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3.0       Executing


Coordinating people and other resources to carry out the plan.


The execution phase is the primary process for carrying out the Project Plan; the vast majority of the project budget will be expended in performing this phase.  In this phase the project management team uses the Integrated Project Plan to coordinate and direct the various technical and organizational aspects of the project. It is this phase that is most directly affected by Product Oriented Processes in that the product of the project is actually created here.

Product Oriented Processes are concerned with specifying and creating the project product.  In the IT industry they are referred to as the Development Lifecycle Processes (see Executing section, PMO Templates).  The lifecycle processes define the work activity to build the product or service.  It is important to note that the processes, objectives, lessons defined here describe the executing work activities of the project manager, and or project’s administrative personnel (procurement coordinator, communications analyst, scheduler, QA analyst) in coordinating the people and other resources to carry out the plan.  They are not the processes, objectives, lessons of the product lifecycle processes.

It is in this phase that the project manager actually coordinates the staged work activities previously defined in the planning process.  The planning process tailored and incorporated the appropriate lifecycle model (based on type of product) into the integrated project plan’s work breakdown structure.   

The project management team, to ensure the carrying out of the project plan, uses execution processes.  These processes include plan execution and work activities to evaluate project performance, develop team skills, provide adequate project communications, and if necessary solicit, select, and manage contracts.   The key general management skills needed for successful project execution are - leading, communicating, negotiating, problem solving, and influencing.


·         To ensure that the project’s products are created as agreed.

·         To use the integrated project plan to coordinate the work activities and planned agreements represented therein.

·         To provide confidence to the key stakeholders that the project’s product and process meet the various agreed quality standards.

·         To improve project performance by enhancing the ability of stakeholders to contribute as individuals and enhancing the ability of the group of individuals to function as a team.

·         To provide needed information to project stakeholders in a timely manner – including responding to unexpected requests for information.

·         To obtain vendor solicitations, manage the source selection, and administer the contract and relationship with the vendor.

Executing Lessons

Common lessons learned from skipping or poorly performing the executing phase are:

  • Agreements and commitments in the integrated plan are not held or not followed through causing frustration, accusations, distrust, varying results, poor quality, work slippage, and sporadic work activity.
  • Quality in process or product is not taken seriously by all or is sacrificed for any number of reasons, i.e. removing test work to stay on schedule.
  • Team Moral is low – distrust of team members and managers’ skills, finger pointing and blaming, predominately negative and sarcastic.  Decisions being made based on whose side is taken, versus facts, logic, and collaboration.
  • Work performance is low or insufficient due to lack of needed skills on the project.
  • Stakeholders lose interest or stakeholders unknowingly sabotage the project due to lack of information. 
  • Vendor deliverables are late or don’t meet contract expectations.  The project or vendors are not performing their roles/tasks as agreed in the contract.
  • The project is unsure what vendor services it paid for and which it has not.  The project and the vendor are knowingly or unknowingly - not adhering to the contract.

Input to Executing

1.    Integrated Project Plan.  The integrated project plan is described in section 2.0 Planning.  The integrated project plan may reference subsidiary plans (requirements management, change management, risk management, procurement management, etc) and the performance measurement baselines are key inputs to project plan execution.

2.    Supporting Detail.

  • Outputs from other planning processes that are not included or referenced in the integrated project plan.
  • Additional information or documentation generated during development of the project plan (e.g. constraints and assumptions that were not previously known).
  • Technical documentation; such as, a history of all research, assessments, requirements, designs.
  • Documentation of relevant standards

3.    Organizational Policies.  Any and all of the organizations involved in the project may have formal and informal policies that may affect project plan execution. 

4.    Preventive action.  Preventive action is anything that reduces the probability of potential consequences of project risk events.

5.    Corrective Action.  Corrective action is anything done to bring expected future project performance in line with the project plan.  Corrective action is an output of the various control processes- as an input here it completes the feedback loop.


Executing -Process Activities

The process is a course of proven actions used to guide the organization through project plan execution.  Performing these activities has been proven to reduce the amount of risk and rework in the project. 

Remember  - The executing process overlaps with other processes

Typically during the initial stage of execution the amount of work activity and staff is low.  Generally the project is working from a preliminary plan to execute some initial work activities such as research, assessment, requirements, etc., to obtain more information about the project and to complete additional planning.    Remember the execution process overlaps the other processes (primarily planning and control) as depicted below.  Many times it is necessary to do some of the execution work, (i.e. research, assessment, requirements, analysis) before a more definitive plan can be put in place for work execution.   As a more definitive plan is completed the momentum and amount of resources and work activities increase.

This approach of working from a preliminary plan to do the initial and less risky work execution tasks is highly recommended when working with staff and customers who have low tolerance levels in seeing work begin on the product. 

