The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the Project Management Institute.
Published here October 2021

Introduction | Book [A] Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary


This "book" The Standard for Project Management is in fact the first part of a dual publication — an all in one. The second part is a much larger "book" titled: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge PMBOK Guide Seventh Edition. How do I know they are separate "books"? Because even though they are both in the same publication, they have two separate "Table of Contents" and two sets of page numbers under two different "covers". For convenience in subsequent discussion, I will refer to the first book as the "Standard" and the second book as the "Guide".

To add further confusion for the first-time reader, the cover of the publication shouts PMBOK Guide first and the Standard second, while the next page displays the Standard first and the Guide second. And indeed, that is the way the two sets of content are presented. That makes referencing something of a challenge. I could prefix the page numbers of the first book with an "S" for "Standard" and the second with a "G" for "Guide" but I prefer to be more pragmatic using a simple [A] and [B].

I will discuss this second part in a separate review. Meantime, here are my Book Review comments on Book [A]: The Standard for Project Management.

The publication starts with a lengthy Notice that explains how the content has been assembled, but disavows any responsibility for the contents in these words:[1]

"PMI disclaims and makes no guaranty or warrantee, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of any information published here in, and disclaims and makes no warranty that the information in this document will fulfill your particular purposes or needs."

In short, I would say that this publication is not authoritative.

There then follows several pages of Preface and Conclusion in which the significant changes in both books are explained, summarized and seemingly justified. In my view, it appears that the two original books have been completely re-crafted to appeal to management generally, with senior general management in mind in particular. Thus the publication becomes, or appears to be, more of a marketing document addressing the public at large rather than a comprehensive and useful reference document for individual project management members as was originally intended.

In a section titled SUMMARY OF CHANGES[2] we learn:

"Since 1987, The Standard for Project Management has represented a process-based standard."

Stop right there! This statement is completely untrue!

The "Guide"[3] so called was first published in 1996. There was indeed a first document published in 1987, but it was simply titled "Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) of the Project Management Institute". To the contrary, it was a deliberate mapping of the knowledge territory claimed by the Project Management Institute of the day with a view to establishing the basis of a profession. This was important because there were, at the time, other societies anxious to claim the same turf and, accordingly tried to attack PMI's legitimacy. The (original) "PMBOK" publication was, and still is, a statement of professional domain.[4] It was never a "Guide".

As I stated at the time:[5]

"A project management profession, united across the many industries and technologies that use the concepts documented in this PMBOK, has a tremendous potential for improving the efficiency with which resources are used and hence the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of our society. This unity can only be achieved through effective communications based on a mutual understanding of a documented and accepted body of knowledge that serves as the basis for developing a profession."

About the authors

The contributors to this edition were no doubt many and various. However, the actual writers of this Book [A] are not separately identified from the list of around 770 contributing volunteers and 7 staff responsible for the two books together.


1. The PMBOK Guide and The Standard for Project Management, page A-v.
2. Ibid, page A-x.
3. Ibid, under the title: "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge".
4. Indeed, the original PMBOK is still available in PDF form — see this page on my web site:
5. Text abstracted from the FOREWORD.
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