Published here January 2005.


Musings Index

PMBoK, Order and Six-Sigma

In this Email exchange Todd Just raises the question: In what sequence should the knowledge areas of project management be presented or listed?

10/29/04, Todd Just wrote:

Mr. Wideman,

First, I would like to thank you for your contributions to the project management community. I have only recently discovered your site and your work, but I can already see what a valuable resource it is to the practicing project manager.

Concerning your "Musing" entitled "Project Management, PMBoK and Order", I would continue the argument that you presented concerning costs even further by submitting to you that you cannot accurately assess the cost of a project (item #4 in your ordered list) until you know the answers to the questions of Human Resources (item #6) and Contract/Procurement (item #7). Without determining the loaded hourly costs of the people who will be working on the project, with what do you multiply your time in order to get the costs?

Additionally, without knowing if you are going to use in-house staff or bring in contractors, how will you know what those loaded costs are? Also, what procurement must be made aside from contractors, e.g. equipment, hardware, software, etc.? The answers to these questions will certainly have an impact on the overall cost estimate of the project.

I respectfully submit to you that the following makes a more realistic ordered list:

  1. What needs to be done? - *Scope*
  2. Produced to what standards? - *Quality *(grade)
  3. What is the sequential order and pace of the tasks involved? - *Time*
  4. What people are required, with what skills? - *Human Resources*
  5. What commitments must be procured, or what resources must be contracted for? - *Contract/Procurement*
  6. How much will the tasks and resources cost? - *Cost*
  7. What is the degree of uncertainty associated with the work? - *Risk*
  8. What information must be communicated back and forth to make it all happen? - *Information/Communications*

I would be very interested to see your response to my ordered list with any arguments against it.

Best Regards,

Todd Just

10/29/04 Max Wideman replied

Let me first congratulate you. You are the first I know of in 13 years, excluding the original author, who has seriously thought about the order, or maybe even read it!

You are right; I don't think the order is that hard and fast. Likely it will depend on the particular project and its circumstances.

However, the first four S, Q, T & C are the "hard" number parts while the other four are the facilitating functions. Of the four alone, I think the order is logical. Certainly, #s 6 & 7 will have an impact on the cost but I put it to you that these are management options.

For example you may have an option of lesser capable people but they will take longer or raise the risk level. So while they may *look* less costly they could well end up being more expensive. (A common lesson for penny-pinching management I might say.)

By comparison, if you take the scope as the original fixed objective then there is probably an optimal intrinsic cost (or market cost) for that scope. In this case, I think that my sequence holds true. Of course you can always blow it and spend more!


10/29/04, Todd Just wrote back


Thank you for such a speedy response!

I see your point in separating the "hard" number parts from the facilitating functions/management options. Perhaps we are dealing, not only with a sequential ordering, but also with a hierarchical ordering. Something to ponder ...

Being a "Newbie" to your site (I cannot fathom what took me so long to find it!), I am enthusiastically working my way through your "Musings". They are very enlightening, informative, and entertaining (here is where I reveal myself to be one who "geeks-out" on management - specifically project management - issues and topics). Let me return your congratulations. Your site provides brilliantly conceived reality-based perspectives and priceless insight that I have yet to find anywhere else. I would be interested to see a forum or message-board where thoughts and ideas could be actively shared.

I just read your musing on PMI's use of "Control" as a project phase, and I couldn't agree more. I couldn't help thinking about the musing on PMI licensing/certification while I was reading this one. Kind of thinking along the lines of Joe Marasco's comments in the musing entitled "An Interesting Exchange on Managing Software Development Projects", it seems that there are so-called "Project Managers" who are so in name and "certification" only.

The prevailing attitude is not to challenge the real-world applicability of the contents of the methodology, but to just memorize the details in order to get the certification in order to punch the ticket to get the next lucrative job. After all, how can one quantify and measure the underlying intrinsic qualities of which Mr. Marasco so eloquently writes? He states that to be a great project manager " ... requires context, diligence, moral fortitude, courage, intelligence, domain knowledge, and, most important, good judgment." And if it is true that " ... to some extent really good project managers are born, not made", how can that be measured and certified to any degree of accuracy?

Just like any other business decision, the hiring of a project manager carries with it inherent risks. When a true "great one" is found, it would be very wise to hold on tightly! And if you are fortunate enough to be a great one, then congratulations to you. You are a rare and valuable resource indeed!

I haven't read through all of the musings yet, so if you have covered this already, please disregard the question. What is your opinion of Six Sigma as it relates to Software Development Projects? Lately, with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance requirements of IT Departments, I have been doing some research and pondering on process improvement ... with an emphasis on Six Sigma specifically.

Thanks again for you response, and I hope to hear from you again soon.

Best Regards,


10/30/04 Max Wideman wrote:

Dear Todd:

Thank you for such eloquent praise! It certainly makes me feel good ;-) You have raised several separate issues to answer.

  1. The place for sharing "thoughts and ideas" is on our sister site, the PM Forum, run by David Curling at David includes a web log (Blog) feature where discussion can take place. You will find a list on this page: or you can start your own blog from this page:
  2. I will pass along your compliments to my good friend Joe Marasco
  3. On the subject of Six Sigma, to be honest I do not have any experience of its application and I have not researched it. My take on the little I've read is that it is a wonderful assembly of executive hot buttons designed to promote flavor-of-the-month consulting services for teaching eager executives and/or their wannabees how they ought to have been motivating and managing their people all along. It is certainly helpful in generating potential project ideas, but I have yet to see how it helps in managing a particular project itself - assuming that rigorous project management is already being applied.
  4. Can I publish this exchange?



11/2/04 Todd Just Wrote


Thank you for your feedback and the site references.

Excellent point on the Six Sigma thread. I have had the unfortunate (but certainly not unique) experience of working in a political climate where so-called "leaders" of the organization do not always understand or realize the value of investing the extra time and effort required to actually do things the way they should be done. I am hoping that Sarbanes-Oxley (the new accounting laws in the US) will provide the leverage needed to introduce and implement some of the necessary process improvement/standardization practices. Having some sexy methodology that some heavy hitters have implemented successfully is probably the only hope.

I have made attempts to introduce the Capability Maturity Model as a framework for improvement, but the prevailing mentality is to safely guard institutional knowledge and perpetuate a facade of "value to the organization" by being able to put out any fires that arise. Killing the arsonist is never even considered as a viable approach!

As for publishing this exchange, I would be most honored!!



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