Project Management Process Groups

Project Management Process Groups can be understood using following diagram

Project Management Process Groups

Project Management Process Groups as defined in PMBOK

Project Management Process Groups

Initiating Process Group

Processes that are used to initiate a project are grouped in Initiation Group. In initiation, we conceptualize what exactly we need at the end of the project and identify stakeholders who can influence the project outcome.

This Project Management Process Group contains only two processes out of forty seven processes. This is a tiny process group but very important as initiation set the direction of the project. Therefore skipping it or fast tracking this stage could be dangerous. Every moment spend at this stage it precious. A small degree of deviation at initiation may takes you miles away from your goal at the end. Until you are very clear about reasons (business case) & objectives of your project and have sketched a high level approach to project planning, you should not move into planning stage.

Planning Process Group

From all Project Management Process Groups, Planning Process Group contains maximum number of processes. Out of 47 processes, planning alone has 24 processes that is 51%. Rest other 4 process groups share remaining 49%. If we consider project management a company, planning has the controlling stake. Therefore everything runs around planning in a project. It can easily be understood that projects which do not focus on project planning remain away from achieving their objectives. Various surveys have repeatedly showed that majority of the projects never achieve their objectives. They were challenged on time, cost & quality and failed to deliver benefits and values expected from them. Success and failure ratio may vary a bit in different surveys but one thing on which all survey unanimous agree that primary reason of failure was poor planning.

What is a plan? Fundamentally it is a list of time bound tasks if executed can turn concept (that we created in initiation) into reality (the product, outcome or service of the project). Planning is not just list of technical work we need to do in a project. It should contain each and every work to be done in project in order to make it a success. It contains, all stakeholders and how they can influence the project, a detailed scope of the work, a time bound meticulous schedule, cost estimate and expenditure schedule, quality improvement activities, resource utilization plan, a strong communication strategy to engage stakeholders and team, bill of material, procurement strategy, list of risks that can jeopardize project objectives and a response plan. A meticulous and comprehensive plan is like half way through.

Execution Processes Group

Out of 47 processes, This Project Management Process Group has just 8 processes (only 17%) while this is one of the longest stage and most of the money is spent here. You may observe, out of 8 processes, 5 processes are related to people – 3 processes for leading team, 1 for communication and 1 for stakeholder engagement. What is this indicating? For a project manager, managing people around i.e. your team members and other stakeholders is most important thing during execution stage and you have to be effective communicator to do so. It can be summarize like this. Team has a good amount of work to do during execution and project manager should act as enabler. He/she should look out proactively what kind of road blocks may come up that may impact effectiveness of team members & contribution of stakeholders and promptly work to remove them.

Execution process group may not contains many processes but this is the stage where most of the money allocated to a project is spent. Your team is at peak and if you are not effective on resource utilization, you probably burn the money without output.  If your team size is 10 people, you will have all 10 team members on board during execution. A single day delay during execution means, you carry all 10 people for another day i.e. 10 person days effort for every one day delay in execution.

Execution means doing the work as you have planned. How many times we really do this? Don’t we deviate often from what is there in the plan? Don’t we do activities that are not in the plan because we think, they are required? Don’t we skips the activities scheduled in the plan because now we think, we don’t need them? Actually we create problems for our self by doing so.

Execution means do the work as per plan, nothing else to be done and no activities should be skipped. That may be difficult to digest but let me explain it completely. During execution if you find any activity to be done to deliver the value you have committed and that is not there in the plan, don’t just do it. First schedule this activity in the plan and then do it. If you find an activity you scheduled in the plan but now it is not to be done due to changing situation on the ground, you should first make its duration zero and remove resource allocation in the plan. Therefore whenever there is a change due to different ground situation, you should first update the plan and then do according to the updated plan.

Meticulous plan and discipline execution is the key to success.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

This Project Management Process group contains 10 processes out of 47 i.e. 21%. In some time we will learn about knowledge areas. Knowledge areas represents 10 aspects of project management.  They are Integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communication, procurement, risk and stakeholders. Each knowledge area contains 1 to 6 planning processes but only one controlling processes to control that aspect of project management. Only integration has two controlling processes. It shows that amount of effort to be spent in controlling should be much less than planning. However if you don’t put enough efforts in planning, you may end up spending much more time in monitoring and controlling than required.

When we face problems in the project or observe significant variance, our tendency is to tighten the control but remember one thing – better you plan, less you need to control. So if you are facing issues and variance, it is the time we should look back on our plan and make corrections so that we can prevent future issues and variance instead of tightening the control.

A Monitoring and controlling process help in monitoring i.e. comparing actual with the plan to identify if there is any variance from the plan and then controlling it i.e. taking corrective measures to reduce or eliminate the variance. Monitoring & Controlling is not a stage in a project but it is done throughout the project from project start to project completion.

Closing Processes Group

Like initiation, this Project Management Process Group also contains only two processes but it is equally important. A proper closing helps us to understand our strengths and weakness and perform better in next project. We must do following before we close the project.

  1. Compile, document and share lesson learned
  2. Transition the project outcome to operation
  3. Archive all the artifacts of the project that can be searched later.

Lesson learned is a continuous process throughout the project. As and when you see variance, deviations and revisions in your project, there is an opportunity to document lesson learned so that we learn from our mistakes and omissions. When you get better than usual results, again there is an opportunity to document lesson learned so that we keep our best practices. When we reach to closure of the project, it is the time we should compile all our lesson learned in a document, present them to the team and also to other teams in the organizations so that others also learn from our good or no so good work.

We should handover outcome of the project to operation team with proper training and hand holding.

We should also archive all the artifacts of the project in a searchable manner. Should you get a project in future which is similar to this project, your archived artifacts will be of immense help. If you have archived them in a searchable manner, it will be easier for you to use them and perform even better in new project.

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