5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 3: Monitoring & Controlling Process Group

This post covers the 4th of the five Process Groups, the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

1. Monitoring & Controlling Process Group—Purpose

According to the PMBOK® Guide, the purpose of the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group is to

  1. Track, review, and orchestrate the progress and performance of the project;
  2. Monitor the ongoing project activities against the project management plan and the project performance measurement baseline;
  3. Identify corrective or preventive action, or areas in which changes to the plan are required;
  4. Control the changes and implement only those approved

The first two cover the Monitoring part of the process group, and the last two cover the Controlling part of the process group and are what are referred to as change management.

2. Monitoring Process

The progress of the project is monitored and measured throughout the course of the project, with reports of the progress going on a predetermined regular basis to the various key stakeholders.

3. Controlling Process

a. Change Management

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.

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.

Sometimes corrective or preventive action is not sufficient to keep the project going according to the project management plan. It may be that the change is of sufficient magnitude that it requires a change in the project management plan, in which case there is a return to the Planning Process Group to revise the plan, and then the change is implemented in the Executing Process Group.

b. Change Management Plan

Part of the change control process may be a level of authority required in order to make the change. Some changes can be okayed by the project manager; other changes that have greater impact on the project may require the input of the customer, the sponsor, or other key stakeholders. In any case, the system needs to be worked out ahead of time in the change management plan, which is one of the subsidiary plans in the project management plan.

c. Configuration Management Plan

To keep track of the various changes, so everybody knows what version of the project management baseline is being implemented, there is something called the configuration management plan¸ which controls the project documents in such a way that everyone working on the project knows what is the current version of the project plan.

This concludes the brief synopsis of the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group. The next post covers the last of the 5 process groups, the Closing Process Group.

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.

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

This post is going to discuss some general points about the 2nd of the process groups, the Planning Process Group.

1. Planning Process Group—Purpose

According to the PMBOK® Guide, the purpose of the Planning Process Group is to a) establish the total scope of the project, b) define and refine the objectives, and c) develop a course of action to achieve those objectives.

The output of the Planning Process Group is the Project Management Plan, which contains within it the management plans for all the knowledge areas, and the project documents (schedule, budget, risk register, etc.). The 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide has made sure that each knowledge area has its associated planning process specifically named. Then, in the Integration Knowledge Area, the process 4.2 Develop Management Plan should be understood to be an integration of all the management plans of the other knowledge areas.

2.  Planning Process Group–Relationship to the other Process Groups

Three things are worth noting about the Planning Process Group and its relationship to the other Process Groups.

a. Planning actually starts in Initiating Process Group

In the initiating process group, high-level planning of the three basic constraints on a project, the scope, time and budget, but at a high-level. These are then planned in more detail in the Planning Process Group.

b. Executing Process Group can start before Planning Process is complete.

If a project is complex, then the project may start to be executed after detailed planning of only the initial phase of the project is complete, with details of the following phases coming later on as the project progresses and more information and characteristics about the project are understood This is referred to as rolling-wave planning or progressive elaboration.

c. Planning Process may be revisited as a result of Monitoring & Controlling

If during the monitoring & controlling process, significant changes are requested to the project, then the a) Project Management Plan and the b) Project Documents may need to be revised to reflect these changes.

Besides the Planning Process Group interacting with the different process groups, there is also interaction within the Planning Process Group between knowledge areas. For example, risk management may uncover that the cost and schedule estimates are too optimistic, and therefore require a revising of the cost and schedule management plan.

The next process group is the Executing Process Group, which will be covered in the next post.

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

This next series of posts goes through the five process groups, but before I start on the Initiating Process Group, I would like to summarize some general points about the five process groups.

1. Project Management Process Groups

The PMBOK® Guide stresses that the process groups are not the same as life cycle phases. Phases are for the most part sequential, although they can be overlapping (or in rare cases, even parallel). Process groups are iterative, meaning there is a back-and-forth movement between various process groups during the course of the project.

2. Initiating Process Group—Purpose

The initiating process is for defining a new project or phase and for obtaining authorization to start the project. It aligns the stakeholders expectations with the project’s purpose, gives them visibility of the scope and objectives, and demonstrates to them how their participation in the project can ensure those expectations are achieved.

3. Initiating Process Group—Components

What are the activities done in the Initiating Process Group?

A project manager is selected. That manager needs to understand the general company culture and external forces such as regulations. That manager needs to see if the project is new or similar to ones that have done before. If similar to ones done before, the historical records of those projects will need to be consulted. If new or complex, the project may be divided into phases.

