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Managing Complex Projects and Programs: How to Improve Leadership of Complex Initiatives Using a Third-Generation Approach by Richard J. Heaslip

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Chapter 3The Evolution of Project Management: Second-Generation Programmatics

Phase-Gate Approaches

The first and best-accepted approach for striking a balance between the “command-and-control” and “learn-and-adapt” mindsets required for outcome-based projects involved the fragmentation of projects into distinct stages, which could be managed, in effect, as projects within projects. The concept was reasonably straightforward: Define the project work expected to produce the desired outputs and outcomes; break the plan into work periods (“stages” or “phases”) punctuated at their beginning and end by periods of review; manage the work periods according to traditional project management practices; and, at each review period, examine the appropriateness of continuing with the next work period as planned, versus adapting it based on outcome-related learning. This method has been labeled generically as a “phase-gate” approach, in reference to its management of projects in phases and its treatment of each review period as a “gate” through which the project would (or would not) pass.

The phase-gate approach was well accepted by a wide variety of organizations for its value in enabling the management of diverse outcome-focused projects. It enabled project teams to pursue large, complicated, and complex projects somewhat autonomously during their work phases using traditional project management processes, while ensuring that managing organizations could participate actively in the review ...

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