One of the core subjects that anyone preparing for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam needs to master is understanding the various project life cycles and processes. Project life cycles describe the sequence of activities that project managers use from the beginning of a project to its end. In contrast, project processes refer to the systematic series of activities, starting from project initiation to closing, used to achieve a project’s objectives.

Project Life Cycles

There are primarily two types of project life cycles—Predictive (or Waterfall) and Adaptive (or Agile).

  • Predictive (or Waterfall) Lifecycle: This model follows a succession of events from requirements specification, design, implementation, testing, delivery, and maintenance. The waterfall model assumes that every requirement of the project is clearly defined at the beginning, and no major changes occur later. The advantage is that it is easy to understand and use. The drawback, however, is that it is hard to make changes once the project has begun.
  • Adaptive (or Agile) Lifecycle: This model is iterative and incremental. A project is divided into small subsets or iterations. At the end of each iteration, working software is delivered. Changes can be made at the end of each iteration based on customer feedback. The main advantage of the agile model is its flexibility and adaptability to deal with changes. The disadvantage can be a lack of predictability and control.

Project Processes

Now let’s discuss project processes which are grouped into five groups according to PMBOK® Guide, Sixth Edition.

  1. Initiating Process Group: This is where the project is defined at a broad level. Key activities include developing project charters and identifying stakeholders.
  2. Planning Process Group: Here, the entirety of the project is planned, from its scope to resources, and a project management plan is developed.
  3. Executing Process Group: In this group, the work defined in the project management plan is carried out to complete the project’s objectives.
  4. Monitoring & Controlling Process Group: This group involves tracking, reviewing, and regulating the progress and performance of the project.
  5. Closing Process Group: Here, the project is formally closed, and the final deliverables are handed over.

Simulation Example

One simulation example could be an IT project that’s using a predictive life cycle model. The steps in the project flow along this line:

Requirements Collection > Design > Implementation > Testing > Deployment > Maintenance.

In this scenario, a formal document will be produced with features defined in detail. No changes are likely made until the end of the project. The design team will be involved after the completion of the requirements collection, and the testing team will become involved after implementation. It offers a clear sequence but has limited flexibility.


To conclude, understanding project life cycles and processes is vital in project management and is a critical area in the CAPM exam. Adaptive (or Agile) and Predictive (or Waterfall) are two different project life cycle models with their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on the nature and demands of the project. Similarly, understanding the 5 process groups will equip prospective CAPM certification holders in managing projects from initiation to closing in a systematic and efficient manner.

Practice Test

The Project Life Cycle includes initiation, planning, executing, and closing.

  • a) True
  • b) False

Answer: a) True

Explanation: The Project Life Cycle is a way to break down the entire project from beginning to end into manageable phases: initiation, planning, execution and closing.

Which of the following is not a process in the Project Life Cycle?

  • a) Initiating
  • b) Planning
  • c) Escalating
  • d) Executing
  • e) Closing

Answer: c) Escalating

Explanation: Escalating is not a recognized process within the Project Life Cycle which contains five processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing.

The waterfall project management model applies to all projects.

  • a) True
  • b) False

Answer: b) False

Explanation: The waterfall project management model is more suitable for projects where requirements are very well known, and changes are limited or non-existent. Agile or Scrum methodologies may be useful for projects with evolving needs.

Which phase of the project life cycle is the most costly?

  • a) Initiating
  • b) Planning
  • c) Executing
  • d) Closing

Answer: c) Executing

Explanation: The executing phase often utilizes the most resources and, therefore, tends to be the most costly phase of the project life cycle.

The agile project life cycle is characterized by:

  • a) Fixed requirements and timeline
  • b) Incremental and iterative delivery
  • c) Long planning stages
  • d) All activities done at once

Answer: b) Incremental and iterative delivery

Explanation: The agile project life cycle emphasizes an iterative approach, where projects are divided into sprints or cycles, and deliverables are provided incrementally.

In the initiation phase of a project, the project charter is created.

  • a) True
  • b) False

Answer: a) True

Explanation: The initiation phase involves defining the project and getting approval to begin work, which includes the creation of the project charter.

Which project life cycle emphasizes flexibility throughout the project?

  • a) Waterfall
  • b) Iterative
  • c) Incremental
  • d) Adaptive

Answer: d) Adaptive

Explanation: An adaptive life cycle, also commonly known as the Agile method, allows for considerable flexibility throughout the project and is best used when project goals and solutions aren’t clearly understood.

During the planning phase of a project, the project plan is validated.

  • a) True
  • b) False

Answer: b) False

Explanation: During the planning phase, the project plan is developed, not validated. The plan is validated during the executing phase.

In which phase of the Project Life Cycle do you deliver the project to the customer?

  • a) Executing
  • b) Planning
  • c) Closing
  • d) Initiating

Answer: c) Closing

Explanation: During the closing phase, the project is finalized and delivered to the customer, marking the completion of the project.

Which life cycle model focuses on risk assessment and reducing uncertainty?

  • a) Iterative
  • b) Incremental
  • c) Spiral
  • d) Waterfall

Answer: c) Spiral

Explanation: The Spiral model focuses on early identification and reduction of project risks, making it suitable for large, complex, and high-risk projects.

Interview Questions

1. What is the purpose of a project life cycle?

A project life cycle is a series of phases that a project goes through from initiation to completion. Each phase has its own set of objectives and deliverables.

2. What are the common phases in a project life cycle?

The common phases in a project life cycle are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing.

3. How does the project life cycle relate to project management processes?

The project life cycle provides a framework for the project management processes to be carried out in an organized and systematic manner.

4. What is the purpose of project management processes?

Project management processes are used to initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control, and close a project in a structured and efficient way.

5. How do project management processes help in achieving project objectives?

Project management processes help in defining and achieving project objectives by providing a clear roadmap for project activities and ensuring that resources are allocated effectively.

6. What are the key outputs of the initiation phase in a project life cycle?

The key outputs of the initiation phase include the project charter, which formally authorizes the project, and the project stakeholders, who are identified and engaged in the project.

7. How does the planning phase contribute to project success?

The planning phase helps in defining project scope, objectives, deliverables, and timelines, which are essential for successful project execution.

8. What is the role of the project manager in the execution phase?

The project manager is responsible for coordinating and overseeing project activities, resources, and team members to ensure that project deliverables are met on time and within budget.

9. How do monitoring and controlling processes help in project management?

Monitoring and controlling processes help in tracking project progress, identifying variances from the plan, and taking corrective actions to keep the project on track.

10. Why is it important to have a structured closing phase in a project life cycle?

A structured closing phase is important to ensure that project deliverables are successfully completed, stakeholders are satisfied, and lessons learned are documented for future projects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *