PMBOK vs. Scrum: The Eternal Philosophical Debate

Don is an entrepreneur and business leader with over 15 years experience specializing in aligning management-driven technologies and initiatives together with business and project strategies resulting in thoroughly planned and comprehensive business solutions. His expertise as a project manager, developer, tester, analyst, trainer, consultant, and business owner has spanned across diverse industries such as finance, retail, health care and information technology

Read the discussion forums, articles and blogs on this site and you will see a recurring argument over the practicality of a certain project management methodology and whether it pertains to the actual practice and delivery of project success; whether one methodology is better than the other (PMBOK versus Scrum, etc.); or if any methodology is needed at all.

I will argue that the root cause of these arguments is the lack of understanding with regard to the philosophical foundations of a particular methodology. Understanding the philosophical foundations are required for success in managing projects in the “real world”; that will allow you to better pick and choose which methodology (essentially a philosophical framework) to adopt--not adopt or mix and match to achieve project success.

A Brief Background
One of the oldest and still relevant arguments in philosophy is between the rationalists and empiricists. Basically, those in the rationalist camp maintain that most ideas or concepts are independent of experience and that most truth is known by reason alone. Famous philosophers such as Plato, Descartes and Kant proposed this idea. Since concepts are neither derived nor derivable from sensual experience, the mind must come equipped with innate ideas. Furthermore, reason--when properly channeled--will provide true beliefs and principles and has a higher …

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- Graham Chapman, Monty Python's Flying Circus

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