5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Memorizing the Processes (Step 1 and 2)

Now that I have completed a review of every single chapter of the PMBOK® Guide, my next project is to write some posts on memorizing the 47 project management processes, including which process group and knowledge area they belong to, how they flow from one to the other, and the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that belong to each process.   That is a a big undertaking, but it is essential if you want to understand the interaction between processes, and as a practical matter, if you want to pass the PMP or CAPM certification exam.

The first two steps you need to in order to memorize the 47 processes of project management in the 5th Edition of  the PMBOK® Guide is to be aware of which process group and knowledge area they belong to.

Step 1: Memorizing the Process Groups

The process groups are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring & Controlling
  5. Closing

In class we learned cute mnemonic devices such as “In Projects, Every Monkey Counts Coconuts” to memorize the order, but in our study group, we wanted to go beyond such short-term memory tricks in order to gain a real understanding of WHY these are in the order they are in.

Of course, the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle people are familiar with can be transferred to understanding the order of process groups 2, 3, and 4, like so:

Then process groups 1 and 5 are the “book ends” to this iterative cycle, and the sequence is now complete.

Step 2: Memorizing the Knowledge Areas

There are `0 knowledge areas, and these correspond to chapters 4 through 13 in the PMBOK® Guide. These are:

Chapter 4.     Project Integration Management

Chapter 5.     Project Scope Management

Chapter 6.    Project Time Management

Chapter 7.     Project Cost Management

Chapter 8.     Project Quality Management

Chapter 9.     Project Human Resources Management

Chapter 10.    Project Communications Management

Chapter 11.    Project Risk Management

Chapter 12.    Project Procurement Management

Chapter 13.    Stakeholder Management

The first one, integration, goes first because it integrates all of the other management areas from scope through procurement that come in later chapters.

The next four are actually part of the “iron triangle of constraints”, the original form of the concept of constraints as formulated by Dr. Martin Barnes in 1969.

If you think of the “scope” as one of the first things you describe in a “scope statement” and then detail in the “scope management plan”, then that makes sense that it is next (after integration).

Then time, cost, and quality are the natural successors to this according to the triangle if you go clockwise around the diagram above.   (Dr. Martin Barnes had “output” as a key constraint, which to him was a combination of “scope” and “quality”.)

So, next after scope, time, cost, and quality, you have to have somebody to do the work, and then a means for them to talk to one another. So that gives you the next two, Human Resources Management and Communications Management. And why do you want to communicate?   Well, one thing you want to communicate is if something could go wrong on the project.   That something is called a “risk”, so that’s why Risk Management is the next one in the list.

You have to have all the components to put together on your project, so procuring all those components gives you the next area of Procurement Management.

The last chapter, Stakeholder Management, was added in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, so that is why it ended up as Chapter 13.   But if I were re-organizing the Guide, I would put Stakeholder Management as the chapter after Communications Management and before Risk Management.    Why?   Because Stakeholder Management used to be part of Communications Management, but PMI felt that it is important not just to passively communicate with the stakeholders, but to actively engage them throughout the course of the project.

And Stakeholder Management is related to Risk Management as well, because stakeholders can positively or negatively affect a project in the same way that risks can positively or negatively affect a project.   In one case you are dealing with people, and in the other case you are dealing with events, but BOTH have to be managed effectively in order to ensure the success of the project.

If you stick to a logical framework that puts the 10 chapters together in a narrative like this, you will find yourself being able to memorize the knowledge areas without too much trouble in a way that makes logical sense rather than relying on the caprices of short-term memory.

Tomorrow, we put these 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas together, and we draw:  THE MATRIX!


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