Purpose of this Pocket Companion to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide

This pocket companion to the PMBOK® Guide is intended as a brief reference to aid in quickly understanding the purpose, background and key elements of the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition.

What is the added value of the PMBOK® Guide? The PMBOK® Guide is recognized worldwide as a foundational reference for the application of project management knowledge and good practices. Research has confirmed that it clearly enhances the successful delivery of projects. Project environments that consistently apply this fundamental project management good practice approach not only show better project performance in terms of lower costs and shorter delivery times, they also show higher customer satisfaction. So, there are many benefits to gain from the application of project management good
practices, as described in the PMBOK® Guide.

When working in a project management environment, which is far more dynamic than ‘normal’ operations, good communication is essential for supporting good collaboration. Whether you follow a more classical ‘Waterfall’ like development approach, or apply Agile working principles in your projects, it’s key that all stakeholders within your project management environment share ‘one common language’, which is understood by everyone involved, particularly by the project’s key-stakeholders. The purpose of this pocket guide (why) is to quickly establish a shared mindset, vocabulary and terminology, on project management and Agile fundamentals. If we have a common understanding of the basic management deliverables (what), the key-roles and responsibilities (who), the processes (how) and their logical order (when), we will achieve increasing levels of collaboration and real teamwork that are key for project success.

What is it not? It is definitely not a ‘project management recipe book’. The project manager and the team, using their experience and common sense, remain ultimately responsible for deciding what good practices shall be applied to the specific project at hand, closely cooperating with the project sponsor and the management and stakeholders of the user organization.

It’s also not a project management methodology. It can be used as a shared reference for creating a project management methodology at the organizational level, based on these worldwide shared good practices.

In a nutshell, this pocket book is intended as a key contributor and tangible asset, when introducing and reinforcing concepts of Agile project, program and portfolio management in your organization for improved communication and cooperation. It supports an organizationally wide implementation of an Agile project management culture, bringing you the benefits of ‘the right projects delivered fast and right’!

In chapter 3 you will find a more detailed description about the PMBOK® Guide, its fundamental definitions and its structure. In chapters 4 to 13 we will further detail the areas of project management knowledge and their underlying processes. In chapter 14 we will take a closer look at basic Agile principles as described in PMI’s Agile standard, which was issued in combination with the PMBOK® Guide Sixth edition.

1.2 Practical tips for using this pocket guide

On the additional cover page attached to the back cover of this book, all knowledge areas and applicable processes and chapter numbers are listed. On the pages of the pocket guide each chapter is recognizable by the icon representing the applicable knowledge area on the side of the page, enabling you to quickly locate the appropriate topic.

Key terms and definitions are explained in a restricted selection from the Glossary of the PMBOK® Guide, in appendix A.

1.3 Project management and its value

Several companies have built a good reputation for being able to consistently deliver top quality projects. However, quite a lot of organizations are still struggling with this. Do you recognize the following characteristics?
• Projects without a focus on optimum benefits realization – which should in fact be the key driver and the reason for the existence of the project;
• Projects mostly delivering too late, over-budget, or without meeting even the key functionality requirements of the project sponsor and end-users;
• Projects may somehow be ‘successful’ in the end but only through heavy stress and overtime work;
• Project managers do it ‘their way’ as there are no, or poor, organizational guidelines for project management processes and techniques;
• The project work undertaken by resources from within the line organization is not carefully planned-for as a valuable part of the operations planning, instead it is typically regarded as ‘next to your real job’;
• There is no overall insight available on all the projects being undertaken in the organization, nor on their associated effort, or cost versus the added value;
• There is extra pressure on operational budgets as project budgets do not separate the effort, and therefore the cost, of internal workforce since they are ‘already paid for’;
• The required work for managing projects proactively is not accounted for in the project plan, because project management is regarded as a waste of time, instead of being recognized as assuring improved business value realization.

Do you recognize the above? Having disciplined project management is the way to overcome these shortcomings. The value of a mature project management practice in your organization, using well defined and communicated project management processes, will enable better communication to deal with contingencies proactively. This will substantially and continuously increase the chances of project success. It will establish specific management procedures and processes for changing your business which will, in turn, enable increased business benefits.

Every organization has its unique culture and faces diverse challenges. Also, organizations start with a different situation and set of problems to be resolved. In order to define the value of project management, we firstly need to define exactly what is meant by project management, as this is a broad concept. Then we can look at the various aspects of project management and show the value associated with each aspect.

PMI definition:
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet project requirements.

This is accomplished by the application of project management processes. Research shows that, with the increasing complexity and faster changing environments that businesses are faced with, projects managed by the structural application of good practice-based processes show consistently better performance in areas such as, but not limited to:
• ‘Deliver as promised’ by realistic expectation-setting through up-front project definition, more realistic planning and estimation;
• Faster delivery through the reuse of commonly shared and known project management processes combined with Agile planning and delivery principles;
• Less ‘surprises’ during project execution, utilizing proactive project management processes;
• Improved customer satisfaction and less rework by delivering the right product or service, right, the first time.

