Select Page


The PMBOK Process Groups / Life Cycle Stages (#9 in the series PMI Project Life Cycle)
By Brian Denis Egan, B.Sc, M.Sc., M.B.A., PMP – Global Knowledge Course Director

Process groups (or life cycle stages) are defined by the activities they include. It is helpful to have a big picture view of where each of the process groups begins and ends.


Initiation begins with a project idea. The idea may be internally generated or may be the consequence of a contract with outside customers. There may be a statement of work outlining what is required. There may only be a vague idea based on the musings of senior management.

Overlaid over the need for a project are the rules, regulations, and practices that determine how an individual company manages and selects projects. Initiation is complete when a project charter and preliminary scope statement have been prepared and a project manager has been assigned to the project.

A project charter is an outline (with varying degrees of detail) of what the sponsors of the project expect the project to accomplish. It should define constraints and identify the major stakeholders involved.

A preliminary scope statement is a detailed look at what exactly the project is expected to deliver. At this point there is little or no discussion of how—just what and why. The scope statement may include a review of constraints and their priority, such as a completion date and proposed budget.

The preliminary scope statement is often prepared under the direction of the project manager. However, it may be prepared by the sponsors before the PM has been named. It is possible for a contract or statement of work to include all the necessary details that a preliminary scope statement requires.

Initiation ends when there is a project manager and that project manager has been given the authority and direction necessary to begin planning.


Planning begins with the outputs of initiation (charter, preliminary scope statement, and project manager). Planning starts with a detailed idea and ends when the entire project has been completed on paper. That is, the entire project is dismantled into numerous discrete activities, and those activities have been budgeted and scheduled. At the end of planning, the entire project has been thought through: what will be done; how; in what order; and at what cost.

The planning process is directed by the project manager and completed by the project team and stakeholders. Planning is complete when there is a project plan. The act of creating a project plan involves 21 separate management process incorporating all of the knowledge areas. For each knowledge area there is a management plan prepared as well as documents that detail what will be accomplished and how.

Formal project management plans are thick. They describe how and when activities will be undertaken as well as the procedures that will be followed to ensure the correct work is done in the correct order.

The project plan states how the project will be run. Plan the work and then work the plan.


Execution cannot begin until there is a plan. Executing is the act of doing what it says to do in the plan. It is completed when all the work is completed.


Controlling is the act of making sure that the work being executed complies with the plan. The objective is acceptance of deliverables by the customer.

Controlling cannot start until there are work results generated by execution. Controlling involves monitoring completed work results to ensure that they match the plan and meet stakeholder expectations. If they do not, information is fed back to the execution processes so that corrective actions are taken.

Controlling is complete when the final outputs of the project (deliverables) meet the prescribed quality standards defined in the plan and are accepted by the customer. It ends at the same time as execution.


Closing ensures that an organization learns from its experience. An organization cannot get better at project management if it does not learn. Organizations learn by documenting what was learned–what went right and what went wrong–and making these documents available for reference on future projects.

Closing begins when deliverables are accepted. It involves making sure that all the necessary paperwork is completed in terms of contract administration and sign off. It continues until a project archive has been compiled. This archive includes not only a complete set of project records but also a critical review of lessons learned.

About the Author

Brian Denis Egan is CEO of a manufacturing company (Book Box Company) and a management consultant. He has written three professional development manuals and numerous white papers on aspects of management science. Since 2000, Brian has been a part-time instructor for Global Knowledge within the Management product line.

This article was originally published in Global Knowledge’s Business Brief e-newsletter. Global Knowledge delivers comprehensive hands-on project management, business process, and professional skills training. Visit our online Knowledge Center at for free white papers, webinars, and more.

© Copyright 2009, Global Knowledge. All rights reserved.

Recommended PM App

Recommended PM App