Monday, June 16, 2008

Reading :: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
by William R. Duncan

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, also known as the PMBOK Guide, is the frequently cited guide developed by the Project Management Institute Standards Committee. This edition was published in 1996 and supersedes PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK); the third edition, which I believe is the most current one, was published in 2004.

The PMBOK guide aims to set out the principles of project management so that this young field can establish standards. To that purpose, it is divided into the following sections:
I. The Project Management Framework
II. The Project Management Knowledge Areas
III. Appendices (which contain information on processes, additional sources, and a summary among other things)
IV. Glossary and Index
In other words, the PMBOK guide is definitely on the reference side, giving an overview of the basics of project management, an overview that should be supplemented with other texts as well as specialization in one's own content area and organizational structure. It's a 50,000 foot view. And as such, it's quite valuable for anyone who wants that overview. But it also introduces challenges for anyone who needs a closer view.

So, for instance, the PMBOK guide is especially valuable when defining project management as "the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project" (p.6), and when explaining basic concepts such as the difference between projects and operations (p.4). It also diagrams the knowledge areas and processes of project management (p.7) and explains what stakeholders might be involved in the project (p.15).

In one really valuable part of the PMBOK guide, the different types of organizational structures are described:
  • Functional: hierarchies in which staff are organized by specialty and have distinct superiors (p.18).
  • Projectized: focused almost entirely on projects, with relatively independent project managers drawing on resources across the organization rather than siloed into functional areas (p.20).
  • Matrix: a blend of the functional and projectized organizational structures (p.20).
The PMBOK guide is geared toward supporting projects across the two extremes of functional and projectized organizational structures. However, as I've discussed elsewhere, the projectized organizational structure is not an extreme: we are starting to see much looser and more distributed organizational structures such as federations and coworking as well as (arguably) agile organizations. The PMBOK guide, with its emphasis on processes and structures, is not well positioned to be extended to these looser organizations. More thoughts on this point as I continue to read the project management literature.


Anonymous said...

Project Management Professional (PMP)

ro said...

Hi Clay:
I will look at this resource. Have you looked at online PM software - Vertabase ( to name one? There is power in the group learning that happens with these systems. It also allows for the involvement of customer stake holders.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

I haven't. Thanks, Ro, will check it out.