This Guest paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to M. Abdomerovic © 2009.

Abstract | Introduction | A Methodical Approach 
Process Iterated Loop | Other Perspectives (Editor's Note) | PART 2

Process Iterated Loop

The PMBOK® Guide - Fourth Edition, 2008, often gives appropriate meaning to the project management plan such as: "developed through a series of integrated processes until project closure" and "progressively elaborated"[28] or similar wording. But before we start an analysis of the Fourth Edition, it is necessary to make the above statements clear.

For example, if we want to move car we must first start the engine, put it in gear and step on the gas. Then the car will move. During the process of travel, we impose different driving commands and control actions to stay on track. Each such series of actions relate to a discrete path and each new direction will pass through similar procedures until we reach our destination. If we start our journey with a definite project plan, we will know when we should reach a certain milestone, e.g. one quarter of the journey. However, if we did not reach the milestone defined in the baseline plan, then we must update to a current plan for the next measurements of performance of our travel.

So it is important to understand that:

We always have a current plan which directs us from the currently achieved point to the next destination point and a baseline plan to enable the comparison with the current plan and with the original plan. The current plan can have many versions and is always an updated picture of its earlier version. For example, the third version of the current plan is an updated picture of the second current plan, not an update of the first edition of the current plan. The current plan should contain the data from baseline plan plus all the pending changes to the baseline plan.


An update of the baseline plan must not have the same number of versions as the current plan, but if it is updated then it must relate to last version of the current plan. The baseline plan should contain data from original plan plus all approved changes to the original plan.


The original plan contains data from the time when the project contract was signed.

Thus, the current plan and baseline plan, as well as changes to the plan are progressively elaborated. Such specific order of actions must be applied to each individual activity of project.

For the project, or anything in between, down to a discrete piece of project scope defined with one activity, the project management plan is first developed and then updated as the project progresses. The result of an update for a discrete scope of work is used to build an integrated picture of the project plan. We can summarize and organize results from those discrete pieces to get results for any other project structure, i.e. work breakdown structure, organizational breakdown structure, and/or contract breakdown structure. Figure 2 shows how the project management plan has been developed and then updated within the process-iterated loop.

Figure 2: Iterated Process Loop, Project Management Plan - Development and Update
Figure 2: Iterated Process Loop, Project Management Plan - Development and Update

As we said earlier:

  • Before we start the process, a project management plan must be compiled, approved, saved and copied as an Original plan, Baseline plan and Current plan. This approved project management plan can be identified in the PMBOK® Guide Fourth Edition as Project Management Plan.[29]
  • After work has started, the project management plan enters into the process-iterated loop. Within the loop the Current Plan and Baseline Plan will change, while the Original Plan stays the same throughout to project completion. Differences between the Baseline Plan and the Original Plan show the value of approved change orders, while differences between Current Plan and Baseline Plan show the value of pending change orders, or some other differences that are not in conflict with the contract. All other differences and indexes serve to measure project progress, status and forecasts.

From Figure 2, we can see the relation between the Project Management Plan and project work. As project work progress then the Project Management Plan is changed accordingly. Therefore, when the project plan once migrates into the iterated process loop, then we must deal with quite a different set of data than those we found in the originally approved Project Management Plan.

For example, let us consider how the Project Management Plan develops for the knowledge area "Project Communication Management". Immediately after the output Project Management Plan has been completed it can be related with inputs Project Management Plan and Project Management Plan.[30] However, the relation of the output Project Management Plan with input Project Management Plan has no impact because this input also receives information compiled in output Project Management Plan Updates.[31] That means, as soon as we get an updated output of the Project Management Plan, it is used as an input into succeeding processes.

Besides the application of the basic rules and the process-iterated loop, we must also verify the resulting relationships by examining the context of each component:

  • When should an input or output appear?[32]
  • How best to express process inputs and outputs to facilitate control of their relationships and develop the output sequence?[33]

By applying the above tools as well as the results from our previous studies, we have examined relationships for each input and output of the PMBOK® Guide Fourth Edition. We will present these Results in Part 2 of this paper.

A Methodical Approach  A Methodical Approach

28. PMBOK® Guide - Fourth Edition, 2008, p78
29. Ibid, p81
30. Ibid, pp259 & 267
31. Ibid, p265
32. Abdomerovic, Muhamed, The PMBOK® Guide Third Edition: An analysis, ©2005 Project Management Publications, Louisville, USA. p3 (
33. Abdomerovic, Muhamed, Brainstorming The PMBOK® Guide, ©2004 Project Management Publications, Louisville, USA, pp1-108 & 277-288 (
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