Monitoring and Controlling — what the PMBOK Guide says and shows

My last PM Quote (here) reminded me of this PMBOK Guide issue.  There’s an awkwardly phrased topic sentence in Chapter Three that gives some the impression that the PMBOK Guide intends to segregate monitoring and controlling activities in the executing process group:

The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group consists of those processes performed to observe project execution… to control the execution of the project. — Page 59, PMBOK Guide 3rd Edition

The focus on execution is unfortunate, because a lot of folks seem to stop there when skimming the Guide.  Throughout the Guide — and even on this same page — we find better indications of the team’s intent, IMO:

The integrative nature of project management requires the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group interaction with every aspect of the other Process Groups. — Page 40, PMBOK Guide 3rd Edition

[A]ll of the Process Group processes would normally be repeated for each phase or subproject. — Page 41, PMBOK Guide 3rd Edition

The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group not only monitoring and controls the work being done within a Process Group, but also monitors and controls the entire project effort. — Page 59, PMBOK Guide 3rd Edition

The botched topic sentence notwithstanding, the PMBOK Guide doesn’t give us an out.  Monitoring and controlling activities are needed throughout the project.  There’s even a purdy picture…



4 Responses

  1. The soon to be released 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide adds an interesting twist. The PMBOK now recognises it is impossible to ‘control’ people and has shifted to a monitoring and managing approach for stakeholders. This will undoubtedly annoy the ‘control freaks’ out there but is a far more sensible approach to dealing with people in the 21st Century.

    I have published the official list of major changes at if anyone is interested. The next challenge will be to re-evaluate the role of ‘project control tools’ such as the schedule in a more collaborative and communicative project team environment. I have a couple of papers accepted for 2009 looking at this intriguing topic but there is a way to go before any answers are found.

    Keep on blogging!!


  2. Hi Pat,
    Thanks for your comment… I don’t see that change in emphasis from “control” to “manage” in the Project Communications Mgmt Knowledge Area. That might have been true from 2rd to 3rd edition, but I don’t see it here. The discussion and content in the 4th ed. Communications KA is a bit more sophisticated than in the 3rd ed., but I’d need to see specific examples to concur with your conclusion.

    One caveat: I haven’t seen the new appendix on interpersonal skills.

  3. The PMBOK will always be conservative and the new ISO 21500 Guide to Project Management will be even more so when it’s published in a couple of years. The problem is ‘development by committee consensus’ – the world must have moved on before the Standards can follow. But at least the PMBOK is moving in the right direction and the full 4th edition is available today!

    My personal challenge for 2009 is to start working on the scheduling community mainly through the PMI COS to start them thinking about schedules as communication tools to influence the future rather than control tools to be used in court later…… it will be interesting. Anyone interested in heresies such as suggestions that ‘schedules cannot be accurate’ (it is impossible to predict the future) and ‘adding detail makes thing worse’ can find abstracts linked off my scheduling page at (this is not a commercial – I have just about retired from the scheduling business after over 30 years in the game)

    Happy New Year.

  4. Hi Pat,
    Thanks for the comment… the PMBOK Guide is conservative (and probably should be). It is my group’s role to innovate beyond standards and benchmarks.

    I like your perspective on scheduling, though schedule tends to be the most “fixed” part of an enterprise software project. One must go live during certain windows, at least when implementing most mission critical software.

    Oh yes, adding unnecessary detail to schedules usually makes things worse.

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