Is planning a phase?

Below is a comment Erik hamburger of Ambidexter Management Inc. made on a discussion board on Linkedin. See here for the original posting.

I did read Bill's rant and will address that later but I'd first like to address the statement Colin made about Prince2 (P2).

Planning is not a phase in Prince2. It was not so in the 2005 edition and neither is it in the 2009-refreshed edition. In Prince2 phases (called stages) are what they are supposed to be, a management instrument! Prince2 also clearly makes a distinction between management stages and so called technical stages. Technical stages can be used to group work by the set of techniques it uses, e.g. design, build and implement. Technical stages can overlap, management do not. Each Prince2 project always has at least two stages: The initiation stage is mandatory, and there should also be at least one more stage to cover the rest of the project.

Prince2 has a process based approach, The Prince2 process model contains the following processes: Starting-up a Project; Directing a Project; Initiating a Project; Managing Stage Boundary; Controlling a stage; Managing Product Delivery and Closing a Project. Planning is done throughout the process model. Note that these are processes and not phases! "Plans" is one of the seven principles that are also part of Prince2

Now let us turn to Bill's statement and some of the subsequent comments posted: "Planning is not a phase". I fully agree. Nevertheless, let us ask a few questions about planning as well. In my career as a project manager, I have learnt to ask a very simple question at the onset of project. How will the world have changed after this project? In other words, I do not want to know (at first!) what we are going to do but what the intended output of the project will be. I now also ask by the way (as opposed to when I started in project management many moons ago) why the output/outcome is needed at all. To make a long story short, what is the output of planning? A plan! That plan, in the context of project management, can be a project plan, a phase plan, a .... plan!

Plans are created and updated throughout the project life cycle! Moreover, sometimes they even are executed ;-)

Phases/Stages are primarily a management instrument. They create moments in time to check progress, they give project managers the ability not having to do a detailed complete project plan and schedule at the start of a project, it gives senior management a moment in time to check the current validity of the project.

I therefor do not agree with Bill's final outburst and conclusion in his blog. I have never initiated a phase/stage. I do plan them. I do start-up and initiate projects. Part of starting up is planning the initiating phase/stage and part of the initiating is the planning of the project and the next management phase/stage. Simple. And throughout the project I may or may not use technical phases called design, develop, build, deploy or others.