These opportunities, together with the savings offered by organizational project management excellence, are tangible. But the value proposition for project management is much greater and also includes less tangible benefits like:
• A highly committed and motivated team that can work together through effective communication and goal setting;
• An inspiring project environment with a ‘can-do’ mentality through ambitious yet realistic commitments;
• Transparent and improved decision making at all organizational levels through more effective project communication;
• Continuous learning and improvement, at individual, team and organizational levels.

These qualitative benefits will even reinforce the quantitative advantages, which will guarantee that an organization is able to excel.

1.4 Successfully fulfilling your role as project sponsor, project team member or project manager

Understanding your role in a project and acting accordingly is vital for project success. Therefore we highlight the three key roles which are the major contributors in realizing a successful project:

  1. The project sponsor acts as the continuous link between the line organization and the project. It is the sponsor who is responsible at the start for defining the business case and the benefits management plan for the project; why should we be doing this project; what are the organization’s needs and how can we assure that, when the project result is delivered, the organization is ready to use it for realizing that business case? When the project is approved, the project manager takes over the responsibility for ‘delivery of the defined project objective’. The sponsor still fulfills an ever- important role for ensuring the project objective is aligned to the project goal. The sponsor should, amongst other things, ensure that the organization sticks to its initial decisions regarding goal setting, thus preventing constant priority changes based on daily operational issues. The project sponsor, therefore, plays an important role in ensuring that there is sufficient support from functional and operational management, which in turn fulfills a key role in assigning the appropriate resources to the project team. The sponsor should also support the organization’s readiness to effectively deal with the project objective when it is delivered, as this is where the benefits realization will start. For realizing this, the project sponsor must work closely together with the project manager. The fluent communication between these two roles is crucial for both project and organizational success.
  2. The project (management) team member is typically responsible for delivering the expertise and work needed to create the project result. During the initial phases of the project, their focus is on defining the best approach and developing a feasible high-level plan for the project; in other words, the planning. During the execution phases, based on their expertise, they realize the project objective and specific subcomponents. It is essential that the organization taking over the responsibilities at the end of the project has enough representation within the project team, , as this will help to ensure the smooth transition of the project objective to the operational or sponsoring organization.
  3. The project manager is ultimately responsible for the delivery of the defined project objective. Key elements in this role are stakeholder management and guiding the project team and the appropriate stakeholders in selecting and applying the right project management processes at the right time. But everything must be undertaken with an eye on the delivery of the project objective. The project manager must take advantage of the project sponsor’s business knowledge and influential position and escalate all issues or business-related problems that cannot be solved by the project management team.

In every project these key roles that are needed for its successful delivery should be clearly described and understood, so that every stakeholder can act accordingly.

Figure 1.1 clearly describes the common relationships between the line and project organization, and shows where each role is positioned.

Common relationship between line and project organization

1.5 FAQs

We have identified some typical questions one could ask when first confronted with project management or the PMBOK® Guide. If applicable, we provide a reference to the PMBOK® Guide where more detailed information can be found.

What is a project?

PMI definition:
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

This means:
• Temporary: It has a defined start and end, otherwise it’s not temporary. Please note that the project result is often not temporary. On the contrary, the project end-deliverable and outcome should last for a certain period. But it’s the organization that is established to create that result which is temporary.
• Endeavor: It has a certain ‘volume’ of work or effort, including the characteristic of being a challenge, which therefore needs some form of organization, otherwise it’s not an endeavor. Some organizations turn everything which is not ‘business as usual’ or ‘routine’ into a project, which then also allows for ‘one-man’ projects. Quite a lot of processes described in the next chapters then, of course, automatically feel like a huge overkill; the effort of getting the work organized might in fact surpass the effort of just doing the work. So before calling something a project we deliberately recognize there should be a characteristic of an organization (= an organized body of people with a particular purpose).
• Unique: It is not organized following normal procedures, because there are new elements and aspects to take into consideration, hence the need for risk management.
• Product, service or result: Something is completed at the end of a project. If we can’t define what that is, we cannot call it a project. Please note that for complex endeavors we may split the challenge in sub-projects, with the end-result of the first project being: a document providing the answer to the question ‘What do we want/need’?

There are projects of all sorts and levels, demanding that project management activities and the processes for getting these organized should be geared to the specific project at hand. But it’s the organization’s responsibility firstly to decide if the desired objective should be realized by means of undertaking a project, and if so, organizing it accordingly. (PMBOK® Guide chapter 1.2.1)

Is ‘project manager’ a profession?