Text Box: Level of Activity

Executing Process Activities Diagram

The project management process activities are diagramed then followed by brief description of each activity.  The diagram is numbered to correspond to the “Project Management – Overview Reference” located in the Introduction of this process guide.  The overview represents execution as a single project management step (#16) because most of the project management execution work is not serial.  However, for reading purposes we have broken this single step into a number of sub steps.

A description of the project management sub steps follows the diagram.  A sub step title is indicated in bold in the left-hand column. 

The actual work activity to be executed by the technical team is defined in the integrated project plan’s work breakdown structure (WBS).  The standard development lifecycle models for WBS’s can be found in the executing templates section of this guide.



16.  Execute Project Plan Activities

This process step has several sub steps that are worked together to continuously manage and coordinate the work activities, resources, information needs, contracts, quality, and team development.  Keep in mind that the project execution process does overlap project planning and control processes – meaning that during the period of time on the project that the plan is being executed, the project management team is also performing more or reiterative project planning and control activities.  So at the same time that the products of the project are being built and implemented – many project management process activities are occurring to ensure the project’s success.

16.1 Administer the plan, resources and work activities

The project manager must ensure that the project achieves the agreed results, outcomes and deliverables as defined in the project’s integrated project plan.  To administer the plan, resources and work activities the project manager must lead, communicate, negotiate, problem solve and influence everyday.

Working from the project plan the project manager keeps the work moving forward by focusing the team on the near term work assignments and expectations.  Some project managers have Monday morning meetings, others meet daily to ensure that everyone knows the current work assignments, to resolve minor issues, to ensure coordinated work efforts, and determine how to clear the way of current obstacles.

In addition the project manager may have one-on-one meetings with various project team members or other stakeholders to confirm assignments, resolve problems, negotiate solutions.

The primary goal is to facilitate the project’s processes as defined in the Integrated Project Plan.  Often it is easy for the project to stray from the plan based on the issue of the day, unsettling news, procrastination, relationship conflicts, pointless dialogues, or preference to get to a specific piece of work.  The project manager must effectively build and nurture team values to stay on schedule.  The team must understand the importance of staying on and managing to the schedule because of its importance to the customer and the organization.  However, this is not an excuse for the project manager to micro-manage or use other types of harassing tactics to stay on schedule.  Following written processes and using soft skills to influence outcomes has proven to get better results.  Authority tactics should be used with caution and in extreme cases, not as an everyday occurrence.

To be developed - See Planning and Conducting Meetings in the Tools and Techniques Section.


Develop the Project Team/Project Performance

Team development includes both enhancing the ability of the stakeholders to contribute as individuals as well as enhancing the ability of the team to function as a team.  Individual development (managerial and technical) is the foundation necessary to develop the team.  Development as a team is critical to the project’s ability to meet it objectives.  Team development comes throughout the life of a project.  Tools and Techniques that can assist include formal and informal team building activities, team training, reward and recognition, and collocating teams. 

However, before applying any team building techniques it is critical to understand “what “ stage of development the team is at to determine “what” team development is needed to increase the team performance.  Applying team development tools without a purpose or goal and without understanding of team development stages is often counter-productive and frustrating for the whole team.

To be developed - See (Team Development Stages and Guidelines) in the Tools and Techniques Section.

Team performance improvements can come from many sources and can affect many areas of project performance; for example:

·         Improvements in an individual’s skills (gained through training or mentoring) may allow a specific person to perform assigned activities more effectively.

·         Improvements in team behaviors (e.g. surfacing and dealing with conflict) may allow project team members to devote a greater percentage of their efforts to technical activities.

·         Improvements in either individual or team competencies may facilitate identifying and developing better ways of doing project work.


Evaluate and Ensure Project Performance

(QA Status and Improvement Report)

The quality assurance activities to be performed on a project are identified and agreed to during Quality Planning.  These planned activities are conducted during project execution to provide confidence to the project management team, organizational management, customer and others that the project is satisfying the planned process and product quality standards. 

A person or group outside of the project typically performs quality assurance activities.  Formally this may be a contracted QA specialist, or an internal QA specialist.  Informally this may be another project manager or technical expert who is outside the project and that have been asked to perform some quality assurance activities. 

The Quality Assurance role should provide overall quality consultation, periodically examine Quality Control Reviews results, checklists, change requests and tracking and summarize the results for executive review and oversight throughout the life of the project.  This summary, whether produced by a Quality Assurance Reviewer internal or external to the organization, must be created using the “QA Status Improvement Report”.

The summary report includes information such as overall project risk rank, definition of high risks uncovered, and recommendations for resolution and/or quality improvements.

Quality improvement includes taking action to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the project to provide added benefits to the project stakeholders – in most cases implementing quality improvements should be carried out through change control.


Keep the Stakeholders Informed

Some experts have rated communications to be, as high as, 70-90% of the project managers job during project execution.    The project manager, throughout the day, is making needed information available to project stakeholders in a timely manner.  This takes a considerable amount of the project’s time and skill sets because stakeholders may include end users, business partners, customers, regulatory groups, suppliers, technology support, policy developers, technical developers, producers, testers, maintainers, and external parties. 

