6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Project Management Process Groups

I am starting a project of going through the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and blogging about its contents.    The 6th Edition was released on September 22nd by the Project Management Institute, and the first chapter is a general introduction to the framework in which project management exists, starting with section 1.2 Foundation Elements (section 1.1 describes the purpose of the Guide).

The section I am going over in this blog post is section 1.2.4 Components of the Guide, although it should be titled Components of a Project (in my humble opinion).    The reason is that the preceding section, 1.2.3 Relationship of Project, Program, Portfolio, and Operations Management shows the external relationship between a project and all of these other elements within an organization.   The current section 1.2.4 now shifts from an external view of a project to an internal one, and shows what its components are.  Here they are in decreasing order of magnitude:   project life cycle, project phase, process group/knowledge area, process.   In the last posts, I discussed the project life cycle and project phases.   In this post, I will discuss project management process groups.

The 49 processes of project management can be classified according to which of the five process groups they are in and which of the ten knowledge areas they cover.    The five process groups are:

  1. Initiating–defines the new project and obtains authorization to start it
  2. Planning–establishes the scope of the project, refines the objectives, and defines the course of action required to attain those objectives
  3. Executing–completes the work defined in the project management plan to satisfy the project requirements
  4. Monitoring and Controlling–tracks, reviews, and regulates the progress and performance of the project; identifies any areas in which changes to the plan and required and initiates those changes
  5. Closing–Formally completes or closes the project.

Although they are listed sequentially, the processes will usually start with Initiating and Planning, but then cycle forth between Executing and Monitoring and Controlling, perhaps even looping back to Planning (if there are changes made to the plan), and then when the final deliverable is completed and accepted by the customer or sponsor, the last and final process group Closing will take place.

The middle three process groups can be considered similar to the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle made popular by Dr. Edwards Deming for control and continuous improvement of products and processes.    A project, being defined as a temporary endeavor, puts two bookends on this cycle and adds an Initiating and Closing process group on either side.

Although there are five process groups, the 49 processes are not distributed evenly among them.    Here’s the number of processes in each process group:

  • Initiating (2)
  • Planning (24)
  • Executing (10)
  • Monitoring and Controlling (12)
  • Closing (1)

As you can see, the Planning process groups gets the lion’s share of the processes, with 24 processes, the Monitoring and Controlling process group getting 12 processes, and the Executing process group getting 10 processes.  The two “bookends”, the Initiating and Closing process groups, have only 2 and 1 process each, respectively.

The breakdown of the number of questions on the PMP exam by process group is as follows (based on the PMP exam outline published by PMI in 2015 based on the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide):

  • Initiating (13%)
  • Planning (24%)
  • Executing (31%)
  • Monitoring and Controlling (25%)
  • Closing (7%)

If the above proportions of questions on the PMP exam based on the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide are indicative of the breakdown on the 6th Edition published in September 2017, then one should pay close attention to the Initiating and Closing group processes, because they will be represented by a disproportionately larger percentage of questions on the exam.

The next post covers the ten knowledge areas that the 49 processes are divided into.   In the 5th Edition, a new knowledge area was added (Stakeholder Management) that was an outgrowth of another knowledge area (Communications Management).   The good news for the PMP test taker is that in the 6th Edition, there are no new knowledge areas to learn!


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