Project Management Life Cycle Framework – McCormick PCS Info

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Project Management Life Cycle Framework
                                               By: Michael McCormick
                                                  September 2008


Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing and managing resources to bring about the
successful completion of specific project goals and objectives through a series of process steps.

                                          Typical Process Flowchart

A project is a finite endeavor (having specific start and completion dates) undertaken to create a unique product
or service which brings about beneficial change or added value. This finite characteristic of projects stands in
sharp contrast to processes, or operations, which are permanent or semi-permanent functional work to
repetitively produce the same product or service. In practice, the management of these two systems is often
found to be quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and the adoption of
separate management philosophy, which is the subject of this article.

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring
the project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time and budget.

The secondary--and more ambitious--challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs
necessary to meet pre-defined objectives. A project is a carefully defined set of activities that use resources
(money, people, materials, energy, space, provisions, communication, motivation, etc.) to achieve the project
goals and objectives.


The project goal statement should be the driving force behind the project. It should be the touchstone against
which everything done on the project is measured. A good project goal statement is SMART

Specific: The goal should state exactly what the project is to accomplish. It should be phrased using action
words (such as "design," "build," "implement," etc.). It should be limited to those essential elements of the
project that communicate the purpose of the project and the outcome expected.

                                                     Page 1
                        Project Management Life Cycle Framework
                                               By: Michael McCormick
                                                  September 2008

Measurable: If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. In the broadest sense, the whole goal statement is a
measure for the project; if the goal is accomplished, the project is a success. However, there are usually several
short-term or small measurements that can be built into the goal. Caution: Watch for words that can be
misinterpreted such as; improve, increase, reduce (by how much?), customer satisfaction (who decides if they're
satisfied and how?), etc. If you must include them, be sure to include how they will be measured. If you use
"jargon" terms, be sure that everyone who reads them interprets them the same way.

Agreed-upon: Does everyone in the organization have to agree that the project is necessary and desirable?
Obviously, those who must do the project need to agree that it is necessary. Realistically, those individuals who
control the resources necessary to get the project done need to agree that it is important. In addition, those who
will be impacted by the project should agree that it needs to be done. Beyond that, agreement about the project
is not likely to impact your ability to get it done one way or another.

Realistic: This is not a synonym for "easy." Realistic, in this case, means "do-able." It means that the learning
curve is not a vertical slope; that the skills needed to do the work are available; that the project fits with the
overall strategy and goals of the organization. A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the
people working on it but it shouldn't break them.

Time-framed: Probably one of the easiest parts of the goal to establish the deadline. Very little is ever
accomplished without a deadline. This is particularly true of work that is in addition to everything else that you
need to do in your day. Building the delivery deadline into the project goal keeps it in front of the team and lets
the organization know when they can expect to see the results.


You have heard the old adage  plan the work and work the plan. In essence, that is the key to successful
project management. You must first plan out the project and then monitor and control the execution of the
program work.

It's hard to overestimate the importance of proper planning. In general, project failures can most often be traced
back to deficiencies in the planning process. There are three major deliverables from the project planning
process  the Project Definition, the work plan, and the project management procedures.

Project Definition

        Plan the Work, Utilizing a Project Definition Document
        There is a tendency for projects to shortchange the planning process, with an emphasis on jumping
        right in and beginning the work. This is a mistake. The time spent properly planning will result in reduced
        cost and duration, and increased quality over the life of the project. The Project Definition is the primary
        deliverable from the planning process and describes all aspects of the project at a high level. Once
        approved by the customer and relevant stakeholders, it becomes the basis for the work to be

        The Project Definition includes information such as:
               Project overview  Why is the project taking place? What are the business drivers? What are
                the business benefits?
               Objectives  What will be accomplished by the project? What do you hope to achieve?

                                                      Page 2
                        Project Management Life Cycle Framework
                                               By: Michael McCormick
                                                  September 2008

               Scope  What deliverables will be created? What major features and functions will be
                implemented? What organizations will be converted? What is specifically out of scope?
               Assumptions and Risks  What events are you taking for granted (assumptions) and what
                events are you concerned about? What will you do to manage the risks to the project?
               Approach  Describe in words how the project will unfold and proceed.
               Organization  Show the significant roles on the project. The project manager is easy, but who
                is the sponsor? Who is on the project team? Are any of the stakeholders represented?
               Signature Page  Ask the sponsor and key stakeholders to approve this document, signifying
                that they are in agreement with what is planned.
               Initial Effort, Cost, and Duration Estimates  These should start as best guess estimates, and
                then be revised, if necessary, when the workplan is completed.

