Episode 45- Thoughts on the Ever-Expanding PMBOK Guide

Episode #45
Original Air Date: 11.07.2017

35 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe & Bill Yates

What should a project manager do with this latest edition of the PMBOK Guide? The 6th Edition has 756 pages. That represents a 28% increase from the 5th Edition. In fact, the size has roughly doubled from the 3rd Edition to the 6th Edition.

In this podcast, the team debates the proper perspective and approach to this industry standard. The standard describes a framework – not a methodology. It tells what to do – not how or when to do it. It provides guidance – not answers. Think of the PMBOK Guide as a giant index that directs project managers where to go for more information. Join the Manage This crew for practical, strategic advice regarding this latest update to the industry standard.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"Probably the biggest change we talked about, we actually dedicated a podcast to it recently, and that was when we had our guest Jesse Fewell on, talking about the introduction of Adaptive and Agile practices into the PMBOK Guide."

- Bill Yates

"When we said there are 49 processes, there were 47 before.  That’s added to – that does not give a sense of how much bigger this has grown.  When you look at all the inputs, tools, outputs, new processes, net new, some have been retired.  But when you look at the whole net of it, it’s quite a lot of content."

- Andy Crowe

"Yeah, managing project knowledge.  And the idea of, okay, it’s not only good to do lessons learned at the end of the project.  We need to be doing it in an adaptive approach.  We need to be doing it throughout the project and learning as we go, and making sure that we’re communicating that, not just within our project team, but with others within our organization."

- Bill Yates

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ANDY CROWE. BILL YATES. NICK WALKER.

 

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every two weeks we meet to discuss what is important to you, no matter where you fit into the world of project management.  If you’re a leader, we want to equip you.  If you’re on a project team, we want to encourage you.  This is the place to share ideas, be challenged, and remind one another of what we are capable of when we work together.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are the chief idea cultivators, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  Andy, we’re going to talk about something that many project managers look forward to with anticipation, and others maybe await with dread.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, you know, we’re going to be talking about the PMBOK Guide today, and specifically the Sixth Edition.  And Nick, I saw something that made me laugh out loud.  When I got my copy in the mail, I opened the package, and the book – the way it was oriented was on the back of the book.  And the very back of the book says “By Project Managers for Project Managers.”  And I thought, somebody’s listening to this podcast; right?  It’s funny to see ideas creep in.  So, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, great minds think alike.  Hey, before we start, let’s welcome Bill back from a whirlwind trip on the other side of the world.  Tell us, Bill, where have you been?

BILL YATES:  Thank you.  It’s good to be back.  This was really a bucket list item.  Beth and I have wanted to take a trip down the Rhine River, and so we took a cruise down the Rhine River.  We started, we actually went into Berlin first, had an aunt and uncle there.  So we spent some time in Berlin and then started in Amsterdam and went all the way down to Switzerland, to Basel, and had an incredible time.  I can’t even tell you what my favorite part was because I saw so many beautiful sites.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, wonderful.

BILL YATES:  And amazing projects.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  I’m sure, I’m sure.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, don’t worry about us.  Nick and I have just been laboring away here.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Keeping things going.

BILL YATES:  Dissecting the new Sixth Edition PMBOK Guide.

NICK WALKER:  Well, I hope you enjoyed your trip.  And it’s back to reality now; okay?  We’ve got to jump in with both feet.

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.  Yup, yup, back into it, the fun and thrill of PMBOK Guide.

NICK WALKER:  Well, Andy, you mentioned that you just got yours in the mail.  I imagine a lot of project managers have gotten this new PMBOK Guide in the mail.  It’s sitting there on their table, this big thick gigantic book, and maybe they’re looking at it wondering, what do I do with this now?  And we want to let folks know, if they’re thinking that, they’re probably not alone.

ANDY CROWE:  I agree.  That’s part of the problem is people get this, it sits there, maybe it collects dust.  It’s kind of like a religious text.  You know, you look at it, maybe you feel guilty for not reading it, maybe if you do try and read it you’re not completely sure you understand it.  So we’re here to deconstruct a little bit of that and talk about, okay, what do you practically do with this book now that it’s arrived?

NICK WALKER:  And it’s big.  It’s bigger, I guess, than it’s ever been.

