Dear PM Advisor - April 14, 2014

Dear PM Advisor, What's the point of breaking projects up into many life cycle phases? It seems to add bureaucracy and stall projects. 

Streamlined in Atlanta

Dear Streamlined,

Let's look at the extreme ends of your argument to find the right amount of phases.

If there were no phases at all, that would mean that every project that was thought of would be planned and executed and enter the operating environment, regardless of how good or bad an idea it was. Too may bad ideas would enter the operating environment.

If there were seventeen phases, you would spend all your time fulfilling the requirements to pass that gate and projects would take forever.

So there must be some happy medium. I have found five phases to work well.

  1. In the first phase, an idea is presented to management for consideration. Spend half an hour documenting your idea and, if it sounds good, you are awarded a sponsor and a couple more people to examine the idea further.
  2. Phase Two has 2 - 3 people examining this idea and looking at options. Maybe spend 8 hours total seeing if it's still a good idea. If it is, assign another 3 - 5 folks to narrow it down the options.
  3. Phase Three narrows down the options to one and figures out how to complete it. This might take a few weeks on a large project and up to 200 hours of effort.
  4. Phase Four plans the whole project with the full team. Twelve people for 2 - 4 days of effort plus some time polishing it all up.
  5. Phase Five executes the project.

Using this phased approach over time will make projects work more efficiently as you get better over time.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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