This blog post is part of lengthy article that we published in the past.
We base the observations that we discuss in this paper on interactions with project management practitioners, online discussion groups, as well as surveys and polls that we have conducted in the past. It has been quite clear to us that a large number of project management practitioners do not understand (or at least misunderstand) some of the key concepts in project management.
We do not claim to be THE authority on this subject. We also know that what we share with you here, will be in line with what you already know (for some), but will challenge the conventional wisdom for others, even may change your paradigm in regard to project management and the PMBOK® Guide.
The title of our blog site is Redefining Project Management – Share, Learn, and Challenge Conventional Wisdom!
Our first action in this paper is to explain the title, why Redefining?
The quick and simple answer is the following:
- Many professional associations, subject matter experts, and thought leaders have already defined project management. Their definitions might have subtle differences but in general, they do converge along certain processes, methods, or approaches.
- However, we think that some of the common project management terms used in the field of project management are not well defined, or there are different definitions depend on the source of the information. Consequently, the outcome of this lack of clarity is starting to damage the field of project management.
- We do realize that many would not agree with these statements, which is why, in this series of articles, we want to challenge the conventional wisdom and trigger some reflection on what we are presenting.
Contributing Factors to Redefining
Expanding on the above, in our humble opinion, project management thought leaders and professional associations have done a great job in defining project management and by ‘redefining’ we have no wish to undermine their work or disrespect what the wealth of information they had put forward. Nevertheless, the challenges we have observed are many and these have led us to use this term, Redefining. We single out two specific factors leading us to such a term.
- Many of those thought leaders have moved on to the higher levels of project management and are working on topics related to organizational project management, strategic project management, project management maturity, program management, and various other ‘advanced topics’. They seem to be forgetting, or are moving away from re-assessing basic project management. Perhaps they feel that basic project management is already sufficiently mature. Alternatively, perhaps this level of detail lacks sufficient interest. On the other hand, perhaps what we have (the lack of understanding) is now too entrenched to be changed?
- The second main contributing factor is the widespread and popularity of project management certifications, such as the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, although the issues are not limited to the PMP alone.
We are not criticizing the PMP® certification here but we do critique the organizations that administer, award, and promote the PMP, including PMI, some of its chapters, and some training providers who depend on the PMP as the main source of income for themselves or their organizations. With their eagerness to promote the most popular project management credential today, their focus is on teaching people to pass a multiple-choice exam rather than on facilitating the learning of proper project management, or enhancing projects success and organizational performance.
Why is the second point above a factor, a contributor, to the title of this paper?
Because, many technical/functional professionals without real project management experience, and many with limited project management experience, are becoming PMP. In general, this is not an issue if we all agree that the PMP is a basic level certification. However, the challenge is that these organizations and individuals promote the PMP as an expert level certified project manager. Expertise requires years of REAL experience and not fresh graduates working in a university computer lab or as teacher’s assistant.
Further, the way training provider ‘teach’ a large percentage of PMP preparation classes; their focus is on the process groups and processes, with inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs; or the so famous ITTO. These are leading to numerous points of confusion around project management, project management terminology, and most importantly, the practice of project management. In short, the dominant confusion is around the process groups and the project life cycle. The PMBOK® Guide addresses project life cycle and project phases in chapter 2 but briefly and most do not stop and reflect on what this truly means on a project.
Our Action and Response
Because of these past observations and experiences, we had decided to tackle these issues by developing a project management methodology, publishing a series of books, and launching a blog with the title Redefining Project Management. This paper reflects our views on the confusions, and our attempt to clarify using the SUKAD approach for managing projects.
 The PMBOK® Guide is “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge®”, published by the Project Management Institute; all rights reserved to PMI®. Typically, any reference to the PMBOK® Guide in this paper would be to the 4th edition of the standard.
 We do not mean all the terms since in some situations the differences are minor and have negligible impact. However, the lack of understanding of some terms and practices, have an effect on projects’ results, as we will discuss in this paper.
 PMI is largest not-for-profit association promoting project management, with over 400,000 members at the time of writing.
 The Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most popular project management credential with over 500,000 holders
 Some ‘sell’ the PMP as an expert level project manager certification. However, the PMP requirements did not require a project manager experience, so it is not a project manager certification. Further, some would debate whether 4500 hours of experience working on projects would justify the ‘expert’ label.
 The focus on input – tools & techniques – output is so dominant that people label it ITTO in online groups.