‘Mike. We’ve delivered our project, but now my client/sponsor wants a second project phase. How can I integrate this into my project?’
That’s a question a project manager asked me, that triggered this short thought-video, on whether to end or extend your project.
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My answer to this is simple. In most cases, you would be wisest to treat the Phase 2 work as a new project, rather than an extension of the first. The reasons are simple. As always, three strong reasons will always outweigh twenty weak ones, so let’s look at the best:
Adding another phase onto a nearly-finished project is like wiring a new house into the mains system of an existing one. The wiring will be far simpler and safer if you take a fresh feed and create a separate set of circuits for your new home.
People are energized by finishing things and celebrating. Towards the end of a project, learning that it is no longer ‘nearly over’ can be demoralizing. Finishing Phase 1 and then starting a new Phase 2 project will create more energy and will allow you to re-select a team for your Project Phase 2.
When you merge Phase 2 into Phase 1, all your cost over-runs or underspends, and all your schedule slippage or gain, will get carried forward into Phase 2. This will make it hard to track what happened and why, and your accountability for Phase 1 will be diluted. Additionally, there will be more opportunities to miss or even hide problems. And lessons may not get learned.
Don’t get me wrong: phased projects have a proper place in project management. When you start to define and plan a big project, this is the time to determine its phases. When you do this, you can also define the governance process that will track delivery, schedule, and expenditure, at the end of each phase. That way you can:
So, a second project phase or not? I’d say you are usually better to say ‘no’, and craft a follow-up project. (And that’s the same as Holywood preferring sequels to 5-hour movies!)
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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