BILL YATES:  It is big.  It is.  As we’ve said before, PMI every four years updates the PMBOK Guide.  And this printing that came out in September of 2017 is the Sixth Edition.  We were looking at just doing a page count.  And if you go back to the Third Edition, it had 388 pages.  We’re about double today what we were then.  So from Third Edition to Sixth Edition, we’ve gone from 388 pages to 756 pages.  And Andy, I’m not even counting the Agile Practice Guide which came along with.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  But you know what, Bill?  If you go back in time – so I want to go back for a moment in time.  If you go back to the 2000 edition – which was really the Second Edition, if you will.  There was a 1996 which was the first, then a 2000.  Then they started undergoing a four-year update cycle.  If you go back then, there were two things about this book that were interesting.  One is it was a lot smaller.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  The other is it was much more practically oriented.  And really, for those of you who have been with PMI a while, you may remember PMI back before the ‘96 PMBOK Guide had a series of pamphlets.  And these pamphlets were sort of practical advice on how to carry out different domains.  Now, this is before all the processes and the process groups really came in, before the information was codified.  But here’s the thing.  It was really very actionable information.  So when you read it, you got an idea of, okay, here is a practice that I can use, and here’s how to do it, and here are best practices within this.

As it’s moved toward this idea of knowledge areas, process groups, and processes, and all the various inputs, tools, and outputs, it’s become more, a little bit more unwieldy, to say the least.  It’s become harder to know, okay, what am I actually doing right now, and how do I go about that?  It’s not as practical.  It’s more of a theoretical framework.

NICK WALKER:  Well, guys, obviously with a book that has grown to the size of the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK Guide, there are some changes.  What has changed in this latest edition?

BILL YATES:  There have been small changes.  I would say there have been small changes, and there have been large changes.

ANDY CROWE:  So some of the small changes I’ve seen, Bill, and I am definitely neck deep in this at this point…

BILL YATES:  Oh, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  …is that there’s a little bit more uniformity.  So you’re seeing very predictable patterns within all of the processes.  All of the knowledge areas have a planning process, a controlling process at the end.  All of them have that.  Most of them have an executing process right in the middle, so you see a traditional pattern.  You see familiar input.  So it starts to look like the usual suspects with these processes that – same inputs, a common set of tools, and at least familiar outputs.  They’re not going to be the same.  Each output’s going to be more or less unique within this.  But you see a very – it’s uniform.  And I do like that.  It gets to be a little bit – it’ll make your eyes blur at some point, but it is uniform, and I appreciate consistency.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  And there are still 10 knowledge areas.

ANDY CROWE:  Yup.

BILL YATES:  There are still five process groups.  There are now 49 processes.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  So there are small changes there.  And I agree there’s even a consistency in terms of how Chapters 4 through 13 that go into the knowledge areas, how they lay out.  They have four or five different paragraph topics that are right there at the beginning that are nice.  I like that consistency in looking at what’s coming into play for each one of those.  Probably the biggest change we talked about, we actually dedicated a podcast to it recently, and that was when we had our guest Jesse Fewell on, talking about the introduction of Adaptive and Agile practices into the PMBOK Guide.

ANDY CROWE:  So I want to talk about that in just a moment.  Before I get there, I’ve got a dirty little secret that our listeners will enjoy hearing.  So I was on the Third Edition Committee.  The Third Edition underwent a lot of change.  But here’s the funny part.  Our mandate from our industry body, the Project Management Institute, was to limit changes to 10 percent.

BILL YATES:  Ten percent.

ANDY CROWE:  So the PMBOK Guide was only supposed to change, from the 2000 to the Third Edition, 10 percent.  Each edition, that’s the gold standard.  They want to keep it at 10 percent.  Each edition is nowhere close to 10 percent.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Do you have some of those numbers at your fingertips, Bill?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Just, again, looking at pages, from Third Edition to Fourth Edition it grew by 20 percent.  From Fourth Edition to Fifth Edition it grew by 26 percent.  And now a whopping 28 percent growth from Fifth to Sixth Edition.

ANDY CROWE:  I’ll tell you I also believe that the print got smaller.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay.

ANDY CROWE:  In addition, you know, they’ve made some interesting decisions because it’s printed on this security paper.  It’s hard to read.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s hard to highlight.

