The PMBOK® Guide is NOT a project management methodology

This blog is in response to all those people who think that the PMBOK® Guide is a project management methodology.

It isn’t!

What it is a collection of good practices gathered over many years from all sorts of projects of all sizes from all industries separated out into easy to understand processes, tools and techniques. You are supposed to take from it only those processes, tools and techniques that actually provide benefit on your project. This is the process called tailoring and it’s referred to quite often throughout the PMBOK® Guide to stress the point. The only time you will ever need to know the entire contents of the PMBOK® Guide is when you sit the PMP® or CAPM® exam. Apart from that, its best value is as a reference document that you can check to see what good practice would suggest and then use only those things that are appropriate to your project.

The main benefit of the PMBOK® Guide is that it gathers in one place the collective wisdom of the entire profession of project management. So it doesn’t matter if you work on small or large projects, simple or complex, IT, health, new product development, telecommunications or construction projects. You will find something of use in the PMBOK® Guide to help you in successfully managing projects.

The processes themselves are not meant to be applied in their entirety and they are not discrete separate linear processes perhaps as indicated by the layout of the text. They are represented as separate for ease of understanding but the reality is they are incredibly iterative and interdependent, and more often than not, completed simultaneously.  Furthermore, the tools and techniques in every process are suggestions for what you may use if they are appropriate.

Another benefit that the PMBOK® guide presents is a standardised terminology. The profession of project management has evolved out of many professions and as such there is a range of terms and phrases used to describe similar or identical things. Simply switching to the terminology in the PMBOK® guide helps people communicate better.

From the PMBOK® Guide you build your own appropriate project management methodology, one that suits you and your projects. Take from the PMBOK® Guide only those processes, tools and techniques that are useful and applicable to your projects, and build a flexible scalable methodology instead of a one size fits all approach. There are many fine proprietary methodologies out there like TenStep, Method 123, UPMM, MPMM, Prince2, and Scrum. I personally suggest that you should develop your own methodology as this will have a much greater chance of being adopted by your organisation.