PMI® uses a three-dimensional model for structuring the knowledge required
in order to apply best practice in project management. This model comprises Processes,
Process Groups (PGs), and Knowledge Areas (KAs). This three-dimensional view can
be confusing even to practitioners in the field. Experience shows that this is
definitely the case for life cycles and process groups (this is even the case
with books and training courses aimed specifically at PMI's PMP® certification).
The "Devil's Dictionary of Project Management Terms"
provides a concise view of this confusion, as follows: "Process Groups
Formal assemblages of processes based on characteristics of use to the assemblers
rather than to the users of the concept. Its greatest benefit is as a basis for
identifying people who do not understand project management, as they think that
the process groups equate to project life cycle phases".
Many organizations attempt to base themselves on PMI's PMBOK® Guide
and do it wrongly. Much of the responsibility for this confusion lies with the
way in which the PMBOK® Guide addresses the concept of PGs. For example, Figure 2‑1
in The Standard for Project Management increases this confusion around the role
of PGs (see Figure 1). In this diagram, the PGs (Initiating, Planning, Executing,
Closing as well as Monitoring and Controlling) are presented as a cohesive sequence
spanning the entire project space; whereas that, of course, is exactly the role
of a life cycle.
Figure 1: Despite its appearance, this is not a life cycle
Many books and courses that describe PMI's standards also talk about Process
Groups as if they were life cycle phases. The authors of the PMBOK® Guide
recognize this, and, in a number of places, state explicitly that "process groups
are not phases". However, by defining PGs in this way by what they are not may
be an entertaining surrealist approach to the world (see "Ceci n'est pas une pomme"
by René Magritte in Figure 2) but cannot be relied upon to reduce confusion in
a technical area.
Figure 2: René Magritte's painting "Ceci n'est pas une Pomme"
However, phases and PGs are valuable concepts if used correctly, but this confusion
is damaging to the profession.
3. PM World
Journal. Devil's Dictionary of Project Management Terms. C. Piney, Volume VI,
Issue 4 April 2017 (http://pmworldjournal.net/issue/pm-world-journal-volume-vi-issue-4-april-2017/)
4. The philosophical analysis of why the artist felt the need
to create the painting is beyond me (although he has also written about "the treachery