Executing projects can be complex and difficult. Adopting a project life-cycle helps by giving you a framework within which you can break projects down into more manageable “pieces”, often called phases. Projects start out as a collection of concepts and over time we flesh out the details. Then we select which projects we are going to pursue, start planning them and hopefully end up completing them. The phases of my projects are:
- Concepts – a collection, often called a Portfolio of possible projects.
- Selection – deciding which projects to do, based on some criteria.
- Planning and defining what needs to be done, when and by whom?
This framework helps us to select, plan, manage and deliver our projects. In this post we are going to walk through the first two phases of the life-cycle.
Concepts are the ideas that we want make into reality. Some are dreams, some are necessities. All projects start out as concepts. It is very useful to collect all of your concepts into one overall collection – a Portfolio (of possibilities). Be ambitious in terms of conceptualizing your projects and get all of your potential projects down in one place. We will call this your Portfolio of Possibilities (POP).
We all have areas of responsibility in our professional and personal lives. Typical roles that come to mind are manager, creative writer, head of finance, designer, operator on a professional level. Personal roles could be husband or wife, daughter or son, father or mother, mentor and so on. We are going to refer to these as areas of responsibility.
Now arrange the portfolio of possibilities by gathering like projects together using your areas of responsibility.
Now you have a list of projects aligned with your areas of responsibility. Next, we need to select the right projects to pursue. This will involve the following:
- Reviewing the project list against your goals.
- Adding any missing projects.
- Removing projects which are not important to you now.
- Reviewing your capacity to complete projects in a given time frame.
- Selecting the list of projects to take on to the detailed definition and planning phase.
Review Project List.
Start with one area of responsibility and complete the review for that area. If you find that there are goals which you have but no corresponding projects for, then go back and understand why? Is the goal really important? If so, why no projects? Resolve this conflict until you come to a conclusion, which should be to either defer the goal or identify a project to move you closer to achieving your goal.
Next look at the projects which are on the list but don’t have a goal – are they really important and if so why? Is there a hidden goal? Do you have to do it now, or can it be deferred? Eliminate if it is not important and if it is important, then answered why it needs to be done.
Now you should have a list of projects that are related to your current goals within a particular timeframe. Next complete this for all of your areas of responsibility. One aspect of your project that will emerge from this process is that there will be a degree of overlap between projects – we will look at how to deal with this in the later stages of the life cycle.
Congratulations, you should now have a master list of all projects which are aligned with your areas of responsibility and the goals you have for each of these.
Capacity versus Ambition.
The output above is the first stage of our selection process and has given us our ambitions in terms of the projects/goals that we would like to execute – that is, the projects highlighted in green above.
Now we need to measure these against our capacity to execute them – either at the same time, or in batches. At this stage you do not have exact amounts of work calculated as being required to deliver your projects (for example, financial costs, man hours of resource time and calendar months), but you should have a rough order of magnitude. You then need to measure this off against the available capacity that you have and make your final selection of projects to execute.
Meaning that your final cut of projects selected will look as follows:
Next we will look at defining and planning our selected projects in detail. Try the process on your projects and let me know how you get on.