Next the project charter must be created. One of the components of this charter is the business case, which states what the project will create, and why the company is going to undertake the project. What need will it fulfill, both externally (e.g., market demand) and internally (profit or return on investment)? Then the specific objectives and success criteria for the project are determined, and the constraints of time and cost (schedule and budget) within which the project must be completed are identified.

All these elements go into the project charter, which is then reviewed by the sponsor, who then will authorize the project to be done, which then releases the financial resources to be able to complete the project.

Another crucial element of the Initiating Process Group is identifying stakeholders and developing a strategy for managing their expectations. Different stakeholders will have different levels of involvement depending on their interest in the project and their level of authority over it.

Fig. 1 Steps of Initiating Process Group

Category Explanation
1. Authority The project manager is selected.
2. EEF Company culture + external cultural/political constraints (regulations, etc.) considered
3. OPA Historical records consulted (if similar project was done before)
4. Life Cycle Project may be broken up into phases if new or complex
5. Stakeholders Internal, external stakeholders identified, stakeholder management strategy developed
6. Business Need Reason for doing project identified: external (demand) + internal (profit)
7. Scope Initial scope defined (high-level requirements)
8. Objectives Project objectives, success criteria defined
9. Budget, schedule High-level budget, schedule constraints determined
10. Project Charter Project charter produced: contains elements 6, 7, 8, 9
11. Approval Sponsor approval of Project Charter commits financial resources to project

These steps are not necessarily chronological in order, although I tried to list them thematically so that they could be better understood. That is why all the elements that comprise the project charter are listed before the project charter itself.

The next post will deal with the Planning Process Group.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 3: Project Management Processes

This post contains the general description of project management processes to be found at the beginning of chapter 3 of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

1. Project Management vs. Product-Oriented Processes

There are two types of processes, project management processes and product-oriented processes. Project management processes apply globally to all projects; product-oriented processes are specific to each application area. For that reason, since it is meant as a guide for projects in general,  PMBOK® Guide only deals with the 47 project management processes.

2. Project Management Processes

A project management process contains tools and techniques which operate on inputs and create as an end result outputs. These outputs often then became inputs of other processes.

3. The 5 Process Groups

The 47 project management processes are divided into five process groups:

Process Group


Initiating Defines a new project or new phase of an existing project to obtain authorization to proceed with the project.
Planning Establishes the scope of the project, defines the objectives, and defines the course of action required to achieve them.
Executing Completes the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project specifications.
Monitoring & Controlling Tracks, reviews, regulates progress and performance of project; identifies any potential changes to the plan and then initiates them.
Closing Finalizes all activities to formally close project or phase.

4. Interaction between Process Groups

When a project is split into phases, the phases are usually sequential, but they can overlap. As oppose to a phase of a project, the five process groups ALL overlap to some extent.

While executing a project, monitoring & controlling is done on a periodic basis to make sure that the project is proceeding according to plan. If it is not proceeding according to plan, then a change to the plan may be required, and so planning may be revised. During the course of executing the project, if you are receiving components from suppliers, you will need to formally close these procurements by accepting them (or suggesting changes if they are not accepted). So the phases can be overlapping AND in some cases parallel.

This also is true for the initiating process group in that it actually involves some high-level planning of the project. Also, major changes suggested during the monitoring & controlling process group may require a look at the charter to see if the project can indeed be completed within its original parameters.

The one word that describes the process group interaction the best is iterative, meaning that there is a back-and-forth movement among them until the project is completed.

The next posts deal in a little more detail with the 5 process groups in order to make you familiar with their function on a project.

“It’s Groundhog Day!”—The Interreligious History of A Holiday

Yesterday, February 2nd, was Groundhog Day, which in my childhood I knew as a quaint folk custom involving predicting winter weather based on a groundhog emerging from its burrow and then either staying out or retreating back into its burrow after seeing its shadow.

In 1993,the movie “Groundhog Day” directed by Harold Ramis quickly became one of my all-time favorite comedies, and so I celebrated the day with a viewing of the movie as I do every year.

1. Groundhog Day: From Imholc, to Candlemas, to American Folklore

Yesterday morning I learned from Anne Laurie at the Balloon Juice blog that Groundhog Day had its origin in Candlemas. Candlemas is a Christian holiday which celebrated the presentation of Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem. However, it was essentially a Christianization of the older pagan holiday of Imbolc, the day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox in the Celtic calendar. Many Christian holidays including Christmas itself were celebrated on days of pagan holidays, and Candlemas seems to be part of this tradition.

Here’s an interesting folk legend of Candlemas: 

If Candlemas be bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year;
If Candlemas bring wind and rain,
Old winter shall not come again!

