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Andrew Murray May 2, 2022 10:18:00 PM 10 min read

Your Guide to the 5 Project Management Process Groups

Want to get an edge in completing projects quicker for your organization or company? Understanding the project management process groups and how they work together will help you accomplish more and ensure your project's success. Let’s dive into project management process groups and see which one of these groups could be a potential weak link in your company — and how to fix it.

Project management as a practice has been standardized by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) which defines the five project management process groups as:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring/controlling
  5. Closing

In any project life cycle, your team should be using all five of these phases — so let’s peel back the onion, dig a little deeper into these, and give you some tips on how to improve on each stage of your project life cycle.

Why project management groups matter

Project management is a long game with many elements to balance and oversee. Because of this, a standardized system of understanding how to effectively run and initiate projects can help you run your projects with less friction.

So let’s look at the different project management groups so you can get more projects done with less stress.

1. Initiating

Project management process groups: Let's Get Started! GIF

The first phase is initiating.

Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said that if he had six hours to cut down the tree, he would take the first five hours sharpening the ax. Similarly, make sure not to cut corners at this phase. Time spent planning prevents problems later on.

Now initiating means getting started on something, but according to the PMI, the initiating process group is a little more refined than that — and it’s important so that your project rolls along smoothly.

The Initiating phase of any project is where the vision for the entire project is defined. It’s where the project gets molded and shaped and the scope of the project is clearly defined for the stakeholders and team members. 

Often, the culmination of the initiating process is the project charter.

The project charter is the founding statement for the project. It needs to be clear to anyone who comes into the project team what the roles and responsibilities for each unit inside the project are. It should clearly state the scope, budget, and potential risks as the project develops and comes to fruition. The estimated costs and time frame for project competition should be well articulated — as should the raison d'être for the project itself.

This phase of the project is high-level thought work, but it’s important to spend the time here to make sure everything is defined and clear.

2. Planning

Project management process groups: The Office GIF

Once the project charter is complete, the project team and stakeholders can move to the critical phase of planning.

The planning process group stage is all about thinking through how to get to the final project deliverables. Planning also involves setting out project milestones and breaking more complex pieces of the project down using a work breakdown structure (WBS). A WBS breaks larger components of a project into smaller action-oriented deliverables, which makes it easy to see what specific tasks will get the project completed.

A project is a triangle with the points being time, budget and resources. Each of these needs to align with the overall vision of the project.

Problems will arise — it’s Murphy’s Law. But in this stage, anticipating possible issues by considering the project scope, potential risks, and risk responses is vital. This should be more specific and on-point compared to exploring those issues in the initiation phase. 

In the planning phase, a good project manager switches between macro (big picture) thinking and micro (details) thinking. Not everyone is good at this sort of mental gymnastics, which is why you should always be on the lookout for top-notch project managers.

3. Execution

Let's Get It Done GIF

The next project process group is execution. Project execution is where stuff starts getting done.

Time to get to work, people!

The execution phase is typically the longest phase of the project. It’s important to minimize any deviations from the planning phase in order to minimize the impact on project resources.

This phase is entirely micro-focused on the details and executions that have been broken down in the previous project management process groups like initiating and planning.

Best practices for this stage are being mindful of what needs to be done and making sure to reorient your approach towards those tasks that are either causing constraints in other areas or that have the greatest impact on moving the needle.

The executing process group is arguably the most important. Without getting the tasks done, the project won’t get completed!

4. Monitoring and Controlling

Manager happily working in an officeWhen it comes to the monitoring and controlling process group, we switch to the macro view again.

However, projects need to be managed. When the scope starts to bulge, you need to take corrective action to bring the project back towards the mandates set out in the project charter. This could be talking to colleagues who are behind schedule, or shortening the timelines of certain tasks to make up for other work that has dragged on too long.

Many teams rely on project management software to keep track of milestones and interim project deliverables. Asana and Monday.com are two project management software programs that can help teams stay productive and on track.

It’s important to track the project process – which is what project management software is designed to do. Deviations from the project present an opportunity for projects to bloat out of control. Being able to see who is accountable for what and when those tasks are due can help with project risk management. 

Without this feedback loop, there would be no quality control over the project schedule — which would lead to inertia taking over and jeopardizing project success.

In some cases, project stakeholders would need to be informed about delays or cost bloating. (Project cost management is just as important as managing resources.)

5. Closing

Project management process groups: Always Be Closing GIF

The last project management process group is the closing process group. This extra step is in line with the Japanese principle of Kaizen — which can be roughly translated as “constant innovation.” There is a beauty in doing things better, more cleanly, and with more grace the next time.

Closing a project correctly can be overlooked (because, hey, we already got it done!), but this is included in the big five project management process groups list as defined by the PMI (Project Management Institute.)

A project needs a solid post-mortem where you review and evaluate the project activities and break down the lessons learned and try to find any processes or situations that can be better managed or avoided next time — as well as anything that can be systemized or streamlined in future projects to free up time and resources for business growth. 

Of course, the project should have come in at or under the budget and on time, and the deliverables should be communicated to the shareholders. If there were issues here, this is the time to discuss them.

Streamline your workflow with project management process groups

Now you know the five project management process groups, hopefully, you can see one or more areas of improvement for your own internal project management. Whether it's in the initial vision, the execution, or a robust post-mortem of the final product, take a look at the 80-20 on how to improve on your next project.

To make your projects even more effective, consider how to get more out of your meetings by making sure everyone remembers the key points and action steps.

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Andrew Murray

Andrew is an online marketer who loves testing out new online software and marketing channels. He's the creator of a free SAAS that helps marketers track the results of what they post on social media. In his downtime, you can find him exploring new crypto projects, talking about football tactics, and enjoying really, really good food.

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