Increasing project management involvement in pre-execution phases of projects?


By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



In the last issue of this journal (Stretton 2018a) I discussed detailed causes of project failure from an earlier publication (Stretton 2015a) and related these to an organizational strategic business framework developed in Stretton 2017l. This framework included both project and non-project components, as shown in Figure 1, together with summaries of causes of failure broadly related to this framework.

(Editor’s note: figure may be blurry due to size reduction during posting; please see the full paper for accurate portrayal of Figure 1)

It was found that one half of the fourteen initiation-related causes of failure were primarily attributable to project managers not being significantly involved in Stage 2 and 3 under the strategic portfolio definition heading, nor in the project starting/ definition/ planning phases. This related strongly with the organizational leadership-related causes of failure, half of which were directly attributable to senior organizational management having little, if any, knowledge of project management, or of its potential to help them achieve organizational strategic objectives.

Elsewhere in that article, I intimated an intention to discuss an approach to getting earlier project management involvement in my next article in this journal.

Accordingly, this article is primarily concerned with what can be done to increase the involvement of project managers in pre-execution phases of the project life-cycle, to help vastly reduce causes of project failures in these areas.

We start by looking at processes involved with the origination of projects and the project life-cycle, representing them in the context of being progressive elaborations of project parameters established in the project incubation stage


In Stretton 2017l in this journal. I noted the observation in the PMBOK Guide that there is no single best way to define an ideal project life-cycle, and discussed a representation to include projects with high initial uncertainties, as well as low ones. This followed an iterative approach proposed by Shenhar & Dvir 2007, and is represented by the double arrowed “Iterate as needed” in Figure 1 above.

Another way of looking at the project life-cycle which I have found useful is the progressive elaboration representation.  Progressive elaboration is often referred to in the project management literature as a key element of project management. In Figure 2 I have depicted a succession of progressive elaborations which are approximately related to the project life-cycle phases shown in Figure 1.


To read entire paper, click here

Editor’s note: Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), is a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still tackling some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal.  See his author profile below.

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 180 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.