Now on Groundhog Day, if the groundhog supposedly sees its shadow, it will retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks. That’s literally the functional equivalent of the ancient legend of Candlemas, and is probably its origin as well, since Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania German custom in the 18th century, and they imported the Candlemas tradition from Europe.

So it went from being a pagan holiday to a Christian holiday to an American folk tradition.

2. Groundhog Day: The Movie

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, it stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, an egocentric weatherman from Pittsburgh. He is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, together with his news producer Rita (played by Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott).

He loathes the assignment and can’t wait to get back to Pittsburg when it’s over. However, due to a freak snowstorm they have to return to Punxsutawney and the next morning he wakes up … and it’s Groundhog Day all over again. He is stuck in a time loop, but nobody else is aware of it. Because of this he first takes advantage of the situation, robbing a cash truck, seducing the women of the town, and generally behaving in a selfish and arrogant manner. He then tries to seduce Rita, but to no avail because she’s “not that kind of girl.”

Despondent, he now tries to escape the time loop through repeated attempts at suicide, but to no avail: he keeps waking up over and over again on the same day.  Finally he decides to reach out to Rita as a human being in a spirit of compassion and conquests, and tells her about what’s going on with him.  She is obviously skeptical at first, but his ability to tell her precisely what will happen at the next moment convinces her that something is going on.

Based on her advice to see this experience as a blessing and not a curse, he decides to reexamine his priorities and ends up helping the others in the town, rather than taking advantage of them. By the end of the film, he is the most popular guy in town, and Rita “buys” him in a slave auction after which he tells her as they lay in bed talking that he genuinely loves her.

Finally, the next day he wakes up … and it’s February 3rd and the time loop has been broken! The last scene, he asks her to stay and live with him in the town of Punxsutawney, the town that he had been trying to escape from the entire movie.

3. Groundhog Day: The Interreligious Symbol

Heather Parton, the Santa Monica blogger who goes by the moniker of Digby in her blog Hullaballoo, related an article that ran a few years ago in The Independent about Harold Ramis discussing the reaction to the film that came from various spiritual leaders.

The largest reaction he got was from two religions that would seem very different. He got calls from Rabbis saying they were preaching the film as their next sermon.   The Rabbi of the New Shul congregation in Greenwich Village, Dr. Niles Goldstein, said that Murray’s character is rewarded for performing what Judaism refers to as good deeds, or mitzvahs.

Then the Buddhist monks chimed in and said it perfectly expressed the notion of samsara, the continuing cycle of rebirth that individuals try to escape.

Harold Ramis pointed out that many Buddhists in the US started as Jews, because there is a remarkable correspondence of philosophies and style between the two religions, which are focused more on redemption in life, rather than in the afterlife.

However, many Christians also found that the film contains themes within the Christian tradition, with the groundhog being an Easter-like symbol of hope for the renewal of life at springtime, whereas Catholics interpret the “time loop” as a symbol of Purgatory, which every soul must pass through before entrance into Heaven.

4. Groundhog Day: Cultural Legacy
Thanks to the movie, Groundhog Day has now become a symbol of two things in our culture. It can mean either an unpleasant, repetitive situation, such as when “Groundhog Day” became a term of military slang by those service members in Iraq to describe their tour of duty with its endless cycle of monotonous long periods of waiting between violent raids.

However, in its positive connotation, it has become a symbol of man’s spiritual transcendence of selfish and egoism to a state of selfless service towards others. The important thing is, you can’t escape that negative repetitive experience of your own Groundhog Day of your life until you make that journey.

Harold Ramis really touched upon a powerful image to turn a comic masterpiece into a cosmic one.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 3: Project Management Processes (overview)


In the second chapter of the PMBOK® Guide describes the organizational environment in which the project is performed, and describes how the project can be split up into phases for better control and management of deliverables.

The third chapter of the PMBOK® Guide starts to get into the project management process itself through a discussion of the project management processes. Here are the sections of Chapter 3.

Chapter Subsection Category
3.1 Common Project Management Process Interactions Introduction
3.2 Project Management Process Groups Process Groups
3.3 Initiating Process Group
3.4 Planning Process Group
3.5 Executing Process Group
3.6 Monitoring & Controlling Process Group
3.7 Closing Process Group
3.8 Project Information Information Theory
3.9 Role of the Knowledge Areas Knowledge Areas

As you can see by the list, after the general introduction, a majority of time is spent on how processes are divided up into 5 process groups. There is a brief discursion into information theory as relates to project management, and then there is a brief discussion on the role of the 10 knowledge areas. Although knowledge areas are the other major “dimension” that processes are divided up into besides the process groups, they are not given much discussion in chapter 3 for the simple fact that each subsequent chapter of the PMBOK® Guide from Chapter 4 through 13 will, in turn, cover one of those 10 knowledge areas.

