The bigger picture

PPM-frameworkIn an earlier posting I used the figure at right to show one view of the bigger picture in programme and project management. The idea is that project outputs combine to enable the programme outcome(s) and these, over time, bring about a strategic impact. Different types of stakeholder seek different forms of value at different points in the model.
lifecycle-of-systemAnother useful view is that of the system lifecycle (see figure at right). This shows the outputs from one or more projects being used to deliver a system. The system is operated, maintained and repaired. It can be adapted and enhanced to satisfy changing needs. Eventually it is decommissioned and its component parts recycled or otherwise disposed of. Note that the system can comprise humans as well as physical artefacts; for example it might be a school. In that case one of the project outputs might need to be trained teachers.

If we now look at the bigger picture through a sustainability lens, what other views or insights can we generate and what can these tell us about the meaning of ‘sustainable project management’?

Project lifespan

One of the things I tend to bang on about is that the concept of the lifecycle is key to much of what we do in systems engineering and also in programme and project management. Hence I believe it is important to distinguish between the nature of the lifecycle and that of the process. For example, this document illustrates how the engineering processes associated with system development have differing levels of activity throughout the system lifecycle. I also believe that there are many lifecycle models and that it is a mistake to over-simplify the concept because it then loses its usefulness.This document was an uncompleted attempt to make use of that point, though I scored an own goal (see my comments below) on Slide 6 by showing a typical project lifecycle as Start-up | Initiate | Execute | Close – that is of course quite the wrong way to think about it!

Others such as my friend Dennis and some of my students disagree and are not persuaded by my reasoning.They argue that all lifecycles can be distilled to the basics identified by PMI as process groups, ie:
Initiate | Plan | Execute | Close

However I have chanced upon some support for my point of view. Mounir Ajam and his colleagues have written an excellent set of articles which explain the line of reasoning with great clarity as it applies to project management. They also use the term ‘lifespan’ in preference to ‘lifecycle’, because projects generally don’t re-cycle. It makes perfect sense to me.