ANDY CROWE:  It really is.  It’s black text on gray paper, and the whole thing makes for some late nights and lots of cups of coffee.  So, Bill, you mentioned Agile being feathered into this.  And that’s an interesting point.  What’s your take, as you look at how Agile’s been introduced to the PMBOK Guide, what’s your read on this?

BILL YATES:  I get the goal.  As Jesse laid out to us, the goal was to create an Agile Practice Guide and feather some of those concepts in and build in – “harmonize,” I think, was the key word – any mention of Agile terms in the PMBOK Guide, so that there was consistency between the two.  When I look at the Agile Practice Guide, okay, I get it.  There are some nice summaries there of, okay, what does Agile mean?  What’s adaptive?  Specifically, what is scrum?  What are some of these concepts all about – product backlog, burndown charts, et cetera.  That’s helpful.

When I look at the treatment within the PMBOK Guide, it’s a little bit haphazard, to me.  Again, I get the purpose in it, but it’s difficult to see, okay, what am I doing?  Which method am I using here?  Am I predictive?  Am I using a traditional or waterfall approach?  Am I supposed to use adaptive in Agile?  And if so, is this all I need, or is there more?  What do I do with this?

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  So I find that there’s a lot more work to do when it comes to Agile.  And it feels like there wasn’t a really clear path set out for, hey, here’s what we want the reader to understand at the end.  So it’s sort of like this.  If you look at the chapter, if you look at 4 through 13, each of those knowledge areas in the PMBOK Guide, it’s pretty clear what they’re talking about when it comes to a traditional, what we would call a “waterfall” approach, which is what the PMBOK Guide has always been.  Things cascade from one to the next.  When you look at it from Agile, it’s not clear at all.

And so what I read with Agile, it gives a little bit, maybe a paragraph, sometimes a very short paragraph, on the Agile perspective.  And it’s really funny, like when you read the cost chapter, the Agile perspective is basically, well, we really don’t know what’s going to be happening long term, so you can’t do a lot of detailed planning with cost.  Okay.  That doesn’t help me as an Agile practitioner look at, okay, how do I approach it?  So you need other resources with that.

And that’s true in general.  The PMBOK Guide is a guide.  It stands for a guide to the project management body of knowledge.  It’s almost like a giant elaborate index that points us in different directions for more information.  But I’m not getting that from the Agile perspective.  I’m just getting a little bit of sort of a side commentary of, hey, Agile doesn’t do it this way.

BILL YATES:  Right.  And again, this was, even from Jesse’s explanation, it was a real – this was a first push; right?  This is the first effort to introduce Agile purposefully into the PMBOK Guide.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  PMI let the Agile camp get their nose under the tent.

BILL YATES:  There you go, they’re in.

ANDY CROWE:  The camel’s got the nose under the tent, so you can see where this is going to go.  Good.  So when we said there are 49 processes, there were 47 before.  That’s added to – that does not give a sense of how much bigger this has grown.  When you look at all the inputs, tools, outputs, new processes, net new, some have been retired.  But when you look at the whole net of it, it’s quite a lot of content.  Then you’ve got the Agile Practice Guide.  The Agile Practice Guide I found to be useful.

BILL YATES:  I did, too.

ANDY CROWE:  And that’s shipping with the PMBOK Guide for everybody; right?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, right.  That’s nice.  And even for those who don’t want the paper copy, if you are a member of PMI and you have access to the PDF, then within that you get the whole thing.  It has both the Agile Practice Guide and the PMBOK Guide Sixth Edition together.

ANDY CROWE:  So, Bill, I’ll ask you a question to tee this up.  A lot of people are trying to figure out how to use this book.  Now, if you’re an Agile practitioner, let’s just contrast that for a minute.  Let’s say you’re an Agile practitioner.  You can go pick up a book like Ken Schwaber’s “Agile Project Management with Scrum.”  Right?

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You can pick that up, and what’s your experience in picking up a book like that?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, one of the things I loved about Schwaber’s approach is the simplicity of it.  If you read Chapter 1, in 14 pages he lays out everything you really need to know to get your mind around scrum.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  At least from a conceptual standpoint.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  He gives the background, he gives the key concepts, the ceremonies, the timing, the roles, the flow, how things should go from beginning to end from…

ANDY CROWE:  The goals.  Who’s involved?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  Retrospectives.  How long should something take place?  What does a daily standup look like?  How long is it?  What are the questions that are asked, very much on point.  He talks about sprints, product backlogs, burndown charts.

