A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition, is copyright by the Project Management Institute, PA, USA, 2004.
It has been distributed on a CD free of charge to members of the Institute.

Published here March, 2005.

Executive Summary | General Introduction | Guide Structure
What We Liked | Downside | Missed Opportunities | PART 2 | PART 3

Executive Summary

The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is the Project Management Institute's flagship document upon which is based its accreditation, certification, and training programs and underpins a major part of its marketing. The existence of a documented body of knowledge in project management is the foundation of its success in recent years and a credible and supportable update is therefore critical to the Institute's continued success. So this review has been undertaken from the perspective of the potential reaction from experienced project managers, and the credibility and lucidity with which it can be presented to students of project management.

In this review we have found much that we liked, but also areas that could and should be improved. We present it in three parts: Part 1 takes a broader view of the document providing a General Introduction and a description of the Guide Structure followed by What We Liked, the Downside, and Missed Opportunities that should be of serious concern. Part 2 provides more detail with respect to Sections I and II contained within the document. It too is divided into What We Liked and the Downside. Part 3 deals similarly with Section III. For purposes of brevity, this Executive Summary touches only on the highlights.

What We Liked

  • This version is more readable than its predecessor and is more consistent in the manner of presentation.
  • Almost all section and subsection headings are defined in the Guide's Glossary.
  • The Glossary has been carefully edited for consistency of language and relevance to the text. That is, it is specific to the Guide and its philosophy.


  • The Guide takes a complex systems view of project management and includes a process flow diagram for each knowledge area. Not everyone will be comfortable with this form of presentation and the diagrams appear to be overly complex and do not necessarily reflect "most projects most of the time".[1]
  • The number of processes has been increased and several of them have been changed and/or relabeled. Further their content has been significantly revised from the previous version of the Guide representing a wholesale change that may or may not be justified
  • Of the knowledge areas, the distinction between the "Core Processes", i.e. scope, quality, time and cost, and the "Facilitating Processes", i.e. risk, human resources, procurement and communications, identified in the 2000 Guide, has been removed. This is regrettable because these are two quite different types of essential project management activities.

Missed Opportunities

  • The update teams and their leaders appear to have overlooked the fundamental importance of a properly structured project life span (project life cycle) essential for executive corporate control.
  • Instead major focus has been placed on the newly defined Project Management Process Groups, placing them in a separate Section described as "The Standard for Project Management of a Project". Unfortunately the labeling of these Process Groups in previous editions of the Guide has created great confusion in the market place, because they have been mistaken for the project life span. We think that these project management process groups have much in common with standard operational management control so that re-labeling could have gone a long way to remove the misinterpretation.
  • The subject of project scope management has been improved but still results in misunderstanding and inconsistency in the Guide.
  • The knowledge area chapters could have been reordered into their logical evolution in the project life span, thus giving the subject of project quality management its proper structure and visibility in the management of projects.

These and other matters are described in the presentations that follow. In our view, the document requires significant attention before being adopted as the latest project management standard. As an aside, it is our view that when a model for regular use becomes too complex or too uncertain to be comprehended by those for whom it is designed, i.e. the average project manager, then it is time to change it. For promulgation as a "standard" such as this, all processes should be simple, reliable and defensible. Anything less could not only damage the reputation of the Guide but even of the Institute itself.


1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition, Project Management Institute, PA, 2004, p3
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