As we transition into the era of the Project Economy, project managers need to adapt their methodologies to prioritize not just outputs but outcomes and benefits.

The Expanded Project Life Cycle in the Project Economy

The conventional project life cycle needs an overhaul, extending to include the critical phases of innovation and handover to operations. This change aligns with the ultimate goal of modern project management: the creation of sustainable value.

The Comprehensive Life Cycle: Beyond Traditional Boundaries

Modern project management in the context of the Project Economy calls for an expanded life cycle. Alongside the traditional phases—Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closure—we must incorporate:

  • Innovation: The pre-initiation phase that focuses on feasibility, alignment, and value creation.
  • Handover to Operations: The post-closure phase responsible for transitioning the project into an operational or sustainable phase, ensuring sustained benefit realization.
  • The Importance of Benefits: A Fundamental Shift: Benefits should be the core focus throughout the life cycle, instigating a fundamental shift away from the traditional “iron triangle” of scope, time, and cost to a benefit-centric paradigm.

Phase 1: Innovation

This is the ‘value identification’ phase where the aim is to ensure that the project aligns with organizational strategies and market needs.

Tools and Resources: Use advanced concept mapping tools and strategic alignment matrices.

Real-World Example: Companies like Tesla commence with the Innovation phase, making the Gigafactory not just a project but a long-term strategic asset.

Phase 2: Initiation

The initiation phase is where the project’s value and feasibility are measured. It involves defining the project at a broad level.

Tools and Resources: Utilize tools like SWOT analysis and feasibility studies to assess the viability of the project. Resources such as offer templates and guides to assist in this phase.

Real-World Example: Companies like SpaceX constantly initiate groundbreaking projects, such as the Starship project, by meticulously defining the goals and objectives in the initiation phase.

Phase 3: Planning

In the planning phase, detailed planning and scheduling of the project take place, setting the stage for the execution phase.

Tools and Resources: Leverage tools like Microsoft Project for detailed project planning, encompassing aspects such as resource allocation and budgeting.

Real-World Example: Tech giants like Apple are known for their meticulous planning, which is evident in the seamless launches of their products.

Phase 4: Execution

The execution phase is where the project plan is put into motion, and the work required is performed.

Tools and Resources: Utilize project management platforms like Asana to facilitate smooth execution, ensuring that team members can collaborate effectively.

Real-World Example: Companies like Netflix have successfully executed numerous projects, including the transition from DVD rentals to a streaming platform, showcasing the importance of effective execution.

Phase 5: Monitoring and Controlling

This phase involves tracking, reviewing, and regulating the progress and performance of the project.

Tools and Resources: Leverage tools like Jira for real-time collaboration and monitoring of the project’s progress.

Real-World Example: Global organizations like Amazon constantly monitor and control their vast array of projects to ensure they are on the right track.

Phase 6: Closure

The closure phase involves formally closing the project and reporting its overall level of success.

Tools and Resources: Utilize tools like Smartsheet to create comprehensive closure reports, encapsulating all the details of the project.

Real-World Example: Upon the completion of the construction of the Burj Khalifa, a formal closure phase would have encapsulated all the achievements and learnings from the project.

Phase 7: Handover to Operations and Beyond

Handover is not merely a transition but also an opportunity for sustained value creation. In innovative companies, particularly leading Asian corporations like Alibaba and Haier, project managers are sometimes entrusted with leading the newly formed business units, products, or services birthed by their projects.

Tools and Resources: Benefit Realization Management tools and Transition Management Frameworks like ADKAR should be employed.

Real-World Example: Upon completion, the HS2 high-speed railway project will integrate into an operational railway system, aiming for continued benefit realization.Extended Responsibility: Project managers should proactively seek opportunities to lead the ensuing business units, products, or services, as this ensures continuity and deepens the focus on long-term benefits.

Conclusion: Navigating the Expanded Life Cycle in the Project Economy

In the Project Economy, the life cycle of a project is not just about project completion but sustainable value creation. By including innovation and handover to operations as vital phases and by emphasizing the focus on benefits, project managers can turn projects into long-term value generators. Leading the resulting business units or products post-project is an avenue that project managers should consider exploring, as seen in companies like Alibaba and Haier, to truly realize the project’s benefits and play a pivotal role in the new economic landscape.

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by Antonio Nieto Rodriguez

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