5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 3: Executing Process Group


This post covers the 3rd of the 5 project management process groups, namely, the Executing Process Group. Ironically, although its activities consume the largest portion of the project’s budget, its description in the PMBOK® Guide is the shortest of all the process groups.

1. Executing Process Group–Purpose

The definition of the process group is pretty straightforward:

The Executing Process Group consists of those processes performed to complete the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project expectations.

However, one thing to notice in this definition is the part where it says “satisfy the project expectations”. Adding any additional work that goes “above and beyond” the project expectations is called “gold-plating”, and it is something to be avoided as an unnecessary expense.

2. Executing Process Group—Interactions with other Process Groups

There are interactions with the other process groups that should be noted, in particular dealing with the process of evaluating and executing changes to the project.

a. Change Management Process

Let’s say there is a need for a change. Either a mistake has been made, and rework must be done. That is an example of correcting a past mistake. Or you notice that something is being done wrong right now, and you need to take corrective action on this present mistake. If you are really a far-sighted project management, you notice that if you carry out the project management plan as written, you are headed towards the making of a mistake. So you need to take preventive action on this future mistake to prevent it from happening. The need for these types of changes is done in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

Then you go through the change request process, which means first of all analyzing what affect the proposed change would have on the various project constraints. Only when this analysis is done and brought to the change control board, or whatever process your organization has in place for reviewing and deciding on which changes to implement, THEN you implement the change in the Executing Process Group.

b. Minor changes and changes to the plan

Now the repair, corrective, or preventive action that is done in the Executing Process Group may be relatively minor. It may be something you need to do differently in order to adhere to the project management plan. However, you may realize that the change is so great, that you will not be able to follow the project management plan and may need to make adjustments to the plan itself. For example, additional rework may require extra time, or may require extra resources to be done within the same time constraint. In either case, you’ll have to change the schedule or the budget to establish a new cost and schedule baseline. Therefore, you will need to make a change in them and update the project management plan. So a change may be implemented in the Executing Process Group, but may also require a change in the Planning Process Group as well.

c. Major changes and changes to the project charter

One additional possibility that is not explicitly mentioned in this section of the PMBOK® Guide is if the magnitude of the change is so severe that it may cause a change in one of the constraints that is large enough to go outside of the boundaries of the project charter itself. For example, if a project HAS to be done according to the project charter within 2 months, and a change requires that the project will take 3 months, then the project manager has to alert the sponsor, and so then the Initiating Process Group is activated.

d. Catastrophe changes and project closure

The sponsor has to decide basically whether to give more resources to the project in order to allow it to be done within the time limits demanded in the project charter, or if those resources are not available, whether the project charter can be rewritten to accommodate the new changes, or in the last resort whether it may be best to just terminate the project altogether. This would then cause the project to go into the Closing Process Group where it is formally closed. This is obviously an extreme position, but it obviously is a possibility so you need to keep it in mind.

So in conclusion, the change process always involves the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group (to evaluate it) and the Executing Process Group (to carry it out), but it sometimes may involve the Planning Process Group (to update the project management plan) or in rare cases the Initiating Process Group (to see if the change causes the project to go outside of the boundaries set forth in the project charter) and the Closing Process Group (to close the project if it indeed does go outside the project charter boundaries).

The next post deals with the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group, the 4th out of 5 process groups.

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