This Guest paper is an updated version of a paper first published in the PM World Journal, January 2018. This revision was presented for publication December 24, 2017
Part 2 published here March 2018

In this paper:
IPECC = Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, Closing
OGC = Office of Government Commerce (UK)
KAs = Knowledge Areas (in the PMBOK Guide)
PGs = Process Groups (ditto)
PMBOK = Project Management Body of Knowledge (Guide)
PMI = Project Management Institute (USA)

PART 1 | Introduction | Understanding the Confusion
Proposed Changes to the PMBOK® Guide | Option 2: A New Concept for Process Groups
Applying SPAARC to Improve Knowledge Area Definition | Conclusion

Understanding the Confusion

The confusion between process groups and life cycle phases extends into a number of third-party training documents — which I have chosen not to cite in the bibliography! As an example, the terminology sometimes used for a project "being in the execution process group" is meaningless since, at any time, its active processes may be taken from more than just a single PG, and the project is actually "within" many PGs most of the time. The confusion is exacerbated by the use of similar terms for PGs (e.g. "Planning") and the life cycle phases commonly used.

To explain why this multi-use of similar terms is a source of confusion, consider the following illustrative example:

You have a number of potential diseases (say 10, like Knowledge Areas), each with its own set of pills (49 or so, in all, like PMI's processes). There are, as we all know, 7 days in the week, called Monday, Tuesday, etc. (our life cycle).

Now, you find that for organizational reasons, the Para-Medical Institute (PMI) has supplied you with the pills boxed together by similar characteristics, into 7 boxes called Monday, Tuesday, etc. (based on the traditional children's rhyme: for example, "Monday's child is fair of face" for the dermatological pills, "Thursday's child has far to go" for the laxatives, etc.). They have included an instruction sheet that states clearly "the names on the boxes do not correspond to the days on which you should take the pills".

For any given disease, or set of diseases, you will have to take pills from one or more of the boxes (labeled Monday, Tuesday, etc.) on one or more days of the week, depending on the disease and your constitution. The days on which you have to take the pills are unlikely to be the same as the days printed on the boxes.

I, for one, would consider this to be a less than optimal way of ensuring compliance with the prescribed treatment regimen for a specific disease — as you would be tempted to confuse the pill boxes with a set of chronological instructions!

This analysis underlines the need for modifying the approach currently used for defining and explaining process groups.

PART 1  Introduction

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