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The Lifeless Project Life Cycle

"Project Life Cycle" is a misnomer as far as I am concerned, but digging around the origins of that term brings up some interesting ideas. Why is it that "Life Cycle" was chosen? There are plenty of other things which are cyclical which do not bear the first name of "Life". Motorcycles, Bicycles, Kreb cycle, Stirling Cycle, Ring Cycle ... you can keep rolling on from here endlessly.

But Project Life Cycle is different from other cycles. It insists on LIFE. What is LIFE? Stripping out the concept of the individual, after all individual drones are alive in one sense of the word (even cubicle drones ... I think), Life on earth can be stripped down to birth, reproduction and eventually death. Does a project conform to that model?

If projects are actually a life form, what is their means of reproduction? This isn't to say that some projects don't create life. Many do. Every major project I've worked on has had it's own mini baby boom tied to some significant project event, but those are human lives, not the life of the project. Do project create new projects? Or are projects just a cycle of some sort which enable an organization to continue on with its life?

It seems a project may be a closer fit to the process of obtaining sustenance by hunting and gathering and in some case cooking and serving. In consumption they come to an end. Well - I leave out digestion and beyond. Ashes to ashes... Perhaps there is no exact analog in life for them.

The point that it raises is the bigger one, Not what is the correct term for a project cycle (I'm convincing myself that they do not have a LIFE cycle), but what is the way that an ORGANIZATION lives? Does it just experience birth and death or does it reproduce and how does it sustain life? What nourishes an organization? Is "maturity" in a biological sense something that an organization passes through? There has to be some insight in there somewhere.

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  • Comments (3)


    I know some of the "Projects" that I worked on have taken on a "life" of their own. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and tell you I enjoyed it :).

    Have a great one!


    Had a discussion once, where we agreed that life represents victory over entropy (or disorder). That is, the organism continuously repairs itself to the extent it can still function. Death represents when entropy wins and the organism can no longer sustain order out of chaos.

    This definition then can be applied to organizations or the particular organization of a project system.



    May be if you do away with the term "Project Life Cycle" and substitute "Project Management Life Cycle" and "System Development Life Cycle" then I can explain the LIFE of a Project and the LIFe of a System. I think you already know where I am going with this.

    To begin: LIFe is the standard on earth and it applies only to the Individual. There is no such thing as a Collective Life, just as there is no such thing as a Collective Mind or a Collective Stomach. LIFE is NOT the absence of Death. LIFE is LIFE. (Death is merely the absence of Life). Now let's apply that to IT concepts. The SDLC is what produces the "babies". The PMLC is the Delivery team. The SDLC can be repeated as many times as we want as long as Change Management kicks in after the first "baby" is Delivered. Every Change in the original is reflected in the birth of a (maybe) stronger, smarter and faster? child.

    Applying this concept to Human existence -- Reality is the Operating System. Our lives are the Programs running under its control. (Programs have been known to ABEND).

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