Clearing the Confusion
The following discussion is designed to clear away this confusion and provide
a basis for better understanding by proposing changes to the way the PMBOK®
Guide and The Standard for Project Management address these concepts. The first
step in determining how to achieve this is to understand the current approach
used in the PMBOK® Guide.
The Three Models
PMI presents three ways of structuring the field of project management. These
- Life cycles (section 1.2 of the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edn.)
- Processes arranged in five process groups (section 1.2)
- Knowledge areas (sections 4-13).
The role of a project life cycle is to subdivide the chronological development
of the project into distinct parts (called "phases") in order to ensure effective
management and technical control by limiting the amount of future investment and
work authorized at any point in time. In some circumstances, phases are subdivided
into smaller elements, often called stages, as shown in Figure 3
below. The phases are: Pre-design, Design, Pre-construction, Construction; "construction"
has many (product-related) stages that are not shown. A diagram of this type also
helps in identifying missing phases or stages. For example, it is clear from Figure 3
that the "Handover" phase has been overlooked!
Figure 3: Phases and Main Stages of a Building Project
Note the Go/No-go Review Check Marks at the end of each Phase
[Click to enlarge]
Thus, a project life cycle is a set of sequential, interdependent phases leading
from the start of the project to its end. It may be helpful to think of the life
cycle of a butterfly (egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly).
It is interesting to note that the PRINCE2 standard by OGC
explicitly states that one defining characteristic of a project is that it has
a life cycle: in other words, if it does not have a life cycle, it is not
5. OGC 2009