ANDY CROWE:  How many pages?

BILL YATES:  Fourteen.

ANDY CROWE:  Nice.

BILL YATES:  And he’s got examples of them.  There are graphs that are in there.

ANDY CROWE:  Now, his book’s more than 14 pages.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s 160 or so pages.  So after page 14 he says, okay, now, here’s what I’ve done.  I’ve introduced the background, the basics of scrum.  Now the rest of the book is going to be how do I practice it.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  I think you’d be lucky to get past the copyright pages in 14 pages of the PMBOK Guide.  But it’s a different experience there; isn’t it.

BILL YATES:  It really is.  And again, the simplicity of it, I feel like you can pick it up and then get a sense for how does scrum work, what are the major roles, what are the major ideas with it; and then read on in the following chapters to get a sense for how I practice it.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  So the PMBOK Guide – and particularly the Sixth Edition, but it applies to most of the previous editions, as well – the PMBOK Guide gives you more guidance in terms of sort of a general directional guidance and a framework.  But it doesn’t give you the same kind of answers that a book like…

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  For waterfall or for Agile.  It just doesn’t give a lot of answers.  And so it’s sort of like getting a bunch of ingredients, but not necessarily getting a recipe.  You have all these raw ingredients that now you have to figure out as a project manager what to do with them.

So now I’m a PM.  Okay, I’ve got a big project.  I’m trying to get better at what I’m doing.  And I’ve got this PMBOK Guide.  Where do I begin?  How do I use it?  And I want to give heart.  We’ve been kind of poking at some of this.  But I want to give you some encouragement to say that the PMBOK Guide has a lot of useful material in it.  And so we’re just going to talk through some of that.  You know, you’ve got this idea of knowledge areas.  Bill, tee it up.  What is a knowledge area?

BILL YATES:  So a knowledge area to me is like a major topic.  It is a category of activities that I’m going to be taking part in on my project.  I think scope is an easy one to look at.  A scope knowledge area says to me, okay, how am I going to define what the deliverable is for this project?  Schedule is a different one.  Cost is a different one.  There it’s an entire area or topic that I’m going to cover as a PM.

ANDY CROWE:  So the bad news/good news is, the bad news is they don’t give you – they talk about a scope statement, okay, but they don’t give you an example of a good scope statement.  They  just talk about some of the attributes of what would be in a good scope statement.  So it’s a little confusing.  And one of the most common things people look for is, okay, can I see an example?  Show me one.

BILL YATES:  Right, right.  Yeah, and again, like you said, Andy, the PMBOK Guide is a guide to the body of knowledge.  And when you look at some of the statements made upfront, they say, okay, these are best practices, and these are things that are in practice for most projects, most of the time.

ANDY CROWE:  Most projects, most of the time.

BILL YATES:  And they talk about this idea of tailoring.  And it is where a PM really sets himself or herself apart.  You have to figure out, okay, out of all these things that I should be doing as a PM, what’s appropriate for this project?  What’s appropriate for this customer?  What’s appropriate for my team, for my stakeholders, taking from those.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  Well, you and I, Bill, are working on a not-for-profit project that we’re donating our time to, to help them organize a very large fundraising initiative.  And as we go through this, we’re having to apply a lot of the tailoring.  If we did every process in the PMBOK Guide, and every deliverable, the project would never get done.  And that’s true for a lot of projects.  But then we talked with a good friend recently who was working with the nuclear power plants and helping them.  And you’d better believe you’re going to check every single box multiple times on a project like that.  So it is, it’s tailoring.  It’s about right-fitting this.  One size does not fit all.

BILL YATES:  That’s true.

ANDY CROWE:  So let me ask you a question.  Let’s say you are building a schedule, and it’s time to start thinking about a schedule within project management.  You’ve got the PMBOK Guide in front of you.  What things do you look at as high value?

