Copyright to Mounir Ajam © 2012.
Published here November 2012.

Introduction | Setting the Scene | Project Phases and Stages
PMBOK® Guide Process Groups | Process Groups vs. Project Life Span 
Clearing the Doubts | Putting it All Together | Conclusion

PMBOK® Guide Process Groups

In the minds of many students, and PMPs for that matter, the process groups are a dominant part of the PMBOK® Guide. Indeed, Guide specifically states: "Chapter 3 is the standard for project management."[8] So in this section, we will continue to build and discuss the various pieces of our basic project management puzzle. The following are the main points relating to process groups:

  • The term "process group"' is made popular by the PMI® since it is a foundational element in the PMI Project Management Framework, as is described in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
  • "Process groups" refers to a specific group of processes, each consisting of two or more (sub) processes that are used to help us manage a project or a phase of a project.
  • These process groups are called: Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing.
  • They are derived from the well-known quality cycle of plan-do-check-act.
  • Together, these process groups encompass 42 lesser processes.[9]
  • If we are not mistaken, the five process groups have been around since the original PMBOK® Guide was published in 1996.
  • However, the number of processes within these groups has changed over time; the 4th edition has 42 processes; earlier versions had more, or less.
  • It is also possible that some specific processes have shifted from one process group to another in subsequent editions.

Figure 3-1 is from the PMBOK® Guide, shown here as Figure 4,[10] and represents the interaction of the process groups within a project or phase.

Figure 4: The PMBOK Guide process groups interactions
Figure 4: The PMBOK® Guide process groups interactions

How do you use the process groups?

Basically the processes of these groups repeat in every stage of the project. We apply stage initiation, stage planning, stage execution, and stage closing, as well as stage monitoring and controlling throughout each stage. Once we conclude a stage, we move to the next stage and we repeat the applicable processes.

The unfortunate situation is: many practitioners do not understand, or have forgotten, the above ritual. These practitioners think that "we initiate the project, plan the project, execute the project, monitor and control the project, and close the project" and indirectly these process groups become project phases (See Setting the Scene earlier in this paper.

Project Phases and Stages  Project Phases and Stages

8. PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition, 2008, Chapter 1, Introduction, p3
9. 4th edition, published in 2008 by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and all copyrights reserved to PMI.
10. The figure is copyright to PMI.
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