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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second We talk a lot about initiating a project properly, or planning it carefully. But sometimes, it’s important to stand back and to think about the entire life cycle of a project, to know where we’re coming and we’re heading to. So the, when we think about the project life-cycle, we typically think about four different stages. Project life-cycle looks like this. We initiate, we plan, we execute and we close. In the initiation, we think about the organization and we define the project charter and we define the project itself, what is the goal and what are the objectives. When we plan, we identify the scope, we identify the task and their dependencies, and we come up with a schedule.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds We plan the resources that will be needed throughout the project, and we clarify different trade-offs among them, and how decisions are going to be made throughout the life cycle of the project. Throughout the execution of the project. As part of the plan, we come up with a risk management plan. How are we going to face risks when they emerge and where are they most likely to emerge? The execution stage of the project typically consists of monitoring how much progress is being made. Communicating and reporting among ourselves on how well we’re doing. And correcting and controlling if problems come up.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds What’s important to think about during the execution of the project, is that the monitor, communicate and control, are going to be a cycle. We’re going to, on an on going basis, monitor our progress, communicate amongst ourselves, and decide how to correct and control.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Finally, when all is said and done and we deliver our product, we will sign off with our customer, or with our final stakeholder, and we will conduct a formal post-mortem. This stage is too often neglected and missed. What’s so critical about a post-mortem is not only to list areas that might have gone badly, or what we did wrong. But it’s also to celebrate, and to document what went well. And what have we achieved, and what have we learned that was useful and successful throughout the life of this specific project.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds Now, it’s not that these different stages are going to be equal length in every single project. And in fact, different projects, and the nature of a different project, might imply a different balance between them. So, if a new product development implies a certain time spent on planning and a different extent of time spent on execution. For instance, if we’re working on a construction project, we may, if it’s a routine construction project, putting down a new rail line. We might not need that much time spending on planning, because we’ve done similar projects before, but the execution may be lengthy because of the physical work that is implied. An opposite example might be a wedding.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds We know that to plan a wedding takes a while, and we like to make it even longer. And so we will indulge and plan it over a long amount of time. The execution of the wedding, the day itself is so short that it is a sliver of the length of time it took us to plan. Not only do we need to be thoughtful and think about how our different project might influence the length of time of the, these different components. But we also we might need to be aware of the fact that it could be an iterative process. In some situations, we might plan and go back to our initiation and change our project definition.

Skip to 3 minutes and 23 seconds We might start executing and realize that we’ve faced an uncertainty that we didn’t anticipate. And go back and make corrections to our plan. And so, by nature, the life cycle of a project could be iterative, and it’s not that we’re going to move sequentially between these segments. Some organizations, many, new product development companies like to take a broader look and stand back and think about the execution of a project in the context of a Stage-Gate Process. The Stage-Gate Process allows for reflection as we progress through the life cycle. And as we progress in our development of our product.

Skip to 3 minutes and 58 seconds And so, we might have a gate, an opportunity to reflect, to deliver a piece of work and to have a decision made along the way. And we formalize it and we control the flow of our project as it matures and as we gain clarity on the content and what the product will be doing. Regardless of whether you use the StageGate Process, or whether you use a different process, identifying the life cycle and acknowledging the fact that you may need to iterate between the different stages.

Skip to 4 minutes and 28 seconds And, taking into account, and taking time to reflect on a project when it’s done, as part of your step of closing the project, are crucial in our evolution and our improvement of the execution of our projects.

Project Life-Cycle

Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne discusses the importance of standing back and thinking about the entire life cycle of a project. She recommends taking the time to reflect on a project once it’s completed.

Based on the importance of reflection, think about some of the projects that you’ve been involved with recently or in the past, and then continue to the discussion question to share some of the challenges you’ve faced and recommendations you would provide to others in regards to the stages of the product life-cycle.

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This video is from the free online course:

Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

Darden School of Business, University of Virginia