BILL YATES:  So funny, I think back to scope.  As soon as you said “schedule” and “building a schedule,” I think back to the work breakdown structure.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  And I think I’ve got to make sure I’ve got my deliverables and my scope nailed so that I’m defining the right activities, the right tasks that are ultimately going to end up on that schedule.

ANDY CROWE:  I agree.  And I’ve got a true confession.  They’re making some decisions with the WBS.  They’re driving in a different direction.  So when I cut my teeth in project management, when I learned all of this stuff, the WBS was always deliverables-based.  And now the PMBOK Guide has kind of opened the door that it may be, but maybe not always, deliverables-based.  So it’s interesting to see.  And again, this is a guide.  So you go back to the, what is it called, the Practice Standard for…

BILL YATES:  Yeah, the WBS Practice Standard.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, WBS Practice Standard.

BILL YATES:  Right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  And we have a good friend who was involved in that.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  And as you start looking at this information, you start seeing, okay, there’s a whole – this is an index.  PMBOK Guide’s an index.  You’ve got more information out there.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  I found, when I was going through it the past week, that the WBS, there’s actually really good information out there.  And that threw me off when you open the door that it may not just be deliverables-based.  My brain still goes down that path, and I still like it.  But I’m open to what else is emerging.

BILL YATES:  Yup.

NICK WALKER:  Can I jump in here for just a second?  Because say I’m a brand new project manager.  I’ve got my PMBOK Guide.  How should I look at this book?  And where should I start?  Should I start with the first chapter and try to attempt to read through it?  Should I go to the Table of Contents and then say, okay, that applies to me, that doesn’t, that does, and read those parts?  What’s the best approach to this maybe for a newbie?

BILL YATES:  To me, Nick, you want to understand how it’s organized.  So the PMBOK Guide, the way it’s organized is there’s sort of a conceptual framework.  Then you’re dealing with integration.  And integration is this 30,000-foot view of the world.  Maybe higher.  Maybe satellite view of the world.  When you look down, you can see how everything’s organized.  You can see the big picture, these macro steps.

And then it starts – Chapters 5 through 13 get more specific and more granular.  So to me, I’m going to look it, once I understand that big picture and really, for our listeners who are familiar with it, the biggest of the big picture goes back to Deming’s process of Plan-Do-Study-Act.  It all really started there, back after World War II, when he came up with this big macro process of how things should be done.  You should plan.  You should do, which is execute.  You should study, which is monitoring.  And you should act, which is controlling.  PMI took those, made them into the overall flow, sort of what became these process groups.

BILL YATES:  Those process groups; right.

ANDY CROWE:  And modified them a little bit.  But it really all goes back to that.  Once you understand that flow, now you can look at it and say, okay, I know where to start; right?  You start with your charter.  You start by defining your scope.  And then sort of the flow from there becomes a little bit more intuitive.

One more comment, though.  If you go back to the ‘96 and 2000 PMBOK Guides, they had a stronger sense of flow in them.  And the flow was this:  They had processes – I don’t want to confuse.  If you’re studying for the PMP, you can plug your ears for a moment.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  But they had this concept of core processes and facilitating processes.  And the core were the ones that had to be performed in a particular order; right?  They needed to be done.  They followed an order.  So you start here.  You go next, next, next.  And you may repeat some things, but there was always a general – it was sort of the current of the river.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  The facilitating processes were there to be used as needed.  And there were these two great ideas, and then they did away with that.  And I’ve never understood why.  It was a wonderful thing because it gave people a sense of momentum and continuity when they read this book that now isn’t there.  And  so, Nick, your question of where do I begin is the right question.  A lot of people are like, okay, I open up, and I see “Develop project charter” as the first – okay, I’ll start there.  And then next thing you know, four processes later, you’re closing the project out and walking away.  It’s confusing.

BILL YATES:  Right, like wait a minute, do I need to finish reading this book or not?  I’m still in Chapter 4.  You know, another thought is, looking at Chapters 1 through 3, that may be – which, boy, that sounds crazy; right?  Start at Chapter 1 of a book.  But Chapter 1 is an introduction.  It does, as Andy said, it describes the Guide.  And then through that we’re getting some of the terminology, some of the lexicon of project managers across the globe.  That’s good.  Then Chapter 2 talks about the environment of the project.  And it really helps me – I think to me that’s a bit of an eye opener.  It’s like, okay, how I perform my job is going to depend on many, many factors.  Some of those are within my control, but most of them are not.  They’re, okay, what kind of team can I recruit?

