I wrote this piece when working as a Creative Services Account Executive at The Project Management Institute, PMI, as their seminal work was coming up on its 10-year anniversary. A robust non-profit organization fueled by its volunteers, it should come as no surprise and seems fitting that PMI’s most popular and oldest standard was born out of a volunteer project.
To this day, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK(R) Guide) is widely used, respected and frequently updated to keep pace with the rapidly growing project management field. It can be given a lot of credit for not only putting PMI on the map, but with the overall growth of the project management industry.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK(R) Guide), now in its third edition, has over two million copies in circulation worldwide, and is regarded as the de facto global standard for project management.
The PMBOK(R) Guide and its precedents, dating back nearly as far as the Project Management Institute itself, have paved the way for future standards, and established credibility for the organization as a whole. PMI is now recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a Standards Development Organization.
But what exactly is the PMBOK(R) Guide, why was it developed what sets it apart from other project management texts, and how was it developed?
It was more than 20 years ago that PMI volunteers first distilled the Project Management Body of Knowledge as part of the Ethics, Standards and Accreditation Project. This project was undertaken in response to a perceived need for a standard that could serve the project management profession. First published in 1996, the PMBOK(R) Guide was updated with the publication of the 2000 Edition, and again with the Third Edition in 2004. This demonstrates PMI’s commitment to updating the professional as it continues to grow at an accelerated pace.
While this renowned standard has changed and evolved, the definition of the PMBOK(R) Guide itself has also changed. Today, PMI defines it as a “generally accepted, widely recognized document that is repeatable in use, developed by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that summarizes knowledge of practice in project management and is an acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative evaluation.”
The PMBOK(R) Guide has become PMI’s premier and most popular standard, recognized by ANSI. It’s repeatability speaks to its purpose as a standard–to provide the foundation for consistent, predictable successful project outcomes. This level of consistency is important, as standards guide training and education, steer the work of professional practitioners, and form the basis or organizational policies, procedures and project management methodologies.
The PMI Standards Program volunteers strive for a consensus, based on their project management experience, and on their knowledge of current practices in project management. The general public then participates in the exposure draft to provide additional input to its quality. Once approved, the PMBOK(R) Guide serves as a model for quantitative and qualitative comparisons of other projects.
Not a “Be-All, End-All”
Now that we’ve determined what defines the PMBOK(R) Guide, it is important to consider some thinking about the PMBOK(R) Guide that can cause frustration among practitioners who attempt to use it for another purpose. Some of these misconceptions inspired this new series of articles to help readers fully understand the function of the PMBOK(R) Guide. According to the Third Edition, the PMBOK(R) Guide is intended as a “foundational reference.” It is “neither comprehensive nor all-inclusive,” but a “subset of the Project Management Body of Knowledge that is generally recognized as good practice.” Read more…
Project Management Institute, PMI Today, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2005. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been reproduced with the permission of PMI.