Debunking 5 Misconstrued Project Management Myths

Insights | 22 December 2015

The first attempt to codify the Project Management Body of Knowledge dates back to 1983. Since then, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)®, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) has become a globally recognised standard for project management.

The PMBOK® Guide is seen as a foundational reference for project management that has evolved with the profession and provides a common glossary for project management across different sectors and industries.

With the advent of agile frameworks and their somewhat profligate uptake, the PMBOK® Guide is coming under scrutiny and sometimes dismissed as ‘old school’ or ‘invalid’ in the fast-paced world of change.   Let’s expose the truth by looking at the somewhat unfortunate myths about the PMBOK® Guide out there.

5 myths about the PMBOK® Guide

Myth 1. The PMBOK® Guide process groups namely, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing, are phases in a project life cycle.
Fact. Unfortunately this is one of the long-standing misconceptions about the PMBOK® Guide. As is very clearly stated in the Guide: The Process Groups are not project life cycle phases.

“In fact, it is possible that all Process Groups could be conducted within a phase…all of the Process Groups would normally be repeated for each phase or subcomponent….”  

PMBOK® Guide

Myth 2. The PMBOK® Guide is a project management methodology.
Fact. Again, another long-standing misinterpretation of the Guide! The PMBOK® Guide does not even pretend to be a methodology. Instead it identifies a “subset of the project management body of knowledge that is generally recognised as good practice”. I like to see it as an overarching framework providing guidance including a ‘toolkit’ of project management tools and techniques.

Myth 3. Following on from myth 2, it is often assumed that the PMBOK® Guide is only for so-called ‘traditional’ waterfall projects.
Fact. As it is a guide, rather than a specific methodology, the PMBOK® Guide is applicable in all project environments:

“One can use different methodologies and tools (e.g., agile, waterfall, PRINCE2®) to implement the project management framework”.

Myth 4. The PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2 are competing methodologies
Fact. By exposing myths 2 and 3, we can start to see the PMBOK® Guide for what it is and isn’t. The PMBOK® Guide is not a methodology competing against PRINCE2. PRINCE2 is a structured project management method that can be used to implement the Guide’s framework. PRINCE2 even clearly states that it should not be confused with a Body of Knowledge, but that the differences between the two make them highly complementary.

Myth 5. The PMBOK® Guide is too onerous and bureaucratic. We don’t have time for 47 processes!
Fact. Each process in the PMBOK® Guide is not meant to be applied robotically in every project; knowledge, skills and processes cannot be applied uniformly to all projects.

 “For any given project, the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining which processes are appropriate, and the appropriate degree of rigor…”

PMBOK® Guide

So take a moment or two to re-assess the PMBOK® Guide and its place as a versatile reference and resource for the project management profession.

PMI and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

PRINCE2 is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited

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