It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      March 2009 Full Moon Edition      

Is the PMBOK® Really a Standard?

PMI provides the top ten changes to the PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) for the fourth edition and number nine of the top ten changes is changing the triple constraint to thesixtiple constraint. PMI has now included six factors to replace the triple constraint. They don't actually call it sixtiple, I did! But the made up word sixtiple is as logical as having six factors to replace the triple constraint.

The three new additional constraints are quality, resources and risk. Are these constraints? Yes they are….but….one could argue that they are subsets or aspects of the original three. If you add an additional three why not more? What about issues? What about customer perception? Political ramifications? etc.

Where will it end?

My opinion is that the PMBOK® is as out of control as your most nightmarish stakeholder. Always changing things… hoping to make it better… when in fact they have seem to add complexity with little or no additional value. As Voltaire stated "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Project Management is nothing but structured organized common sense!

Here is the problem…if you try to document every single common sense thing and every factor or process that contributes to the successful execution of common sense the result is gobbledygook! Does gobbledygook rhyme with PMBOK®? It is tough to define gobbledygook but you know it when you see it!

Judgment cannot be legislated with bureaucracy; there are too many variables and circumstances.The real challenge in project management is not identifying the common sense things to do, but having the individual or organizational discipline to do the common sense thing.

It is not a standard if it is always changing!

PMI is calling something a standard and then they change it. Maybe they should consider using WIP for Work in Progress instead of standard. If the PMBOK® were an 8 ounce cup every three or four years the world would have to revise all the recipes to comply with their new definition of a cup.More importantly, PMI is at risk of devaluing the PMP certification because now you have project managers certified on different sets of terms. When an organization hires a newly certified PMP based on the fourth edition of the PMBOK® they may not know the term triple constraint. A standard doesn't have to be perfect, but a standard must be a standard to effectively serve its purpose!

PMBOK® Huggers Beware!

Before we get discouraged let's remember that most of humankind's greatest project management achievements happened before the PMBOK® existed. The principles of successful project management are timeless and if you know them and use them you will be successful regardless of whether the PMBOK® chooses to include it or what the PMBOK® chooses to call it.

P.S. PMI took PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) out of the third edition of the PMBOK® and now it is back in the fourth edition. Nothing like standardization!

P.P.S. A PMI book reviewer stated in the March 2009 issue of The Project Management Journal that my book, The Handbook of Program Management doesn't address all of the plans identified in the PMI standard for Program Management and it is not suitable for academic settings. This was the ultimate compliment, since the book was written with that intent! Having a lot of plans is no formula or guarantee for success and people don't work in academic settings.

The principles in The Handbook of Program Management will work 10 years form now, 20 years from now and 57.5 years from now, no matter how many times PMI has changed the supposed "standard." The reviewer also stated "Dr. Brown has written an easy-to-read book that focuses on managing projects in a program setting with numerous suggestions of best practices to follow."Easy to read, best practices...Welcome to the Real World!

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Dr. James T. Brown PMP PE CSP


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