PM Building Blocks: Success in Five Phases

May 5, 2016 by FlexPro

To every individual, the word project takes on a different meaning.  For some, it can conjure memories of art-and-crafts early in their academic career.  Others may be reminded of small group collaboration later in their pursuit of an advanced degree.  And finally, to those making changes in their personal lives with home improvement, event planning, and fitness goals, projects take on a more diverse meaning.

According to the Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge, a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.  There isn’t a professional in the workforce that hasn’t had experience with something along those lines.

Every business that operates within the realm of project management in the life sciences industry has its eyes on deliverables and finished products along with the benefits they may bring.  What truly separates the leaders from the rest of the pack, however, is the process used to transform a worthwhile idea into a desired result.

For that, we turn back to the Project Management Institute’s bible and examine a concept that lies at the foundation of successful project management – the process.  All activities dedicated toward following the plan can be organized into five major process groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing.  Let’s take a more complete look at every step along the way to excellence from start to finish:

Initiating“Defining a new project or a phase of an existing project by obtaining authorization to start the project or phase.”

Here, we see the need to identify what we’re looking to accomplish and navigating the proper channels to start the path to completion in motion.  Within Life Sciences, whether it be pharma or elsewhere, authorization to begin toward a finished product is critical for forecasting and documentation.  Once the initial goals are recognized, a more polished strategy can begin to take form.

Planning – “Establish the scope of the project, refining the objectives and defining the course of action required to attain the objectives that the project was undertaken to achieve.”

The crucial planning stage produces a detailed road map to completion with clear objectives and carefully-considered measures.  A project plan will serve as the guide for all functional area leaders and maintain team continuity in the timing of each phase.  Input from all stakeholders is common in this phase, as expectations of all contributors are set along with the plan.

Executing – “Completing the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project specifications.”

While it would be simple to assume that execution boils down to every party accomplishing their own tasks, project managers will tell you that performance of each individual step is anything but a given.  The next phase of the process sees tracking come to the forefront, but it is in this area where a PM can get a feel for where the project may struggle, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the project team.

Monitoring & Controlling – “Tracking, reviewing and regulating the progress and performance of the project; identifying any areas in which changes to the plan are required; and initiating the corresponding changes.”

Classic project management in this phase, as the one in charge must evaluate performance and communicate with stakeholders before making any alterations.  Metrics reporting, project tracking, and data presentations are often seen as drivers for change in the original plan as a lead PM’s issue management skills are tested.

Closing – “Finalizing all activities across all the Process Groups to formally close the project or phase.”

The last few steps on the journey of project completion are just as vital as the first.  Closing out a successful project often means documentation, team evaluation, discussions about lessons learned, and future planning.  Experience from the entire cycle can always be used in the future.

Every project brings a unique set of challenges and hurdles on the path to completion.  The PMI does well to outline the best practices to tackle anything that can be thrown at a project team. It’s up the project manager to take charge, implement, and push toward success.

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