2.7 Essential Terms and Concepts

Project Management Process Group:  Is “a logical grouping of project management inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. The Project Management Process Groups include initiating processes, planning processes, executing processes, monitoring and controlling processes, and closing processes. pmp training guideProject Management Process Groups are not project phases.[1]

Progressive elaboration:  Is referred to the “iterative process of increasing the level of detail in a project management plan as greater amounts of information and more accurate estimates become available.[2]”  In essence progressive elaboration is the process of refining the characteristics of the project’s end result as well as progressively elaborating project management processes as well.   For instance a project to build a petrochemical plant in the initiation project phase is defined at a coarse level, although the main specifications are spelled out in detail (output of the plant once operations, sections of the plant, overall estimation of piping, rotary, electrical and other building blocks of the construction project, etc.) the specifics of most of the plant sections and the project management plan itself are not known.  As the work progresses more is learned about the plant and the project management plan is adjusted to the new learning and more detailed level work is executed.

Baseline:  Is “the approved version of a work product that can be changed only through formal change control procedures and is used as a basis for comparison.[3]”  Baseline is the frozen original plan plus approved changes.  Baselines as the name implies are used as a yardstick to measure deviations from the plan.  If the changes applied to the plan are considerable, the baseline is redone (rebaselined) rather than allowing the gap between planned and executed growth.

Historical information and lessons learned (two different entities): One of the key characteristics of learning organizations[4] as   the name suggests is the ability to document, catalogue, retrieve, and learn from both successes and failures.  Circling back to the Organizational Process Assets, organizations that document their historical information and lessons learned overtime accumulate invaluable information assisting project managers and enabling them to avoid costly mistakes and deliver better results.

Constraint: Is “a limiting factor that affects the execution of a project, program, portfolio, or process.[5]

Triple constraints: “Managing a project typically includes:

  • Identifying requirements,
  • Addressing the various needs, concerns, and expectations of the stakeholders as the project is planned and carried out,
  • Setting and maintaining active communication with stakeholders, and
  • Balancing the competing project constraints including, but not limited to:

○ Scope                         [one of triple constraints],


Schedule                    [one of triple constraints],

○ Budget                       [one of triple constraints],

○ Resources, and

○ Risks.[6]

Of the above constraints Time (Schedule), Cost (Budget), and Scope are widely known as triple constraints.  You will notice that the triple constraint is a repeating theme throughout this course.  The concept behind the triple constraints is that the project is considered a success when it meet these constraints and for every decision made in the project there is often a tradeoff between them.  For instance a new feature for the credit card processing process of the website project is submitted by the client (change in scope), this change in scope would result in changes in the project duration and cost, as such the project manager and her team have to negotiate the options available with regard to tradeoff options with key stakeholders and the project sponsor before adjusting the project management plan and its execution.  Imagine the triple constraints as a triangle were changing one of them would affect the two other.

To illustrate the point consider this joke “A French pressing company was often approached by demanding clients asking for low price, quick delivery, and high quality jobs.  One day the owner put a sign on the company door reading: Low cost, Quick delivery, High quality work.  Pick any two you want.”  For most projects not all of these three constraints have the same weight, for instance construction of an Olympic Stadium has no flexibility in delivery date, as on a very rigid date athletes from all over the world will be competing in that stadium.  Or for a dream project of a small company were budget is extremely tight, cost is the prime constraint and in cases were a tradeoff between the tree constraints has to be made the choice usually is putting cost considerations first.  Even though projects are expected to finish on time, within budget, and scope, but simply can’t state all three of these constraints at the same level of importance.

Understanding the triple constraints will benefit you very greatly in taking the exam and during this course as triple constraints is a repeating theme throughout the course and by familiarizing yourself with it right now you are giving yourself a great starting point.

In the current version of PMBOK®[7] Guide is the concept of the triple constraints is expanded and includes quality, resources, and risks.   Same explanation and logic as the triple constraints (tradeoffs and prioritization) applies to the full list of constraints.

Project management methodology: Many by mistake believe that PMBOK® Guide is a project management methodology.  The PMBOK® Guide is a collection of best project management practices in a process-oriented manner that would apply to most projects most of the time.  A methodology is a stepwise structure that defines workflow, processes, requirements, and responsibilities needed to achieve the goal.  The difference between a guideline and a methodology is that the methodology uses elements of the guidelines in a way that suits a specific set of requirements, whereas a guideline is an all-encompassing collection of standards and information. PMBOK® Guide itself is very clear about this distinction, references to Organizational Process Assets and Enterprise Environmental Factors (see the next section), the iterative nature of the processes in the book and complex interdependencies between them only suggests tailoring the project management process framework to your organization and/or project’s specific needs and constraint, or in other words create a methodology based on the PMBOK Guide. The steps between the PMBOK® Guide and a methodology is to answer the what (tailoring the project management process framework: which ITTOs to use and to what extend and fashion?), who (who is responsible for implementation of the processes?), and how (overall guidelines, instructions and manuals, templates, guidelines, training material, process workflows, PMO support, and any other form of knowledge management portal assisting project managers in following the methodology).

[1]-62, 64  Source: Glossary of the Project Management Institute, A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) –Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013

[4] For more information about Learning Organizations go to: http://hbr.org/2008/03/is-yours-a-learning-organization/ar/1

[6] Project Management Institute, A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) –Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, Page 417

[7] PMBOK is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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