Category: Tips and Tools Box

“Tips are like free hugs. Only without that awkward feeling” I read once on a Tips Box of a juice bar in an airport. Same goes for Tips on this blog. Feel free to borrow!

Project cycle management: a seasons view

There are Four Seasons hotels. There is Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.  And the four seasons of a project. A project is born, it works and beneficiaries harvest. Pretty much alluding to Spring, Summer and Autumn. Sometimes Winters enter projects’ lives. It happens in “frozen” project. Although some may challenge that a frozen project is still a project. Or, if all gone according to plan, Winter is the season of evaluations and reflections. Or just plain hibernation to recharge batteries.
This is a metaphor for project cycle management. It is just a perspective to the by-the-book definition.

Project cycle management (also known as PCM) is the process of planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling of a project effectively and efficiently throughout its phases, from planning through execution then completion and review to achieve pre-defined objectives or satisfying the project stakeholder by producing the right deliverable at the right time, cost and quality, according to a classic definition.

Different methodologies speak of different phases/cycles and related tools. For example, in EuropeAid terminology the term project cycle management is used to describe decision-making procedures used during the life-cycle of a project (including key tasks, roles and responsibilities, key documents and decision options). You can read more

Some use the term “The Project Development Cycle”: the project begins, continues, ends and begins again. Some organisations manage their projects by the following 4 phases: initiation, planning, implementation, closure.

The PMBOK terminology refers to at least 3 phases in a project: initiation, intermediate, final.

The Project Cycle in the framework used by the World Bank includes the identification, preparation,appraisal, negotiation and approval, implementation and  evaluation phases.
At OECD, projects follow the identification, appraisal and detailed plan, implementation and monitoring and evaluation stages.

These are just couple of examples of different general frameworks applicable in different organisations. By all means, projects need to follow the sponsor/organisation’s rigours. Yet, finding your own perspective to look at the project’s life cycle in a simplified way, be it a seasons-view or any other view, is intended to make things easy for you and allow you to enjoy the process.  An accurately identified project’s season helps determine the right approaches and tools to design, plant, harvest or evaluate/mitigate.

What seasons do you see in this pic?

The glory of the project management glossary

The head of a Project Management Office found this email in his Inbox one lovely  morning:

“Dear Andrew,

thanks for putting together a great project team. img_0944

I have though a feeling there is an alien on the team. “Milestones”, “benchmarks”, “critical path”are only a few of the sounds coming out of his mouth that I was able to record. And there was something about something broken.

Please either send it with an interpreter or  just give it an user-friendly upgrade.




Sounds familiar? The “alien” was the new project manager, with his shining  top-of-class graduation certificate, ready to impress. I easily recognise the junior-me in this “alien”. Believing i can impress with an ammunition of fancy terminology. It did not get me credibility. It only increased the gap between me and team members, partners and beneficiaries. The results were misunderstandings, miscommunication and other easily preventable issues.

It took me some years of practice to speak the audience language, for projects sake. And my job’s sake. Written project documents are still loyal to the fancy project management glossary.

It will make you feel as going back to ABCs. And rightly so. Your audience will appreciate it. Couple of examples:

I speak of

– Intended effects to explain “the project objective”.

– What the project intends to produce to explain “outputs”.

– The project To Do List to bring the “work breakdown structure” in the discussion (that broken something, Nick mentions in his email).

– The logical flow in a project’s life for communication and accountability when bringing in the “logframe”.

– Process documentation when bringing “logs” (communication log, risk log) into communication.

To explain my role, I say “I am the person who brings resources together to achieve the intended benefit within the timeframe of the project”. I thus became a less of an alien around the table. Although, sometimes it is fun to be an alien.

Drawing – courtesy of my daughter, Sofia.