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Life Cycle Phases and Decision Points
By Dr.Russell Archibald

There is general agreement that the four broad, generic project phases are (common alternative terms are shown in parentheses):

  • Concept (initiation, identification, selection.)
  • Definition (feasibility, development, demonstration, design prototype, quantification.)
  • Execution (implementation, realization, production and deployment, design/construct/ commission, installation and test.)
  • Closeout (termination, including post-completion evaluation.)
    However, these phases are so broad and the titles so generic that they are of little value in documenting the life cycle process so that it can be widely understood, reproduced, and continually improved. What is needed is the specific definition of perhaps five to ten basic phases for each project category and subcategory, usually with several sub-phases defined within each of the basic phases.

In designing and documenting a life cycle process (or model) for a given project category there are three parameters to work with:

  • The number of basic phases and the number of sub-phases within each, together with the short title and full definition of each of these.
  • Which of the basic phases and sub-phases will be strictly sequential, which will overlap, and for those that overlap how much overlap can be tolerated; whether any phases are repeated; and how they are inter-related in a process flow chart (continuous flow, spiral, or other graphic shape.)
  • The number and placement of decision points (approval to proceed, revise project objectives or scope, kill/terminate, put on hold , repeat a previous phase or sub-phase, and others) in the process.

Dr. Russell D. Archibald, PhD (Hon), MSc, Fellow PMI and APM/IPMA, PMP, is one of the six founding members of the Project Management Institute. Now semi-retired, he has many years of management experience in engineering and operations with a variety of major US corporations in Europe and South America as well as the US. He has made major contributions to the understanding of project management, is author of the best selling 2003 book “Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects” (published also in Russian, Chinese, and Italian), has trained more than a thousand program and project managers and project specialists around the world, and has consulted in project management to clients in 14 countries on 4 continents. E-mail: russell_archibald@yahoo.com. Website: www.russarchibald.com.

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