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Understand the project life cycle

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All projects have a recognizable ‘life cycle’. There are many different approaches to managing projects, but all agree that projects can be divided into various stages, each requiring a different focus.

The most straightforward life cycle approach recognizes four main stages of a project: aspiration, planning, implementation and measurement. You can easily memorize this life cycle because the stages both represent and substitute the words for how A Project Is Managed:

Project Life Cycle

Aspire

This stage focuses on the creation of a shared vision for your project. What are you aiming to achieve and why? How will you recognize and measure success? Whose support will you need to begin the project, and what will convince them to support you?

Plan

This stage looks in detail at identifying what needs to be done to deliver your project successfully. What are the various tasks that need to be done, and how can they best fit together? Who will you need on your project team? What resources will you need, both financial and physical (equipment, meeting spaces and so on)? What are the main risks to successful delivery, and how can these be avoided (or at least minimized)? Lastly, how will the project be managed, and progress communicated?

Implement

This stage can be divided into two parts: motivating and monitoring. AT the beginning of your project you will need to form and motivate your project team, and agree the project’s aims and working methods. Once your project is underway, your role shifts to monitoring – what progress has been made? What if any changes need to be made to the original plan? Is your project running on time, or has the schedule slipped? Are the costs as expected, or is the project in danger of going over budget? Have any problems been reported and discussed, and any necessary changes to the plan or budget been agreed?

Measure

Once the project is complete, the final role of the project manager is to determine its success and to communicate the results, so that the lessons learned can be incorporated into other projects. To what extent were the original aims achieved? What went well and what went not so well? What lessons are there for future projects?

Small wonder: Adopting a life cycle approach will help you focus on the most important issues at each stage of the project.

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