That is why the emphasis is on the process groups for the most part in this chapter. As opposed to the 4th Edition PMBOK® Guide that had all the details of the processes within each process group listed in Chapter 3, this detailed listing of the processes has been moved in the 5th Edition PMBOK® to Appendix A.

So when you read chapter 3 of the PMBOK® Guide, you should not be aiming to memorizing all the processes. You should be working on memorizing the 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas, and then memorize the processes gradually as you are introduced to them within each knowledge area as you go through chapters 4 through 13.

On Monday, February 4th, I will start going through the sections of chapter 3 listed above in more detail.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 2: Project Life Cycle Types (Predictive, Iterative, Agile)

1. Introduction

The first post on this topic two days ago introduced the general topic of project life cycles, which are used to gain better control over a large project and a clearer focus on the deliverables required to complete it. This is done through the splitting up of the project into several phases, each of which can be considered a sort of mini-project in itself which involve all five process groups. The handoff or transfer from one phase to another is done at a stage or phase
gate, sometimes referred to as a milestone or even a kill point. As the last term implies, a project may be terminated if at the end of a phase it is decided that the objectives of the project as a whole will not be able to be completed within the authorized budget and schedule.

The last post done yesterday went into detail about the relationship between the with the usual pattern having them be sequential, but an overlapping or even a parallel relationship is possible. These latter two compress the amount of time taken to complete the project, but do so with the tradeoff of increasing risk of possible rework.

Today’s post will deal with how one plans a project with a life cycle, and there are three types of project life cycles:

  • Predictive (also known as fully plan-driven)
  • Iterative and Incremental
  • Adaptive (also known as change-driven or agile)

2. Predictive Life Cycle (also known as fully plan-driven)

In a predictive life cycle, the three major constraints of the project, the scope, time and cost, are determined ahead of time not just at a high level, but in detail, and the project is split up into phases which can be either sequential or overlapping. Now the planning can be done for the entire project at a detailed level from the beginning of the project, or one can do what is referred to as rolling wave planning (also known as progressive elaboration). This is where the high-level planning is done for the entire project, but the detailed planning is done only for the work that needs to be done in the near future. Then as that work is completed, more detailed planning is done for the work that needs to be completed after that. Do not confuse scope with planning! In a predictive life cycle, the detailed scope of the project is done right from the start; it is only the planning that may not all be worked out detail from the beginning.

3. Iterative and Incremental

Like a predictive life cycle, the project is split up into phases which can be either sequential or overlapping. Unlike the predictive life cycle however, the scope is not determined ahead of time at a detailed level, but only for the first iteration or phase of the project. Once that phase is completed, the detailed scope of the next phase is worked out, and so on.

4. Adaptive (also known as change-driven or agile)

Like an predictive life cycle, the project is split up into phases or iterations which can be sequential or overlapping. However, because adaptive life cycles are used in applications areas such as IT where there is a rapid change, sometimes the processes within the iterations can even be going on in parallel.

Like the iterative and incremental life cycle, the detailed scope is only determined ahead of a time for the current iteration or phase of the project. The phases or iterations are more rapid than in the iterative and incremental life cycle, however, usually with a duration of 2 or 4 weeks. During the iteration, the scope is decomposed into a set of requirements (deliverables) and the work to be done to meet those requirements (often called the product backlog) is prioritized. At the end of the iteration, the work on the product is reviewed by the customer, and the feedback from the customer is used to set the detailed scope of the next iteration.

5. Summary

Here’s a handy table summarizing the differences between the three types of life cycles.

Topic Predictive Iterative Adaptive (agile)
Phases Sequential, overlapping Sequential, overlapping Sequential, overlapping, parallel
High-Level Scope Yes Yes Yes
Detailed Scope At beginning of project Only for each phase Only for each phase or iteration
High-Level Planning Yes Yes Yes
Detailed Planning At beginning of project OR rolling wave Only for each phase Only for each phase or iteration
When Used Product is well understood Large and complex projects Product is not well understood, rapidly changing environments
Customer involvement Beginning, when scope changes, and project end Periodic Continuous

Adaptive or agile life cycles are used now in the majority of IT projects, and PMI has acknowledged its importance by including it in the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide. In fact, those practitioners of agile methodology now have a separate certification above and beyond the PMP certification, called the PMI-ACP, where the ACP stands for Agile Certified Practitioner.

This concludes the series of posts on chapter 2, and after the weekend, I will start on February 4th a post related to chapter 3, covering project management processes.