ANDY CROWE:  What kind of organization am I in?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  How risk-averse are they?  Is this an internal or an external project?

ANDY CROWE:  How mission-critical is it?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, is this, you know, like you mentioned the expert that we had with the nuclear project that he was doing.

ANDY CROWE:  Right, Chuck Casto, yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  What kind of project am I doing?  So Chapter 2 really goes into the environment.  And then Chapter 3 goes into the role of the project manager.  And they’ve gone deeper on this in the Sixth Edition.  I do applaud that.  They’ve done a nice job of defining and describing the role of the project manager.  So that may be a logical place to start.

NICK WALKER:  Whenever I get a new product and an instruction guide, there’s always this troubleshooting portion in the back.  Okay, I’ve got this problem.  Let’s go to that.  What do I do if this happens?

ANDY CROWE:  In case of emergency.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah.  Is there anything like that in this guide?  Say, okay, I’m having this trouble on this project.  Can I go someplace and say, okay, where’s the answer to that question?

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  There’s really not that I’ve seen.  And if there is, I haven’t gotten to that section yet.  But I’ll say this.  This funny thing about that approach, you know, there are several areas – I’ve always argued that issue management needs a lot more attention in the PMBOK Guide.  And I joke that I think PMI’s attitude is, well, if you just follow this guide, you won’t have any issues.  But it doesn’t really work that way; you know?  So you’re right.  We do probably need an “in case of emergency.”

BILL YATES:  Right.  And I think, again, it opens up to so many authors and contributors who I think have done a great job with that.  And I’m just going to pick on Neal Whitten in particular.  His book, one of the books I’m thinking of – and I can’t think of the name of it right now.  But with that book – we’ll have to post it in the notes – the approach is question-answer, question-answer.  And it’s topical, so you can look at a chapter and say, okay, I’m having trouble with the resources on my team.  Or I’m having trouble getting the right resources.  Or I’m having trouble with my customer responding.  So you can go right to the question and then Neal’s advice –  I think that’s actually in the title – on that.  And so I think that’s an excellent tool to use.

There’s one other thing I want to point out, and this was something I’ve got to give credit to Jesse and his team.  In the Agile Practice Guide, there’s a particular tool that I wanted to draw out to the listeners.  It’s called an “Agile Suitability Filter Tool.”  And what it does is it walks you through some simple steps to assess, okay, given the environment that I’m in, can I use Agile?  Can I use an Agile approach?  Or is predictive better?  Or is it a hybrid?  So those are really the three categories that they fall into.  And it walks you through a questionnaire.  It’s actually on page 125 of the Agile Practice Guide.  And it’ll walk you through a series of questions to assess your environment and then determine, okay, what kind of approach or methodology would be most suitable for my project.

ANDY CROWE:  You know the hybrid approach reminds me of the squirrel getting caught in the middle of the road, and it’s going back and forth and back and forth and not sure which way to go.  And a lot of practitioners struggle when they try and implement a hybrid approach that will…

BILL YATES:  That big truck’s coming.

ANDY CROWE:  I think we’re going to get there.  I just think nobody’s quite figured that out yet.  So, Bill, here’s a question for you, sort of as we wrap this part up.  Let’s say you’re in a project management office.  You’re in the PMO of an organization.  It’s your job to create a methodology, and you want your methodology to align with the PMBOK Guide.  You want it to be generally aligned.  You want it to be generally allied.  You want it to be tailored to your organization, have your organization’s best practices built in.  Where do you start with that?  How do you think about that approach?

BILL YATES:  Right.  I’ll go back to those practical takeaways that you were talking about, like a scope statement.  I need to get my hands on a scope statement.  I need to come up with something, what’s been most useful for my team.

ANDY CROWE:  What does a scope statement look like for us?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, what does it look like?  So I start building artifacts.  And this is something we’ve, you know, we’ve done this with many customers.  And we start to take the artifacts that are working for their teams, and we say, how do we tailor this to make sure it accounts for all the different departments or needs within that organization?

