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Project Cycle Essay

In this essay, I will outline the TRADITIONAL PROJRCT CYCLE, Macarthur’s PROJECT SEQUENCE MODEL and the PARTICIPATORY PROJECT MANAGEMENT CYCLE by giving their main features and general principles. There after I will discuss which one of them is the best suited to ensure learning takes place and those projects planning are improved. First we need to understand what project cycle is. The planning and managing of the project indicate the cyclic process of the project (Conyers and Hills 1985: 73-61) which opposes Katz’s (1975) ideology of a spiral process. Here in the project cycle, the planning consists of a number of linking phases which exist depending on one another.

The project cycle has different phases during its cycle process, namely being phase1: Decision to engage in planning and the creation of an organization framework. Phase2: The identification of planning objectives and targets. Phase3: Data collection and processing. Phase4: Identifying alternatives courses of action. Phase5: Appraisal plans and projects Phase6: Implementation and lastly Phase7: Monitoring and evaluation.

Though the initial decision to engage in
Planning and creation of an organizational framework is stated as phase 1, according to Conyers and Hills, phase 1 is placed at the outer edge of the cycle planning process because this decision is only made once in each country and does not form part of a regular cycle. This step is there to ensure the availability of the necessary human and financial resources to carry out the planning and implementation effectively.

The identification of planning objectives and targets which is phase2. This phase is often regarded as political therefore the decision is taken by government leaders. It is stated by (Conyers and Hills: 1984) that during this phase, general rules are laid down to show the course of the country’s development and the set of principles or ideas used as a basis for one’s decisions within which development planners can formulate more specific objectives. These general rules are usually sketched in a broad description and indicate medium-term and long-term priorities. Another phase included in the traditional project cycle is Phase3: Data collection and processing. This phase is regarded as the important phase in the development planning of any country. The availability of information is absolutely essential for determining the nature and scope of development problems and resulting in designing alternative course of action to relieve or solving problems. Stated by (Conyers and Hills: 1984)

The following phase is Phase4: Identifying alternative courses of action. Here is where time is given to identify and specifying alternative courses of action which may be adopted to solve development problems and achieve objectives. These identified courses of action may take form of either a written planning document or a series of projects. Said by (Conyers and Hills: 1984) Phase5: Appraising plans and projects is the phase during which stated by Conyers and Hills that different proposed alternatives are weighted one another and appraised or assessed the value or quality of their nature. The advantages and disadvantages of alternative courses of action are decided firmly and submitted to those who will ultimately choose between the alternatives.

Implementation is Phase 6, though the implementation of plans and projects is part of the project cycle, it is not considered to be part of the planning process mainly because the professional planners are not directly involved the implementation of plans, stated by (Conyers and Hills: 1984). This part is left to the technicians and administrative staff. This does not mean that the planners are free to ignore the implementation process. The implementation phase can not proceed without the other phase of planning or the other cycle and during this period it is actually the development planner’s job to consider how the plans is to be operationalised. The last phase of the traditional project cycle stated by (Conyers and Hills: 1984) is Phase7: Monitoring and evaluation. What is monitored ad evaluated here is the implementation of the planning. The monitoring and evaluation are undertaken on a continuous basis and not only once, making it part of the implementation process. This phase is intended to establish what takes place during the implementation phase, to determine to what extent objective has been realized, and lastly to formulate the lessons learnt from the experience of the implementation and to solve problems as they arise. This step is said to be the last step of the process, but the actual fact is that the process starts all over again.

There is another form of project planning called the Macarthur’ project sequence. This project is a somewhat an opposite of the traditional project cycle. The difference between the project plans will be visible during my description of Macarthur’ project sequence. The Macarthur’ project sequence demonstrates how much more it is complex to plan a project than Conyers and Hills portray it to be. Even though that’s the case, their cycle is said it does give good idea of the main phases or stages of project planning (Macarthur 1994a: 137)

Here in Macarthur’s project sequence diagram, he demonstrates how his model is an improvement and more realistic reflection of reality than the simplified academic model. The Macarthur’s project sequence model has three phases which also within it consists of stages or events in the life of the project (Macarthur 1994a: 137)

The first phase is the Pre-Investment, where the project is still a set of ideas and proposals. The second phase is the investment Phase, here is where the financial commitment has been made and the fixed productive assets are obtained (Macarthur 1994a:137). He proceed by saying the third phase is the Operation Phase, where the created investments are used to generate the output whose availability in the economy is the main justification of the project (Macarthur 1994a:137) Macarthur does not allow to be the fourth phase in the diagram (even though he admits it would make sense to do so) consisting of box 18-21, but he thinks this will make the diagram too complex. He also did not include the eight possible sources of project ideas (which are listed above box 1) as part of the project sequence because he feels that they form part of outside project activities such as broader policy formulation and the government activities and planning (Macarthur 1994a:137)

(Macarthur 1994a:137) also stated that his diagram differs from the Conyers and Hills cycle because it has ‘’exit’’ routes where are alluded as ‘’abandonment’’. This allows a project to continue from one step to the next when it fails. He also says that this allows projects to enter at places other that the identification stage. Allowance of more entrances enables projects to be pat of

larger programs rather than being just a mere stand-alone project. It allows the proposals to be ‘’sent back’’ for reconsideration or refinement of the first phase which is the Pre-Investment Phase didn’t go well.