While there is no agreed definition of a ‘profession’, you could describe it as: “A disciplined group of individuals who adhere to defined ethical standards and uphold themselves to the public as having specific knowledge and skills in a generally recognized, organized body of learning, derived from education and training, and who apply this knowledge and these skills in the interest of others.”

With projects getting more and more complex, the demands on a project manager’s competence are also increasing. For example, everyone can apply a bandage to a wound but that does not make everyone a doctor. The need to obtain specific skills, knowledge and education, in order to successfully fulfill the role of project manager, is generally recognized. This is even confirmed in the academic world where a Master’s degrees in Pproject Management is now available.

Typically for professions like lawyers, doctors, etc. the responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community takes precedence over other considerations. This aspect is also confirmed by PMI’s ‘Code of Ethics’, the signing of which is an eligibility requirement for obtaining any PMI credential.

The use of a common vocabulary is also a characteristic of a professional discipline. The PMI Lexicon of project management terms provides a foundational professional vocabulary.

One can therefore safely conclude that ‘project manager’ has all characteristics of a profession.
(PMBOK® Guide chapter 1.2.2)

Can you manage a line organization, often called ‘operations’, effectively without projects?

Line organizations are typically function-centric and, in general, focus on ongoing day-to-day operations, while continuously looking to improve in order to ‘do their thing better’. Operations are therefore mostly resistant to (major) changes, particularly when the driver for these changes lies outside their function.

Projects and project management, on the other hand, are often about implementing necessary changes in the way we organize the operational organization, in order to improve our organizational value.

No organization can survive in today’s fast changing environment without having projects. At times they are not formally recognized as such, but organizations undertake them anyway. The ever-reducing level of stability in our line-organizations and the increasing number of ‘reorganizations’ reflect this constant drive by the line organization to ensure they keep up with the increasingly complex and ever-faster changes in the environment. The increasing number and scope of organizational and product changes, as well as the risks associated with all these changes, are demanding greater focus and attention on projects, together with the need for a more professional approach towards project management. This ensures that the changes are delivered and managed in an appropriate way. It will support line organizations in continuing to ‘do the right thing, the best way’.
(PMBOK® Guide chapter

What is the purpose of the PMBOK® Guide?

The PMBOK® Guide describes a professional approach towards project management, which is applicable to most projects, most of the time. This approach is based on its proven value and benefits in practice, through the contribution of thousands of project managers worldwide.
(PMBOK® Guide chapter 1.1)

Is the PMBOK® Guide a methodology?

The PMBOK® Guide is referred to as a framework more than a methodology.

A framework can be defined as a guiding conceptual structure to allow more homogeneous handling of different business processes grouped together. It also increases management discipline and a less individual and experimental approach. It predefines common deliverables to and from each business process. A framework is a well-defined tactic to master the complex environment of an organization in a simple fashion. As such, the PMBOK® Guide acts as a taxonomy or map of the entire body of project management knowledge.

A methodology can be defined as a system of prescribed methods that are followed in a discipline. A method describes the processes by which a task is completed; a prescribed way to execute the processes.

Being a basic reference, the PMBOK® Guide is more of a framework than a methodology. Although the project management processes are described, together with the tools and techniques commonly applied when executing
these processes, it does not prescribe the exact way of doing. In practice, for the implementation of this framework, several project management methodologies can be defined and applied, fine-tuned towards the application area and the specific subject of the projects (like Agile, Waterfall, Prince2, etc.). But before one can select, define, apply or even combine any project management methodology, there should first be a thorough and common understanding of the project management framework.
(PMBOK® Guide chapter 1.1)

How is the structure of this pocket companion aligned with the PMBOK® Guide and what if you want to know more?

Creating a shared view, a common structure, and then consistently building on that, is essential for clear and concise communication. For this reason, we have simply maintained the well-considered structure of the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition.

Therefore chapters 1 to 3 form a high-level introduction for building this common view, just as the first three chapters of the PMBOK® Guide do at a much more detailed level.

We have then ensured full alignment of this pocket guide with the original PMBOK® Guide in the numbering of chapters 4 to 13 as well as their sub paragraphs (e.g. 4.1. Develop Project Charter). So, when looking for a more detailed explanation and understanding about a certain subject, simply refer to the related chapter and paragraph number in the PMBOK® Guide.
We conclude with a final chapter 14, focusing on Agile, just as PMI issues the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition and the Agile Practice Guide in combination.

Can you get certified on the PMBOK® Guide as an individual or as an organization?

PMI has set up several individual certifications, for the typical project manager roles, of which the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® and the Project Management Professional (PMP)® use the PMBOK® Guide as a basis.

