Project Life Cycle

Posted on September 21, 2009 by


Although projects vary dramatically, according to the PMBOK®, all projects go through the same life cycle structure. Accordingly, this is a very broad, big-picture view of a project life cycle. There are four components to this structure—Starting the Project, Organizing and Preparing, Carrying out the Project Work, and Closing the Project. The Starting the Project component ends when the Project Charter is created. The Organizing and Preparing component ends when the Project Management Plan is created. Carrying out the Project Work ends when the deliverables have been accepted, and Closing the Project ends when the project documents are archived. Note that these components correspond closely to the project management process groups of Initiating, Planning, Executing, and Closing, with the Monitoring and Control process group overseeing all of them.

There are three characteristics to remember that are associated with the project life cycle. All three of these should be fairly intuitive. Imagine that Katy the project manager will be making cookies with her family.

1. Cost and Staffing are low at the beginning, highest as the work is carried out, and drop dramatically as the project nears the end. At the beginning, Katy is looking through recipes by herself. As she actually starts baking with her children, the number of people and the costs of materials she is using increases. Once the cookies are made, she is again by herself putting away her cookbook and writing a few notes on potential changes to the recipe she used.

 2. Stakeholder influence and risks are greatest at the beginning and slowly decrease throughout the project. Before starting to mix the ingredients, stakeholder influences, such as her husband hinting that he would prefer oatmeal raisin cookies are at their greatest. By the time the cookies are in the oven, her husband has little influence over the final product.

3. The ability to influence the project’s product is easiest at the beginning and more difficult as time goes on. With every successful step, certain risks go away. Once the cookie dough is mixed, the risk of not having the ingredients is over. Once the cookies are safely out of the oven, the risk of burning them is over.