Macarthur lastly explains the last Phase 3 which is the Operations Phase. He states that this is where the improvements on the other project cycle diagram are presented since they make no mansion of this phase in their diagram. Box16 of Macarthur’s diagram (which is the transmission to normal administration) reflects the importance of this phase. He says this part indicates the point at which a new project stops to have a special identity as a unique or different set of activities and becomes part of the responsibility of a section in the organization that is responsible for the operation of productive facilities (Macarthur 1994a: 137)

In Macarthur (1994a:137) sequence diagram, evaluation immediately takes place after implementation of the project in order to reflect on the experiences during implementation and to take note of any lessons learnt in order to feed these back into similar project that may be undertaken later (Box 18)

The aim of the evaluation that takes place after years of the operation has been done is to make more proper assessment of the rates of return received on the money initially invested in the project (Macarthur 1994a: 147-148)

Both Macarthur (1994) sequence planning and Conyers and Hills cyclic planning show a blueprint approach are inflexible and difficult to change. The projects are systematically and carefully planned in advance and implemented strictly according to the formulated plan. Their design is to the provision of a large physical infrastructure like industrial projects. The infrastructure that regard is easy to obtain in which to the base the project.

The Macarthur (1994a: 137) sequence and Conyers and Hills cycle project plans got criticized by Rondinelli (1983) in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. Rondinelli (1983: viii) says that the problems that come with a strict blueprint approach can be minimized by using “Adaptive approach that relies on adjustive and strategic planning, on administrative procedures that facilitate innovation, responsiveness and experimentation on decision making processes that join learning with action”.

An adaptive approach is also known as the learning process planning mode. It provides for successive stages of EXPERIMENTATION, PILOT, and DEMONTRATION AND REPLICATION OR PRODUCTION. The important statement in this approach is that there is little certainty about which technique will work in the long term for a particular country (Rondinelli 1983: viii).

Selected techniques are applied and exposed to regular field tests, after which activities are designed in accordance with what was learnt in the field. The outcome is that project planning is made more flexible by modifying and adapting project as more knowledge is obtained about environment. One of the statements about learning process approach is that there should be continual communication between project planners, implementers and the inhabitants of the area affected by the project (Korten 1980: 480-511), (Sweets and Weisel 1979: 127-130).

Long (2001: 64-79) also supported this by explaining why participation is so important on development effort. He stated that poor people know their economic and social problems best and have insights and ideas about what could be done to solve them. Lane (2005) also supported Rondinelli (1983) criticism by making a critique of his own of various planning Models among which is the blueprint approach like those discussed previously. Lane (2005) stated that there are more flexible approaches like SYNOPTIC APPROACH which he feels allows for what he calls “tokenistic” participation. He also mentioned other flexible planning approaches such as “mixed planning”, “incrementalism” as well as approaches like “transitive” planning and communication theories.

Lane (2007: 296) argues that “whereas participation was previously viewed as a decision making adjust, all schools of contemporary era view participation as a basic and important element of planning and decision making.

Even though the traditional project cycle of Conyers and Hills was criticized by other models. It has an advantage of providing for a number of phases designed in such a way as to link the formulation of basic policy guidelines to specific projects and programs; this ensures that the lessons learnt from the implementation of each phase will be in corporate into the next cycle. Because in this cyclic project planning the process usually starts all over again after the last phase which is phase 7, it gives the planners an opportunity to learn from the lessons of the past. The Macarthur (1994a: 137) project planning sequence has its advantage of having the allowance of “exit” route, which is referred to as “Abandonment”. When a project fails to continue from one stage to the next. Another advantage of Macarthur’s sequence is that it allows for “projects to enter at places other than the identification stage (1994a: 138). He also adds that by allowing for more entrance, enables Macarthur to make provision of other projects that may be part of a larger programs, rather than mere stand alone projects. Thirdly project proposals can be “sent back” for reconsideration or refinement.

The participatory project management cycle’s adoptive approach has its own advantage of consisting of continuous cycle of action, reflection and adaptation, which Den Heyer (2002: 525) refers as “learning loops”.

Even though all three of the project planning models has advantages, there are some disadvantages that come with them that make them to be not applicable for use in some project planning. The disadvantage of traditional cyclic model as pointed by Macarthur (1994a: 135) is that Conyers and Hills traditional cyclic model omits certain key moments in the life of a project, which means that we do not really get an adequate description of all the actual phases or stages through which large projects in particular, move.

Macarthur’s (1994) project sequence also has its disadvantage. It is criticized by Rondinelli (1983: viii) and Lane (2005) that the sequence is a blueprint approach, and blueprint approaches are too strict and inflexible. Which they feel blueprint approaches don’t allow for participation. Long  (2001: 74) also agrees with this critique that blueprint approaches do not allow participation and flexibility needed to carry out the project. As much as participation approach has a lot to criticize on other approaches, it also has its disadvantage, which is by the point of view of (Lane 2007: 296) is that participation is a remedy for the inadequacies or weakness of the more rigid blueprint approaches. In my opinion, I think the participatory approach is the best approach that ensures that learning during implementation takes place because it is flexible and includes the techniques use in both the cyclic and the sequential approaches. It does not only accommodate infrastructural projects but also the people centered projects that will benefit the people. Just like the Tanzania Participatory Poverty Assessment project. Where PPA was designed to complete a natural Human Resource Development (HRD) survey on 1993 by focusing on gathering information on poverty as defined by local people in their own terms (Moriiti and Crawford 2009: 296).

Biggs & Smith; Hart, Burgess, Beukes & Hart; Lane.2009. Only study guide for DVA2602.Pretoria: University of South Africa
PROJECTS AND PROGRAMMES AS INSTITUTIONS OF DEVELOPMENT: a reader, 2009: contributed by Muriithi and Crawford. Pretoria: University of South Africa.

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