PMI does not issue organizational certifications in the same way that ISO or ANSI do. To that respect, ISO 21500 Guidance on project management, was issued in 2012. However, it has not yet reached the level of a standard on which organizations can be certified (like ISO 9001). The ISO 21500 standard provides organizations with a guideline on which project management processes organizations can implement as a basis for ensuring the quality of their project management. ISO 21500 shows a huge overlap with the PMBOK® Guide, regarding the structure and the defined project management processes. When organizations and their project managers choose to apply the PMBOK® Guide in their project management practice, they are already in alignment with the ISO 21500 standard.

How can the PMBOK® Guide support you in real-life application?

As the PMBOK® Guide is based on good practices, it can effectively act as a ‘worldwide lessons-learned database’ for project management. Based on its structure and well-defined processes, it will definitely turn the mind-set from an ‘ad-hoc’ and fire-fighting mode of managing projects, towards a more proactively oriented approach. It enables you, when faced with challenging project situations, to quickly refer to the appropriate project management process, and fine-tune this to your project. As such it can speed-up the learning curve of individual project managers. It also directly enhances the project communications by creating a common understanding of ‘projects’ and a shared vision on how to manage their realization the best way. All stakeholders ‘speaking the same language’ is the easiest way for overcoming communication barriers which are likely to arise when working in challenging situations, while being constrained in terms of time, budget, resources or otherwise.

How does the PMBOK® Guide align with other standards, frameworks and methodologies?

The PMBOK® Guide provides a framework that is generally accepted as global good practice for project management. Therefore, it is a perfect guideline for creating and understanding your organizational project management methodology, which needs to fit with your specific projects in your specific environment. This is typically where the project management processes and the content creation processes should be integrated. ‘Drowning’ people in several different methodologies, with different backgrounds and definitions, and having everyone doing their own ‘integration exercise’, is likely to cause confusion and miscommunication and, as a consequence, result in a range of issues and errors, as well as being rather inefficient. A well-organized comparison of the processes, terms and definitions of the PMBOK® Guide with the processes, terms and definitions of other standards, frameworks and methodologies applied in your organization, will enable a quick identification of any potential overlap, and enable the setting-up of an effective integrated toolkit in an appropriate way, which supports teams in delivering results both more effectively and efficiently.

How does the PMBOK® Guide address the different organizational entities and levels?

Organizations develop procedures for delivering results in a predictable way that allow them to manage expectations. However, as most projects are cross-functional, several organizational entities typically come together and are required to deal with situations not encountered before, and for which no procedures are defined (as yet). As projects often result in changes in organizations, the appropriate stakeholders are involved, leading to the involvement of different organizational levels, i.e. operations level, tactical level, and even strategic level. Therefore, the understanding and application of a common organizational-wide reference such as the PMBOK® Guide is of value in such situations.

Is the PMBOK® Guide likely to supersede our current (organizationally developed) project management approach or methodology?

Project management approaches or methodologies, developed by and for an individual organization, mostly stem from a recognized need for improvement in project management application, based on organizational experiences and good practices. However, maintaining these good practices, as well as ensuring continuous alignment with latest developments in the project management profession, can become very costly and time consuming. This is the major reason why organizations switch to simply taking the PMBOK® Guide as their basic reference for a project management standard and fine-tune this where appropriate, documenting this transparently. As the PMBOK® Guide is also based on good practices, most of your own project management methodology will not drastically change. Following the Pareto rule, around 80% of the standard is likely to be generally applicable to your type of projects. This allows a focus on the specific 20% of the project management processes which form the uniqueness of your organization. This then becomes the heart of your own project management methodology.

Most generic project management methodologies, publicly available, refer to the PMBOK® Guide as a basic framework. In such cases the knowledge contained in the PMBOK® Guide substantially supports the better understanding and positioning of your project management methodology, thus reinforcing the right application.

What if we adopt Agile? Is the PMBOK® Guide still valuable?

There is still a general misconception that the PMBOK® Guide only applies to the more classical project management approach, often referred to as the ‘Waterfall’ methodology. With ‘Agile’ management approaches being enforced more and more, PMI initiated a collaborative effort with the Agile Alliance® which clarified that there are some quite similar activities between the classical and Agile project management approaches, such as planning, that are handled differently but occur in both environments. This effort resulted in ‘Agile considerations’ being added to the PMBOK® Guide as well as a separate Agile Practice Guide, which provides practical guidance geared toward project leaders and team members adapting to an Agile approach in planning and executing projects. In this way it can also bridge the pathway from a predictive approach to an Agile approach, and vice versa, as in reality we often recognize the need for both (hybrid project management).

What if I need more information?

As this is a pocket book, it should be considered as an introductory summary of the PMBOK® Guide and the Agile Practice Guide of the PMI organization. Far more details and explanations on certain subjects can be found in the PMBOK® Guide. Also, PMI’s website, www.pmi.org, will give you access to more detailed information.

A pocket companion to PMI’s PMBOK Guide
Anton Zandhuis, Thomas Wuttke
€17,95 excl. VAT

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