ANDY CROWE:  That’s exactly where I started when I began a scope statement for this not-for-profit project that you and I are helping to organize.  I started with another scope statement I had written, looked at it.  There were a couple things that came to mind that I thought, hey, I might not have thought of that if I hadn’t looked back at this artifact that I did.  And so the good news is hopefully you get better and better and better at that.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  So in a way you become a custodian of sort of best practices and best artifacts within your organization.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And PMI has put more attention on the idea of a knowledge base.  And I think that’s what we’re talking about.  We’re building a knowledge base.  We’re building a repository of artifacts that are going to work.

ANDY CROWE:  Say more about that.

BILL YATES:  There’s, I think, even within integration, there’s this idea of managing the – I’d have to look that…

ANDY CROWE:  Project knowledge, manage project knowledge; right.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, managing project knowledge.  And the idea of, okay, it’s not only good to do lessons learned at the end of the project.  We need to be doing it in an adaptive approach.  We need to be doing it throughout the project and learning as we go, and making sure that we’re communicating that, not just within our project team, but with others within our organization.

ANDY CROWE:  And here’s, I guess, the good news for most people.  A, the artifacts, the major artifacts haven’t been overhauled.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  They’ve evolved.  So that’s good news for somebody who’s starting a project or working through a project.  Now they take an artifact that may be – maybe you have one that you’ve used before as an organization.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you’ve got to start from scratch.  You have sort of the bulleted points of what’s important here.

BILL YATES:  Right.  Exactly.  Yup.

ANDY CROWE:  So you begin.  You take a stab at it.  And then the beauty is during that lessons-learned meeting at the end of the project, you can look at what worked, what didn’t work; more importantly, what you would do differently if you had it to do over again.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  One of the things I always admire about Andy Crowe is he’s looking for things that he can trim and get rid of, what truly adds value and what does not.  So many times I’ll start with something that may be, you know, an artifact, maybe a risk register that’s 10 columns long or 10 columns wide.  And then after a couple of projects I realize, you know, those last three columns?  Not really adding value.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Let’s cut it down to seven.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, that’s the beauty.  The Agile community gave us this idea of barely sufficient.  And they talk about it in terms of documentation, but I’m a big believer in barely sufficient process.  So you just want enough.  And really, preferably, I always want to be in a situation where it is on the lowest possible side of what’ll suffice.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Back to some of the first questions that you had, Nick, when you look at all these pages in the PMBOK Guide, there is the intent of PMI and the authors of that, that guide, or the practitioners look at it and figure out, okay, how do I tailor?  How do I customize?  How do I pull the right pieces into my project at this time, based on the environment that I’m in?  So what do I need?  What’s going to add value, and what’s not?

NICK WALKER:  Well, hopefully we’ve added some value to the questions that people will have about this new PMBOK Guide and how best to use it.  And hopefully we’ve allayed some of the fears, too, of actually opening it up and reading it.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I’d love to hear from listeners who are practically applying this.  I’d love to get emails or tweets from them, just as far as how they’re approaching this, and what value they’re getting, and how they’re maximizing that value.

NICK WALKER:  All right.  Well, we want to hear from you.  Andy and Bill, thanks for letting us hear from you for your guidance, your wealth of knowledge; for keeping things in perspective.

We want to remind our listeners about the double benefit of these podcasts.  Not only do you hear from some of the top experts in the field, you also earn free PDUs just for listening to Manage This.  To claim your Professional Development Units toward your recertifications, go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and just click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on November 21st for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We want to make sure you have everything you need to be your best.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

2 responses to “Episode 45- Thoughts on the Ever-Expanding PMBOK Guide”

  1. Kathy Adams, PMP says:

    This was a really informative podcast. One of my favorites in terms of PMI growth. The whole area of Project Management as a profession has grown tremendously and so the PMBOK is still in its infancy in terms of how to approach documentation and certification. The CPA study books probably focus on the standards and practices around accounting, not around how to start to set up a company’s set of books. So the fact that there are no examples and no step by step instructions in the PMBOK seems to fit with how other certifications would also approach their topics.

    • Bill Yates Bill Yates says:

      Thanks, Kathy. You’ve got a good analogy, regarding the CPA and the accounting practices of a specific company. The company chooses how to implement accounting practices, but the principles and “big picture” remain the same from company to company. The same can be said of project management.

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