- Initiating processes: Clarifying the business need, defining high-level expectations and resource budgets, and beginning to identify audiences that may play a role in your project
- Planning processes: Detailing the project scope, time frames, resources, and risks, as well as intended approaches to project communications, quality, and management of external purchases of goods and services
- Executing processes: Establishing and managing the project team, communicating with and managing project audiences, and implementing the project plans
- Monitoring and controlling processes: Tracking performance and taking actions necessary to help ensure project plans are successfully implemented and the desired results are achieved
- Closing processes: Ending all project activity
The figure highlights how you may cycle back from executing processes to planning processes when you have to return to the organizing and preparing phase to modify existing plans to address problems you encounter or new information you acquire while carrying out the project work. Finally, you use monitoring and controlling processes in each of the four phases to help ensure that work is being performed according to plans.
Successfully performing these processes requires the following:
- Information: Accurate, timely, and complete data for the planning, performance monitoring, and final assessment of the project
- Communication: Clear, open, and timely sharing of information with appropriate individuals and groups throughout the project’s duration
- Commitment: Team members’ personal promises to produce the agreed-upon results on time and within budget
Project management: the initiating processesAll projects begin with an idea. Perhaps your organization’s client identifies a need, or maybe your boss thinks of a new market to explore, or maybe you think of a way to refine your organization’s procurement process.
Sometimes the initiating process is informal. For a small project, it may consist of just a discussion and a verbal agreement. In other instances, especially for larger projects, a project requires a formal review and decision by your boss and/or other members of your organization’s senior management team.
Decision-makers consider the following two questions when deciding whether to move ahead with a project:
- Should we do it? Are the benefits we expect to achieve worth the costs we’ll have to pay? Are there better ways to approach the issue?
- Can we do it? Is the project technically feasible? Are the required resources available?
If the answer to both questions is “Yes,” the project can proceed to the organizing and preparing phase, during which a project plan is developed. If the answer to either question is a definite, ironclad “No,” under no circumstances should the project go any further. If nothing can be done to make it desirable and feasible, the decision-makers should stop all work on the project immediately. Doing anything else guarantees wasted resources, lost opportunities, and a frustrated staff.
Project management: the planning processesWhen you know what you hope to accomplish and you believe it’s possible, you need a detailed plan that describes how you and your team will make it happen. Include the following in your project-management plan:
- An overview of the reasons for your project.
- A detailed description of intended results.
- A list of all constraints the project must address.
- A list of all assumptions related to the project.
- A list of all required work.
- A breakdown of the roles you and your team members will play.
- A detailed project schedule.
- Needs for personnel, funds, and non-personnel resources (such as equipment, facilities, and information).
- A description of how you plan to manage any significant risks and uncertainties.
- Plans for project communications.
- Plans for ensuring project quality.
Always put your project plans in writing; doing so helps you clarify details and reduces the chances that you’ll forget something. Plans for large projects can take hundreds of pages, but a plan for a small project can take only a few lines on a piece of paper (or a tablecloth!).The success of your project depends on the clarity and accuracy of your plan and on whether people believe they can achieve it. Considering past experience in your project plan makes your plan more realistic; involving people in the plan’s development encourages their commitment to achieving it.
Don’t let the pressure to get fast results convince you to skip the planning and get right to the tasks. Although this strategy can create a lot of immediate activity, it also creates significant chances for waste and mistakes.
Be sure your project’s drivers and supporters review and approve the plan in writing before you begin your project. For a small project, you may need only a brief email or someone’s initials on the plans. For a larger project, though, you may need a formal review and sign-off by one or more levels of your organization’s management.
Project management: the executing processesAfter you’ve developed your project-management plan and set your appropriate project baselines, it’s time to get to work and start executing your plan. This is often the phase when management gets more engaged and excited to see things being produced.
PreparingPreparing to begin the project work involves the following tasks:
- Assigning people to all project roles: Confirm the individuals who’ll perform the project work and negotiate agreements with them and their managers to make sure they’ll be available to work on the project team.
- Introducing team members to each other and to the project: Help people begin developing interpersonal relationships with each other. Help them appreciate the overall purpose of the project and explain how the different parts will interact and support each other.
- Giving and explaining tasks to all team members: Describe to all team members what work they’re responsible for producing and how the team members will coordinate their efforts.
- Defining how the team will perform its essential functions: Decide how the team will handle routine communications, make different project decisions, and resolve conflicts. Develop any procedures that may be required to guide performance of these functions.
- Setting up necessary tracking systems: Decide which system(s) and accounts you’ll use to track schedules, work effort, and expenditures, and then set them up.
- Announcing the project to the organization: Let the project audiences know that your project exists, what it will produce, and when it will begin and end.
Suppose you don’t join your project team until the actual work is getting underway. Your first task is to understand how people decided initially that the project was possible and desirable. If the people who participated in the start of the project and the organizing and preparing phases overlooked important issues, you need to raise them now. When searching for the project’s history, check minutes from meetings, memos, letters, emails, and technical reports. Then consult with all the people involved in the initial project decisions.
PerformingFinally, you get to perform the project work! The performing subgroup of the executing processes includes the following tasks:
- Doing the tasks: Perform the work that’s in your plan.
- Assuring quality: Continually confirm that work and results conform to requirements and applicable standards and guidelines.
- Managing the team: Assign tasks, review results, and resolve problems.
- Developing the team: Provide needed training and mentoring to improve team members’ skills.
- Sharing information: Distribute information to appropriate project audiences.
Project management: the monitoring and controlling processesAs the project progresses, you need to ensure that plans are being followed and desired results are being achieved. The monitoring and controlling processes include the following tasks (see Chapter 3 in Book 2 for specific activities):
- Comparing performance with plans: Collect information on outcomes, schedule achievements, and resource expenditures; identify deviations from your plan; and develop corrective actions.
- Fixing problems that arise: Change tasks, schedules, or resources to bring project performance back on track with the existing plan, or negotiate agreed-upon changes to the plan itself.
- Keeping everyone informed: Tell project audiences about the team’s achievements, project problems, and necessary revisions to the established plan.
Project management: the closing processesFinishing your assigned tasks is only part of bringing your project to a close. In addition, you must do the following:
- Get your clients’ approvals of the final results.
- Close all project accounts (if you’ve been charging time and money to special project accounts).
- Help team members move on to their next assignments.
- Hold a post-project evaluation with the project team to recognize project achievements and to discuss lessons you can apply to the next project. (At the very least, make informal notes about these lessons and your plans for using them in the future.)