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Five Essential Elements of Project Management


Accomplishing any task, particularly one involving multiple volunteers scattered around the country or world, is always easier when standards are in place. A strong advocate of standardization and project management, the Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, is no stranger to the methodologies of standardization and has written the book on project management--literally. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), published in 2000 by the Project Management Institute, is a standard that outlines the five steps necessary for the successful completion of any project: initiate, plan, execute, monitor and control, and close. The following is an explanation of the five process groups, adapted from the book. The figure is also reproduced from the book.

Initiate. The initiation process authorizes the overall project or the next phase of a project. In this phase, project objectives are established, scope is defined, and responsible parties and deliverables are identified.

Plan. The planning processes are precisely that--the defining and refining of the best courses of action to take to attain the project objectives. Planning falls into two categories: core planning processes and facilitating processes.

Core processes are those that have clear dependencies that require them to be performed in essentially the same order on most projects. Examples include scope planning, schedule development, resource planning, and cost budgeting.

Facilitating processes are entirely dependent on the nature of the project and are performed intermittently and as needed--though they are not optional. Some of the facilitating planning processes include quality planning, staff acquisition, and risk identification.

Execute. Planning paves the way for executing, which involves coordinating resources, human and otherwise, to carry out the overall project plan. Because of the ongoing role execution plays in project management, its processes are also divided into core and facilitating subgroups. The central core process, project plan execution, oversees facilitating processes such as team development, information distribution, and solicitation.

Monitor and control. As the figure below shows, controlling processes have a strong presence in all but one of the project management stages. These processes ensure not only that project objectives are met, but also that corrective action can be taken should a problem arise. In this phase, performance reporting and risk monitoring and control are core. These watchdog processes work with facilitating processes such as cost control, quality control, and schedule control to ensure the project stays on track.

Close. The watchful eyes of the controlling processes eventually lead to closing, where the project is accepted and brought to an orderly end. The two main components of closing are contract closeout, in which any remaining open items are resolved and the contract is settled, and administrative closure, the gathering of information to formalize project completion, including compiling lessons learned for use in future projects.

It is important to note that the individual processes are not one-time events. Rather, they are overlapping activities that occur at varying levels of intensity throughout the course of the project. Using these standardized project management practices can help organize any project, and make said project a smoother, less stressful endeavor.