Chapter 5 – Project Life Cycle, Scope, Charters, Proposals

5.2. Initiation

Project Management, Life Cycle of Projects

Project Management has a dual nature; it is both a series of distinct phases with a clear beginning and end and a continuous, circular process in which each ending leads to a new beginning. Throughout a project, a successful project manager strives to anticipate changing conditions rather than simply responding to them as they arise. Project Management uses specific skills, tools, and knowledge to deliver a product/service to improve the business processes of an organization. The project is led by a Project Manager who has the leadership and management abilities, and experience to complete the project successfully. In the current world, they are the driver behind change and prosperity in an organization.

The Project Life Cycle is a series of phases that the project progresses through from beginning to end. It is the foundation of the project. The four major phases include: Initiation, Planning, Execution or Implementation, and Closure. Some projects do include other phases such as Selection, Scheduling, and Monitoring & Control. However, often Selection would be included in Initiation, Scheduling included in Planning, and Monitoring & Control included in Execution. 


Think of a project that you may have undertaken? Was there a life cycle?

Selection of Projects

Project Selection is determined by a team of people, usually at the executive level, of projects that are a priority to the organization and align with the mission, vision and values of the organization.  If there are several projects to be approved, the team would prioritize the projects based on importance to the organization. The team would develop criteria they believe to be important. Some projects may be eliminated, others may be put on hold. This depends on the amount of financial resources available at any given time. Some examples of criteria to measure what projects to complete might be time it takes to complete, the budget, and/or future value the project outcomes would bring to the organization.

Let’s start with the more traditional view, which describes project management as a series of four sequential phases, with project initiation coming right after project selection. You can think of these phases, shown in Figure 5-1, as the particle nature of project management.


Traditional view of project management includes project selection, initiation, planning, scheduling, monitoring, and closeout.
Figure 5‑1: Project phases

HR in Focus: Human Resources and Project Management Selection

Human Resources Specialists may be involved in the Project Management of the project from beginning to end. They may be asked to help align the project goals and outcomes with the mission and vision of the organization. They may help with the project selection along with the executive team. They may design the criteria for the executive team to make the decisions on which projects to go forward with, which ones to eliminate, or which ones to place on hold.

Phase 1: Initiation Phase

While project initiation marks the official beginning of a project, doing it well also requires looking past the making stage to the entire life cycle of the project’s end result. You can think of this as the wave nature of project management. As illustrated in Figure 3-1, the making stage, in which a project is initiated and executed, is one part of the larger cycle that includes the operating/using/changing stage, in which the customer makes use of the project. Finally, the demolishing stage is when the project is retired so it can be replaced by something new and better.

The team is often selected for the project in the initiation. As well, the team may put together a business case.  It shows how the resources will be used (people, finances, equipment, materials). It supports the need for the project or the problem at hand that needs a solution.  It should be easy to read, clear and logical to the reader. Many of the elements will be tracked or measured throughout the project.  It shows where the accountability lies, and the commitment of the team to deliver the product/service.

Human Resources and Initiation of Projects

In the initial phase of the project management cycle, Human Resources could be involved in the introduction of the plan. This could help outline the purpose, what is included and how the team will make decisions to keep the work moving forward. Human Resources could assign clear roles, through job descriptions, they would look at the skills required, and work with the Project Manager on what type of skills are required for the activities within the project. Next, they would create a structure for the team. Some of the roles and responsibilities could include:

  • Project Manager:  manages the project from planning to execution to closure, and responsible for the success of the project.
  • Project Stakeholders:  Formalize the project scope, deliverables.
  • Project Sponsor:  Could be one of or all of the stakeholders.  They would authorize the funds to be used for the project, be a champion of the project.
  • Project Department Managers:  May participate in the planning, provide resources for the project-including employees
  • Project Team Members:  Provide their expertise to the project and contribute to the work being done on the project.

Human Resources would assign a role for each of the roles based on their responsibility, authority and competencies. One type of chart shows the responsibility and accountability for each element of the project.  It is sometimes called a RACI matrix. It lists the project tasks and the person responsible.

Example of a RACI (R-Responsible, A– Accountable, C-Consulted, I-Informed):

  HR Director HR Manager CIO IT Manager Web Developer
Define Problem A R I I I
Design Solution I C A R C
Develop I C A R R
Test I I C A R
Implement I C I A R

There is also software to produce Responsibility Charts, or Human Resources may develop their own chart in a word processing software.

Once Human Resources has supported the Project Manager and the team in the initial phase, they may also help out with Planning Phase.