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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

The Project Management Cycle

A project management methodology follows a cyclical approach throughout the life of the project. The cycle represents a continuous process in which each phase provides the foundation for the next. For example, during implementation the monitoring phase provides inputs and changes to the original design which then the project managers uses to modify the implementation plans. The cyclic nature among the design, implement and monitor phases is repeated throughout the life of the project.

The project management cycle consists of six phases:

  1. Initiate
  2. Plan
  3. Implement
  4. Monitor
  5. Adapt
  6. Close

The cycle allows for a constant, iterative process by which the project is constantly adapted, this repetitive cycle continues until all project activities and objectives have been delivered. The cycle approach allows opportunities to review the original project assumptions and plans, as the project makes progress the initial conditions could have changed making necessary for the project to change course or readjust the original plans.

Managing a project is not a linear process, it is cyclical; with each phase receiving feedback from the preceding phase. For example, during the monitoring phase the project may encounter that the original assumptions about an  activity have changed which leads to propose a readjustment of the plans, either in schedule or in scope. No situation in which a project intervenes is static, project management is a cycle that is continually repeated to adapt to a changing context.

The project management cycle continues in a spiral fashion until the project is completed and closed. For larger projects the phases may be broken down in smaller manageable phase, each with its own project management cycle, were the closure on the first phase of a project leads to the initiation of the second phase.

The application of project management is an iterative process. For example, within the planning phase, several iterations of planning may occur as the team develops the best approach and methodologies to implement the project. This process requires additional improvements and refinements to the schedule, budget estimates, quality requirements and risk plans.

As improvements start to occur, the impact to other project management areas must be determined. Over time, the iterations should become smaller in magnitude and more defined as more detailed information about the project is developed. Each project’s management cycle is a knowledge cycle in itself that shapes the initial design and is fed by experience from each implementation and evaluation cycle.


Learn how to initiate, plan, implement, adapt and close a project that meets the needs of the beneficiaries and expectations of key stakeholders. The online course will introduce the elements of the project management lifecycle.  You will learn the methods for the efficient management of a project using a phased approach and the concepts and practices necessary for the success of your management efforts. This course is open for all those who work or plan to get a job in the development cooperation and humanitarian field.

Register now and earn your certificate in Adaptive Project Management with a 20% early registration discount.

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Project Management Constraints

Every project has to manage four basic constraints; scope, schedule, budget and quality. The success of a project depends on the skills and knowledge of a project manager to take into consideration these constraints and develop the plans and processes to keep them in balance. It is not enough for a project to meet the budget targets or to show to the donor that all activities have been completed on time. Development projects need to balance all four constraints if they want to realize the full benefits of a project.

Classical project management usually considers three constrains on a project: scope, time and costs (known as the project triangle), we believe that it is important to place under this category the constraint of quality. For development projects it is not enough to deliver a project according to the scope, on time and under budget; but the project must meet the needs and expectation of the beneficiaries who are the ultimate judges of the project quality.

Managing these constrains requires careful analysis and an agreement on the priorities for the organizations, the donor and the final beneficiaries. Depending on those factors a project may place more importance to the budget and quality than to the schedule or scope; these types of decisions, early in the project, have a fundamental impact on all the project plans that will need to be designed to ensure that the project is able to manage the four constraints. Failure to do that may result in the use of resources on areas that do not contribute to the ultimate success of the project.

The definition of project management implies that projects have specific limits in scope, schedule, budget and quality.  Understanding the combination of elements will allow make better choices when the project needs to make tradeoffs. The use of a triangle helps understand these relationships, adjusting any one of these sides, the other two are affected. For example, a change in the project plan to shorten the schedule might result in an increase in costs or require a decrease in scope.

 

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