Is the PMBOK® Guide a guide to the project management body of knowledge or is it a guide to the body of knowledge needed to manage a project? The traditional view is the PMBOK is special and the knowledge uniquely project focused; but is this true?? Consider these two challenges:
Challenge 1: name ANY process area that is unique to project management. Everyone plans; quality is ubiquitous, cost management and time management are practised by every home keeper, scope is fundamental to supplying anything etc.
Challenge 2: name ANY area of the PMBOK (or any other PM standard) that develops value without human interaction. The most perfect schedule is completely useless – has ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE AT ALL – unless its contents are first communicated to the right people and secondly, those people buy into the idea they need to implement the schedule and work to achieve it.
If we assume PMBOK = project specific body of knowledge the contents are likely to drop to a very few basic processes such as EV, WBS and maybe scheduling (but remember Henry Gantt was involved in manufacturing, not projects…).
I would suggest a reframing is needed PMBOK = the knowledge needed to manage a project successfully! This means allowing a range of useful management processes into the PMBOK such as motivation and leadership. Let’s face it, technical skills are the provenance of technicians. People skills are the provenance of management, and in case anyone has failed to notice, the person leading even the most technical of projects is called a project manager!
Numerous studies have shown that the core skills for any successful project manager are the ability to develop a successful ‘high performing’ team, and communicate effectively to influence key stakeholders. These are soft skills and very hard to achieve competence in. ‘Soft’ does not mean easy. Hard skills have an easy to learn framework that does not change. The ‘soft’ in soft-skills refers to the need to adapt their use to every new context. For more on this see: Confronting soft Skills
This reframing is important because well over 90% of project failures can be directly attributed to people issues, including headline disasters such as the original Hubble Space Telescope launch and Challenger (read the reports on the NASA web site). For IT read any of the Gartner reports on project failure.
The simple fact is we can continue to underplay the importance of soft skills because they are not ‘project specific’ and continue to see well over 50% of project fail every year or we can recognise the core elements that characterise projects are totally useless without people and start giving stakeholder management and the soft skills implicit in successfully managing them the prominence needed in the body of knowledge needed to successfully manage projects.
What do you think??