Inexperienced project managers often make the mistake of shying away from the communications role, and focus on the technical skill of project management or the product.

During project execution the project manager formally manages the communication plan, which indicates who the stakeholders are, what type of information is needed for the project, in what formats, at what frequency, and who is responsible for delivering the communications.

Ideally the communication plan identifies the need for both informal and formal communication.  Unfortunately the normal situation is a communication plan that focuses on formal communications for customer stakeholders only.  In this case, the informal communications are dealt with daily on a case-by-case basis – responding and reacting to unexpected requests for information.  This often eats up a great deal of the project manager’s time, as well as, many other project staff. Lack of an informal communication plan leads to complaints about the project not communicating internally with the various impacted groups.

The typical written communications that occur during project execution and are distributed to differing stakeholders are:

Project records, deliverable documents, internal and external correspondence and memos, email, procurement documents and records, accounting records, personnel records, roles and responsibilities, time tracking records, change and issues decisions records, presentations, publications, status reports.  This information should, to the extent possible and appropriate, be maintained in an organized fashion. 

The typical verbal communication that occur during project execution are:

Work direction, negotiation, clarifications, conflict resolution, encouragement, answering questions, advice, opinion, decisions, progress or status, and relaying communication from others.  The successes of these types of communications are highly dependent on the project manager’s personal verbal and behavioral communication skills.  Often these types of soft skills are more critical than the technical skills of project management, yet they are often over looked in project management training, and the project manager does not take the time to improve these skill sets.

Bottom-line is, the project’s written and verbal communications internally and externally with all stakeholders often makes the critical difference between a successful and non-successful project.


Select Vendors and Administer Contracts

A common mistake made on projects is the idea that solicitation and vendor selection is part of project planning or worse yet done before a project is initiated.  Part of the confusion lies in the fact that project planning is intended to overlap the early project execution work activities, therefore it seems unclear whether solicitation and selection are planning or executing activities. 

During project execution the project obtains solicitations from prospective sellers, i.e. quotations, bids, offers, or proposals, as appropriate.  The project evaluates the proposals based on the defined evaluation criteria given in the Request for Proposal (RFP).  The result of the evaluation process is the selection of a seller.  Then the project will work with the contracts unit to negotiate and sign a contract.  Once a contract is in place the project begins the execution of contract administration. 

Contract administration focuses on managing the relationship with the seller.  Contract administration is the work activities that ensure the seller’s performance meets contractual requirements.   On larger projects with multiple products and service providers, a key aspect of contract administration is managing the interfaces among the various providers.  The legal nature of the contractual relationship makes it imperative that the project team be acutely aware of the legal implications of actions taken when administering the contract. 

Projects with a single simple contract may not need a formal Contract and Procurement Plan. The Contract and Procurement Management Plan defines the procurement processes, responsibilities, and how contracts are to be administered for project execution.

Projects with contracts must make sure that they are formally documenting and filing the outcomes of all the contract and procurement process activities.  Many organizations require the use of the standard directory structure for filing electronic records and recommends a similar format for hardcopy record. 

Output from Executing

1.    Work Results – Work results are the outcomes of the activities performed to accomplish the project.  Information on work results – which deliverables have been completed and which have not, to what extent quality standards are being met, what costs have been incurred or committed, etc. – is collected as part of project plan execution and fed into the performance reporting process.  It should be noted that although outcomes are frequently tangible deliverables such as buildings, roads, etc., they are also often intangibles such as people trained that can effectively apply that training.

2.    Change Requests – Change requests (e.g. to expand or contract project scope, to modify cost (budgets), or schedule estimates (dates, etc.) are often identified while the work of the project is being done.

Tools and Techniques

1.    General Management Skills – such as leadership, communicating, and negotiating are essential to effect project plan execution. 

2.    Product Skills and Knowledge.  The project team must have access to an appropriate set of skills and knowledge about the project’s product.  The necessary skills are defined as part of planning - see either the Integrated Project Plan Template or the Training Plan Template,.

3.    Work authorization system.  A formal procedure for sanctioning project work to ensure that work is done at the right time and in the proper sequence.  The primary mechanism is typically a written authorization to begin work on a specific activity or work package.  The design of a work authorization system should balance the value of the control provided with the cost of that control. For example, on many smaller projects, verbal authorizations will be adequate.

4.    Status Review Meetings.  Status review meetings are regularly scheduled meetings held to exchange information about the project.  On most projects, status review meetings will be held at various frequencies and on different levels (e.g. the project management team may meet weekly by itself and monthly with the customer or other stakeholders).

5.    Project Management Information System (PMIS).  A PMIS is used to gather, integrate, and disseminate the outputs of the project management processes.  It is used to support all aspects of the project from initiating through closing, and can include both manual and automated systems. 

6.    Organization Procedures.  Any and all of the organizations involved in the project may have formal and informal procedures that are useful and/or required during project execution.


























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