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Executing Programs and Projects

By John Knox | Harkcon's Senior Program Manager

There are many resources available on this topic with the gold standard being PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fifth Edition, better known as the PMBOK® Guide.

The PMBOK® Guide makes direct reference to five Project Management Process Groups:

  • Initiating Process Group

  • Planning Process Group

  • Executing Process Group

  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

  • Closing Process Group

These Process Groups are sequential, but also overlap in time. The majority of time on a typical project is spent in the Planning Process Group and the Executing Process Group. In fact, according to the PMBOK® Guide, the Planning Process Group encompasses every single knowledge area and contains the most processes versus any other process group.

So what does this mean? Before you can effectively execute a successful project, you must first effectively plan the project.

A key artifact in the Planning Process Group is the Project Management Plan, which is the key planning document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.

The Project Management Plan includes key project baselines, such as:

  • Scope Baseline

  • Schedule Baseline

  • Cost Baseline

The Project Management Plan also includes key subsidiary plans, such as:

  • Scope Management Plan

  • Requirements Management Plan

  • Work Breakdown Structure

  • Schedule Management Plan

  • Cost Management Plan

  • Quality Management Plan

  • HR Management Plan

  • Communications Management Plan

  • Risk Management Plan

  • Stakeholder Management Plan

You might be asking, “I thought this blog post is about EXECUTING projects!” You’re right, it is about executing projects … but … before you can effectively execute a program or project, you must first PLAN, PLAN, PLAN and PLAN some more. There are no short cuts! You need a road map. These project planning elements all serve an important purpose. You need a plan to manage and execute. That is, you need to know your project scope and requirements; you need a schedule with a work breakdown structure; you need to know everything impacting your costs and quality; you need to have effective communications with ALL of your stakeholders; and you need to know and manage all of your risks. Without these key ingredients, you will have great difficulty executing your project, and you will set yourself and your team up for failure, not success.

Once all of these elements are in place, the execution of the project is a matter of carrying out the plan; and when necessary, adjusting the plan. According to the PMBOK® Guide, the Executing Process Group includes directing and managing the project work, performing quality assurance, managing the project team, managing communications, and managing stakeholders. BUT … “the catch” … this can only happen when there’s a solid plan in place. If you would like to contact the author of this blog, send an email to and reference the title, "Executing Programs and Projects."

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