PMBOK Guide 4th Edition — First Impressions

As a registered education provider for PMI, SAP gets to see pre-release drafts of certain PMI standards.  And sure enough, we just got a late draft of the pending 4th Edition of the PMBOK Guide

My first impressions were that the 4th edition was a fairly straightforward continuous improvement of the 3rd.  This relatively small set of changes is in contrast to some of the big changes between editions two and three, never mind the giant leap between editions one and two.

Which is IMHO, a good thing and a measure of the maturity of the profession.  As regular readers know, my take is that most of the “action” should be in managing complexity, which takes us out of the project world and into programs and portfolios.  I would have been a bit worried if the profession — as represented by the PMBOK Guide project team — had felt the need to do a large-scale revision.

More on the specifics in later posts…


7 Responses

  1. Paul,
    By what standards or objective criteria are you claiming that project management is a profesion?

    Research by Bill Zwerman, Janice Thomas et al, funded in part by PMI, concluded “project management is not now, nor is it likely in the forseable future, to be recognized as a profession”.

    My own PhD dissertation entitled “Is Project Management a Profession? And if not, what is it?” confirmed the findings of Zwerman et al, based on on an analysis of 22 extrinsic and intrinsic attributes by some 400 global practitioners.

    What is project management? Nothing more than a “system, process or methodology”, and there are no prior examples where a profession evolved around a process or methodology.

    If you or anyone else is interested, email me and I will share the results of the research.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the comment. I’m simply using one the more vernacular definitions: “a principal calling, vocation, or employment..” I don’t believe it qualifies for stricter definitions like: “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.”

    I doubt PM will become a profession in the sense of such legally-sanctioned monopolies like the legal or medical fields. In other words, I think it unlikely that all PMs will need legal sanction for their education, certification, and licensing.

    Many PM practitioners would like more formal recognition of their callings. And it is true that PM certifications are required when before firms can even qualify to bid on, never mind win, many government contracts. Perhaps PM will end up something like the engineering field, where there are explicit certifications and licensing requirements only for some roles. I find it hard to believe that we would get more recognition than that.

    That said, it was only 100 or so years ago that lawyers only had to “read law”, so perhaps we should never say never about the professionalization of PM.

    Great topic…I’ll probably convert to a post to highlight the topic. I’ll also set up a survey. I’m curious what folks think.


  3. […] PMBOK Guide 4th Edition — First Impressions […]

  4. Paul,
    This seems to be a sticking point for some. I work in the Aerospace and defense world. There Program Planning and Controls is a job function in the same way an electrical engineer or an avionics sofwtare engineer is. Cost Engineering is a department in many construction organizations.
    Paul whats to consider Projetc Management in the same way Doctors and Lawyers are. That type of professional. Maybe having a Professional Engineer (PE) certificate for Project Management would fulfill that need.
    But here in A&D PP&C does call for specialized knowledge, training and certification (in house many times).
    But a bigger question is “what is the benefit of calling something a profession?” We have Certified Contract Managers, Certified Safety and Mission Assurance engineers, Certified Systems Engineers (INCOSE), etc.
    In the end this seems like a non issue when compared to the larger issue of assessing the qualifications of project staff in the absence of direct measureable values.

  5. Hi Glen,
    The question should NOT be an issue, except that some organizations, (PMI being the most obvious) is insisting that project managment IS a profession. (check their Code of Ethics and the word profession appears something like 15 times?)

    My research, which incorporated legal, social, economic and semantic perspectives, could find NOTHING that supported any claims that project management is or even should be a profession. In my conclusion, the only advice I can offer is that IF we want to professionalize what we do, then we need to follow the same path taken by Chiropractors. We need to EARN THE RIGHT for what we do to be known as a profession, by consistently producing results favorable to the consuming public. In the case of project managemnt, this means delivering projects on time, within budget, in substantial conformance to specifications while substantially delivering whatever the project was undertaken to achieve.

    I think project management is today where medicine was back in the 17th century.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  6. Mr. Ritchie,

    You state…”My first impressions were that the 4th edition was a fairly straightforward continuous improvement of the 3rd. This relatively small set of changes is in contrast to some of the big changes between editions two and three, never mind the giant leap between editions one and two.”

    I agree that there were “big changes” between the 2nd (2000) and 3rd (2004) editions. I do not, however, agree with your characterization of the difference between the 1st (1996) edition and the 2nd (2000) edition as a “giant leap”.

    Simply stated, the 3rd edition was a fiasco. It over complicated the rather elegant framework described in the first two editions. The new 4th edition attempts to return to a simpler presentation of that framework.

    There is one issue the pending new edition that I belive will serve to raise more questions than it answers.

    I fear the addition of a planning process called “Collect Requirements” to Project Scope Management inadvertently introduces a product-oriented process where only a project management process should be [see page 27 of the 1st edition, page 30 of the 2nd edition, page 38 of the 3rd edition, and the introduction to Chapter 3 in the 4th edition].

    Basically, the PMBOK Guide organizes project management into a number of project management processes. My concern is that a project management planning process called Collect Requirements that speaks in part to product requirements and/or technical requirements, may blur the line between product-oriented process and project management process.

    Consider a project whose life cycle (driven by the application area/product of the project) and that has an early phase named “Requirements” whose primary delieverable is documentation describing the requirments of the product of the project. —-
    How do we apply the “Collect Requirements” project management process to the planning of that phase?

  7. Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the comment… I think you go too far calling the 3rd edition a “fiasco”. However, I’ll grant you it was muddled and could have been better organized. The new emphasis on certain topics was most important, at least to our organization.

    I don’t get your problem with the PMBOK Guide containing an explicit process to collect requirements. Every product or service generated by a project has requirements and requirements collection is already implied in a number of processes in a number of knowledge areas. The PMBOK Guide already uses the Crosby quality formulation of “conformance to requirements.” Why not make this process more explicit?

    Also, I don’t see why this addition should cause any issues in the case you mention. If your life cycle approach already incorporates requirements management sufficiently, then you’re ahead of the curve because you’re already applying a “Collect Requirements” process.

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