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Are There Two Types of Project Initiation?

Author: Darrell Stiffler 23 April 2009 1,062 views 2 Comments

The Project Management Life Cycle and the Nine Knowledge Areas are the foundation for the PMI approach to project management. The Project Management Life Cycle consists of Initiation, Planning, Execution, Controlling / Monitoring, and Closure (IPECC). If you were to attend a project management class, you would probably be told that the IPECC is used in both the Project Life Cycle and Product Life Cycle at each phase.  You were then told that the purpose of the Initiation stage is to produce the Project Charter. Wait a minute… if the Initiation step is used in every phase, how many Charters are there?

When teaching a Project Management (PM) course, I make an effort to clarify this by telling students there are two types of Initiation. One I refer to as “Initiation – Primus,” the other is Initiation – Subsequent. I always make sure to announce to the class that these two terms are of my own creation, and they won’t find the terms in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge—Fifth Edition (PMBOK® Guide), or probably in any other material.

“Initiation – Primus,” as I refer to it, is the first step of Initiation. I call it the “Sticky Note,” “Napkin thought,” or the “Epiphany” stage. This is when someone comes up with an idea for a new product or service. It begins as a flash of thought and is quickly written down on the first thing available.  Once written down, the creator begins fleshing out the product or service. Once there is a high-level description of the product or service, it’s generally presented to a supervisor for initial consideration.

If the supervisor thinks the idea is worth pursing, a Business Case is developed. Once that happens, the proposed project is evaluated along with other proposed projects. If the project is considered worth further investigation, the next step is the construction of the Project Charter. The Charter is official recognition that the organization will provide initial financing and resources. The Charter is constructed only once in a project, at the end of the Initiation stage. The next step of the IPECC is Planning.

“Initiation – Subsequent” includes the same set of general activities. As a new phase is entered into, the Project Manager and team must establish a high-level description of what must be performed to create that phase’s deliverables. In fact, ‘Initiation – Subsequent” can be used as a “go / no go” point in a project, and the team will construct or expand upon the existing Work Breakdown Structure and Activity Definitions along with the associated tasks.

Just a thought to help cut down on the confusion.

From Darrell Stiffler

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  • Hamodi said:

    As an IT, I think we have weakness in the project Initiation!

    I think its not only the project Initiation that will appear at each phase during product management but almost all proceses.

    Can you give us example of project Initiation for the Primus and Subsequent?


  • Brigitte Jackson said:

    Great article and I totally agree. I think most folks do not realize that there is a prior step before Initiation, which I called Request Process and this article addresses. Also, some people do not realize that the project lifecycle is different than the PMBOK process steps.

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