Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reconstructing Project Management (3 of 9)

When and how can we get away from a PMBOK that is based around what was chosen as being ‘the knowledge that is unique to project management’ rather than that which we need to know in order to develop and deliver projects successfully?

Morris, Peter.  Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective.  Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, October 2013, p13.  © 2013 by the Project Management Institute

This is the third in my series of posts commenting on nine questions that Peter Morris asked in his October article in Project Management Journal.  This post takes up the third question, above, which needs a bit of context.

In the earliest editions of what is now PMBoK, PMI’s focus was only on the knowledge unique to project management, thus excluding general and domain-specific knowledge (though even this has questionable elements).  So, to know what you needed to know to manage projects, you had to know the PMBoK content as well as other stuff.
Morris has a fixation on PMBoK, even though he identifies several other BOKs (APM, IPMA, ENAA and EPMF) that don’t have this omission or limitation he identifies.  What I find most frustrating, though, when reading Morris is trying to determine what he means by the distinction of knowledge unique to PM vs what “we need to know in order to develop and deliver projects successfully.”  This is a refrain from both the PMJ article and the book, but I struggle to find concrete examples of content that should be present but isn’t.

It’s frustrating because I want to agree with Morris that PMBoK is incomplete, but I don’t just want to know the disease, I want the prescription to treat it, too. 
I think Morris is on much firmer grounding with his ninth question (to get ahead of myself) that challenges the foundation of PMBoK:  is it a reactive response to what PMs do or is it grounded solidly and strategically on a valid logical/ philosophical model that defines and encompasses the PM domain.  My interpretation is that PMI has been struggling over the past several years because their foundation is the Project Manager, but the future focus is on the PMO.  That is, historically the PM was responsible for delivering the project and was therefore responsible for cost, schedule and scope.

In the future, the team and the sponsor will have responsibility.  The PM will be responsible for (and measured by) following the processes and applying the tools that the PMO defines as appropriate within that organization for delivering successful projects.
PMI, thus, has lost its footing and is stumbling as it struggles to make this transition from the importance of the PM to the importance of PM processes.  OPM3 has the potential to lead the way, but it goes back to Morris’ ninth question:  is the PMBoK descriptive of what we do (and there are a lot of us doing a lot of different things called project management) or is it prescriptive and defining what is the domain and the boundaries of project management?  The latter is strategic and provides the leadership and vision for the future.  The former is historical and will be useful in a few years to analyze the demise of PMI.

© 2014 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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