Project Workplan
After the Project Definition has been prepared, the workplan can be created. The workplan provides the step-by-
step instructions for constructing project deliverables and managing the project. You should use a prior workplan
from a similar project as a model, if one exists. If not, build one the old-fashioned way by utilizing a work-
breakdown structure and network diagram.
        The Planning Horizon
        Create a detailed workplan, including assigning resources and estimating the work as far out as you feel
        comfortable. This is your planning horizon. Past the planning horizon, lay out the project at a higher
        level, reflecting the increased level of uncertainty. The planning horizon will move forward as the project
        progresses. High-level activities that were initially vague need to be defined in more detail as their
        timeframe gets closer.
        Define Project Management Procedures Up-Front
        This document contains the procedures that will be used to manage the project. It will include sections
        on how the team will manage issues, scope change, risk, quality, communication, etc. It is important to
        be able to manage the project rigorously and proactively and ensure the project team and all
        stakeholders have a common understanding of how the project will be managed. If common procedures
        have already been established for your organization, utilize them on your project.

Project Outline List
Generate a list to scan possible ideas to be considered in your projects. It is especially good when you're just
brainstorming, and giving yourself permission to capture any and all ideas that pop into your head.

        Outline Example Below:

            Whose input do we need?
            Whose input could we use?
            Has anything like this been done before?
            What mistakes can we learn from?
            What successes can we learn from?
            What resources do we have?
            What resources might we need?

        Executive issues
            How does this relate to the strategic plan?
            How does it relate to other priorities, directions, goals?

                                                     Page 3
                     Project Management Life Cycle Framework
                                            By: Michael McCormick
                                               September 2008

            How will this affect our competitive position?

          Who's accountable for this project's success?
          Lines of communication
          Methods of reporting
          What structures do we need?
          What planning is still likely to be required?
          What re-grouping will we need? How often?
          What people do we need?
          Current staffing?
          How do we get involvement?
          What skills are required?
          Who needs to know how to do what?
          What training do we need?
          How do we get it?
          What other communication do we need?
          Who needs to be informed as we go along?
          What policies/procedures affected? What needed?
          What about morale? Fun?

           What will this cost?
           How do we get it?
           What might affect the cost?
           Might we need additional $?
           What are the potential payoffs ($)?
           Who signs the checks?

          What is the timing?
          Hard deadlines?
          What might affect timing?
          Who's going to do the work?
          How do we ensure complete delivery?

          How will we monitor our progress?
          How will we know if we're on course?
          What data do we need, when?
          What reports, to whom, when?

           Whose buy-in do you need?
           How can you get it?

      Stakeholders - Considerations

                                                   Page 4
                       Project Management Life Cycle Framework
                                              By: Michael McCormick
                                                 September 2008



            What requires room?
            How do you get it?
            What tools do we need? When?

            What might you need to know?

        Public Relations
            Is there value in others knowing about this?
            How do we do that?

            What could happen?
            Could we handle it?

        Creative Thinking
            Who would have concern about the success of this project?
            What would they say, ask, or input, that you haven't yet?
            What's the worst idea you can imagine, about doing this project?
            (What is therefore the best idea, which is its opposite?)
            What is the most outrageous thing you can think of, about this project?
            What would make this project particularly unique?
            What the worst that could happen?
            How could we deal with that?
            What's the best that could happen?
            Are we ready to deal with that?
            How do we feel about this project?


Manage and Control
Once the project has been planned sufficiently, execution of the work can begin. In theory, since you already
have agreement on your Project Definition and your work plan and project management procedures are in
place, the only challenge is to execute your plans and processes correctly. Of course, no project ever proceeds
entirely as it was estimated and planned. The challenge is having the rigor and discipline needed to apply your
project management skills correctly and proactively.

                                                    Page 5
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