By Vanina Mangano, Standards Member Advisory Group
Back in January 2017, I attended an annual event hosted by PMI for its group of volunteers serving in a leadership capacity. On the very first day of that conference, PMI made an exciting announcement: it was transforming. I remember feeling excitement and curiosity buzzing through the large room of volunteers – no naysayers could be heard, just intent and curious listeners who wondered what changes would follow suit. Even before PMI kicked off its transformational efforts, some critical conversations were taking place behind the scenes that would drive some of the changes unfolding within the Standards community. These conversations would influence the move from process- to principle-based standards. Brian Grafsgaard and Mike Frenette blogged about these changes back in August, and I thought I would follow their posts with some additional commentary and insight regarding why these changes are taking place.
First, did you know that there are various types of standards? Mike already provided a fantastic summary of what a principle-based standard is in his August 28th post. If you missed it, I highly encourage you to read it – not only is it informative, but it was a fun and interesting read! There are three general approaches used to document standards:
- A principle-based standard is built around a set of principle statements. Those principle statements capture and summarize accepted objectives for the practice and its core functions.
- A narrative-based standard derives meaning through storytelling and description.
- A process-based standard aligns the management discipline and function around a collection of business processes managed to achieve a desired result.
Skimming through the three definitions above, mapping the PMBOK® Guide–Sixth Edition to the approach used is not that difficult: it follows the process-based approach. Brian noted in an August 2nd blog post that the standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will evolve from a process-based to principle-based standard. The Standard for Program Management first shifted in this direction in its Third Edition and the Standard for Portfolio Management recently followed in its latest Edition. PMI is not unique in going this route; the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has long used this less prescriptive approach.
Those “behind the scenes” conversations I referred to at the start of this post have been occurring among Standards leadership over the past few years, largely driven by practitioner feedback – arguably the biggest driver for the changes. Specifically, practitioner feedback stressed that the standards must address the full value delivery landscape. The standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will aim to do this very thing – document the stable project management concepts that lead to successful outcomes across the full value delivery landscape. This will be achieved through a set of guiding principles that apply across the value delivery spectrum, including predictive, adaptive, and hybrid delivery approaches.
Shifting this direction doesn’t imply that the elements of the “how” fully go away. In reality, more tools, techniques, and approaches exist than can be incorporated in one book. These resources are better collected and delivered through an online tool, which I hear is also in development. PMI will shed more light on that later this year.
Personally, I’m thrilled at this new direction, and I can see alignment with PMI’s 2017 Strategic Plan that was first introduced in the 2017 January leadership conference. I’ve seen my fair share of practitioners misinterpret how to apply the project management processes, viewing the processes as Waterfall-based, to be applied in a literal and / or sequential fashion (to be fair, the concept of “tailoring” can sometimes be difficult to understand when digesting a process-based approach). Pivoting to a broader set of parameters within which we operate as project management practitioners will enable us to better leverage the knowledge and core practices that have made PMI effective for decades.
I hope the larger community of practitioners feels that their voices have been heard through the coming changes. As Brian noted earlier, the profession is evolving. The set of tools we need to be effective leaders must also evolve and transform.
Vanina Mangano, PMP