Response to Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice



By Robert Buttrick

United Kingdom

The purpose of this paper

The purpose of this article is to critique and clarify a number of points made in Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice, published in June 2023 0. This paper does not appear to take into account a wide range of authoritative publications and converging consensus, which it is important for readers of the article to understand and as such, can be misleading.

Examples cited in Smith (2023)

The development banks

The paper’s author provides examples of project life cycles, seven of which are from development banks and therefore tuned to that funding agency’s particular needs. As these are looked at from the funding agencies viewpoint, they would not reflect the actual life cycles used by the client or contactors of the work being funded, nor would they be practical for such use.

In a footnote, the author of the paper states that it is significant that the development banks concern themselves with evaluating the outcomes after the project has closed,

“whereas other institutions omit – or neglect – this function, as beyond the Project Manager’s responsibility.”

This is an incorrect statement, ISO 21502, BS 6079 and GovS 002 are concerned with outcomes and include such an evaluation, as do those organizations whose methods are based on those standards. The point made by the author regarding outcomes being “beyond the Project Manager’s responsibility” most likely derives from PMI’s traditional view that sponsorship, business cases and outcomes are not a part of project management; this has been a mainstay of PMI’s education and qualifications.

Other examples

Other examples given are from

  • The American Institute of Architects for generic architectural projects;
  • Asana, a consulting and construction company;
  • PM4DEV and eSUB Academy (training).

being their view on what the life cycle phases should be. Like the banks and funding agencies, these four example project life cycles have been developed for specific purposes, not general use.

PMI’s project life cycle

The paper wrongly asserts that PMI defines a project life cycle by naming its phases. This is incorrect. PMI’s definition in the PMBoK® glossary 0 is: “The series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion”.  Life cycles are dealt with in sections 2.3 and 3.3.1 in the PMBoK® Guide.


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How to cite this work: Buttrick, R. (2023).  Response to Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice, commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VIII, August.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj132-Aug2023-Buttrick-response-to-project-life-cycles.pdf 

About the Author

Robert Buttrick

United Kingdom


Robert Buttrick is an independent advisor on portfolio, programme and project management, specialising in business-driven methods, processes and standards. Recent clients include the UK’s Cabinet Office, Network Rail, and AXELOS. He is a Visiting Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick, a member of the British Standards Institute’s committee MS2 for project management and is a UK Principal Expert on the equivalent ISO technical committee, TC258 (dealing with international standards on portfolio, programme and project management.)

After graduating with a first-class honours degree, he joined consulting engineers, Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners (now Jacobs) working in countries as diverse as Kenya, Mauritius, Yemen, Senegal and Sudan. He has also worked with the World Bank, in Washington DC on investment appraisals for major development projects.

Robert is a Master of Business Administration (Henley Management College), a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Chartered Engineer and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 2010, Robert received a Distinguished Service Certificate from the BSI for services to national and international project management standards, and in 2013 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management.

Robert can be contacted at robert.buttrick@projectworkout.com

To view other works by Robert Buttrick that have been published in the PMWJ, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/robert-buttrick/