Cleaning at http://www.cheetahlearning.com/index.asp.