Just like the programmes move into cycles, projects move into phases. Like in the case of the program stages also the projects move through origination, initiation, planning, execution, evaluation. But unlike programmes that move through renovating cycles, projects have a linear movement aimed at early closures.
The fundamental difference is that programmes cycles processes are renewed each time there new learning produces new planning, projects proceed along a linear path: from its conception to its end. The earlier the projects objectives are achieved, the earlier is the project is closed, the better is for all stakeholders. Learning produced by the accomplishment of a project feeds in into programme management not into project management. There is scope for learning even within the project life: but in that case is rather a process of monitoring, required to align activities to plans; the real process of evaluation is always done within programme management, where the lessons learned can be used for improved planning and therefore new project design.
Although the formal classification of the project steps is different in different organizational cultures, we can say that in a general sense project development moves through three major steps:
- Project Planning - that can be further sub dived in
- Project origination, when someone has an idea and proposes a project that can help to achieve the objectives of a programme
- Project initiation stage, Once there is consensus amongst the decision makers in the organization, the project idea is discussed with other stakeholders like partners, sponsors, beneficiaries, and decisions are taken with regard to the number, the nature and the quality of the project deliverables.
- Detailed Planning or design stage; defining the scope into details and developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), a budget and an Action Plan.
- Project Execution and Control - During the project execution the execution team utilizes all the schedules , procedures and templates that were prepared and anticipated during prior phases. Unanticipated events and situations will inevitably be encountered, and the Project Manager and Project Team will have to deal with.
- Project completion and closure.
While subdividing the whole project into specific tasks it is opportune to follow the natural phases of project life. Then specific schedules can be aligned with expected specific accomplishments. It is important to provide interim deliverables to give the actors, beneficiaries and sponsors a sense that work is being accomplished, to provide an opportunity for feedback, and to capture project successes in documented form. It is therefore a convenient practice to insert into the project plan a number of "milestones", i.e. assessment-points in the life of a project where we verify if the expected deliverables have been delivered to the beneficiaries with the expected quality and within the expected costs.