The Project Life Cycle has a Hierarchy
For practical purposes in managing most projects, the four sequential
major phases described on the previous page need to be broken down
in greater detail. Thus, each phase may be made up of one or more
stages and, for purposes of scheduling the actual work involved,
each stage is further developed into a number of activities or tasks.
These activities or tasks are clearly specific to the particular
However, it is interesting to note that while the activities or
task are specific to the project, the selection of appropriate stages
is typically specific to the industry, and only the four generic
major phases and the principle of plan before doing are applicable
to projects generally. Figure 3 shows this hierarchy in tabular
Figure 3: Project Life Cycle Hierarchy
We should like to emphasize that project tasks and activities are
subsets of project Stages which in turn are subsets of project Phases.
These relationships are important because there is often great confusion
on this subject in discussions of work breakdown and time management.
The relevance and consistency of the application of project management
principles to all levels of this project life cycle hierarchy, from
the macro to the micro, is also well worth emphasizing. A specific
task can just as well be considered as a "project" (or
sub-project) in its own right because it requires exactly the same
philosophical considerations and can be tackled in exactly the same
way as the project as a whole, albeit on a lesser scale.
Perhaps that is why breaking the project down into manageable work
packages is so attractive. It enables the same standard approach
to be applied throughout. It is also why some large projects seem
to have multiple project managers!