Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice


What’s in a Word?



By Dr. Kenneth Smith, PMP

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines

The Project ‘Life Cycle’ is a generally accepted Project Management concept.  But are you aware there is no universal definition of – or standard for – a Project Life Cycle, nor how many Phases they have, or of what they consist?   Many extant definitions are variations on a theme, but some eminent organizations concatenate their ‘Phases’ in different ways and lengths — sometimes even comprising different elements — as well as describing them with differing terminology.  For example:

The American-based international Project Management Institute (PMI)of which I have been a long-time member — defines project life cycles in the following five Phases:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring & Control (which in addition to being a stand-alone 4th Phase, is also incorporated in each of the other Phases)
  5. Closeout

The British-based PRINCE2 Foundation (PRojects IN Controlled Environments)used and recognized all over the world – also adheres to these same five Phases, but sub-divides their first three, while — with ‘Performance’ — the fourth Phase embraces ‘Execution’ spillover from Phase three:

  1. Conception and Initiation
  2. Definition and Planning
  3. Launch and Execution
  4. Performance and Control
  5. Project Close

The at-large World Bank Groupfor whom I have consulted in the past — expands its project cycle with a hitherto-ignored sixth Phase, as well as describing the Phases with different terminology:

  1. Preparation
  2. Appraisal
  3. Negotiation
  4. Identification and board presentation
  5. Implementation and supervision
  6. Evaluation

While the more limited European Union (EU) has only four Phases in its Project Management Cycle (PCM), but relegates Closure and Evaluation to others:

  1. Planning
  2. Preparing
  3. Implementing
  4. Monitoring and control

The Regional Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has not one, but two Cycles; one with four phases, the other with six!


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How to cite this article: Smith, K. F. (2023).  Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice: What’s in a Word? commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/pmwj130-Jun2023-Smith-project-life-cycle-sophies-choice-2.pdf


About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Smith

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines


Initially a US Civil Service Management Intern, then a management analyst & systems specialist with the US Defense Department, Ken subsequently had a career as a senior foreign service officer — management & evaluation specialist, project manager, and in-house facilitator/trainer — with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Ken assisted host country governments in many countries to plan, monitor and evaluate projects in various technical sectors; working ‘hands-on’ with their officers as well as other USAID personnel, contractors and NGOs.  Intermittently, he was also a team leader &/or team member to conduct project, program & and country-level portfolio analyses and evaluations.

Concurrently, Ken had an active dual career as Air Force ready-reservist in Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines) as well as the Washington D.C. area; was Chairman of a Congressional Services Academy Advisory Board (SAAB); and had additional duties as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.  He retired as a ‘bird’ colonel.

After retirement from USAID, Ken was a project management consultant for ADB, the World Bank, UNDP and USAID.

He earned his DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) from the George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia, his MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Systems Analysis Fellow, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), and BA & MA degrees in Government & International Relations from the University of Connecticut (UCONN).  A long-time member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and IPMA-USA, Ken is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and a member of the PMI®-Honolulu and Philippines Chapters.

Ken’s book — Project Management PRAXIS (available from Amazon) — includes many innovative project management tools & techniques; and describes a “Toolkit” of related templates available directly from him at kenfsmith@aol.com on proof of purchase of PRAXIS.

To view other works by Ken Smith, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-kenneth-smith/