« Taking the PMP Exam - Part 7 - PMBOK Introduction and What is a Project | Main | No longer N*k*d »

Taking the PMP Exam - Part 8 - What is Project Management

Time to suspend disbelief again or more correctly prepare your mind for acceptance of the gospel...

What is Project Management? The PMBOK tells us that the goal is to meet project requirements through the execution of project activities and project management is applying knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to those activities. I'd argue that the there is a component which is not strictly related to "activities" but let's discard that idea for now..

With this definition in place what is important? First of course, the project requirements are essential. PMI claims that Project Managers are responsible for identifying requirements. This has not been my experience in some organizations, but know that PMI believes that this is the case. (As an aside, apparently senior management doesn't always agree. I've written about this before here).

Let's step back a little bit here though as some key concepts are creeping in. The PMBOK is organized around a number of processes. They are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring
  • Controlling
  • Closing

It is this framework which forms the bulk of the PMBOK so start getting familar. I think that the exam will require you know these backwards and forward. IPEMCC. Think up your own mnemonic. These processes are "applied" to the work and are "integrated" by the project manager. The PMBOK places a heavy load on the PM. The PM is responsible for accomplishing the project objectives. In my experience much of the accomplishment is due to the efforts of the project team, but not in this book, and likely not on the exam.

This section also introduces the concept of the "Iron Triangle" or "Triple Constraint" which is the idea that every project faces balancing time, cost and scope against each other. These three requirements compete against each other and exist in an "unbreakable" relationship. To give two concrete examples: decreasing the time needed by adding more resources will increase cost, or, adding to the scope will increase time and cost. The PMBOK claim is that quality is the product of all of these. (I'd argue slightly different about the meaning of quality. ) The triangle comes in handy when arguing for more time or more resources or more money or against inclusion of someone's pet feature. By gaining agreement that there is a triangle and it is iron, you force the other to agree to making the trade-off. A sort of "my hands are tied here. I'd love to, but..." argument. In the PMI view of the world, the PM is the one who holds the triangle and makes adjustments as needed to satisfy stakeholders.

Managing risk is perhaps the heart of project management and the PMBOK states that PM's do that too. I'd add that the definition of risk is an "uncertain event or condition" which if it occurs will affect the project. The line between risk and issue is often difficult for some to discern. My personal definition is that if it MIGHT happen it is a risk. If it HAS happened it is an issue. I'm certain I'll have a post all about risk sometime soon.

Here we get onto sketchy ground. PMI claims that the PM team has a professional responsibility to stakeholders - including the public. I'm cynical here and think that this is part of PMI's goals to "professionalize" the act of managing a project. PM's should certainly be responsible. Everyone should be. (hey, how did the "public" get involved in my project?) But PMI insists that members adhere to PMI's "Code of Ethics" and "Code of Professional Conduct". Further, team members who are PMI members are obligated to adhere to those same codes. I'm of two minds about this. On one hand I think, hey why not? Doing the right thing is a good thing right? But then I think, why should PMI be telling me what the right thing is? Am I not righteous enough in my own right? Righteous has its own rewards so I'd rather be righteous for myself than for PMI. For now I'll drop it and pick it up later when we read more specifics on what the codes say.

Next a warning of how processes are iterative because of "progressive elaboration". Saw that phrase already so you know you better know it. "Progressive Elaboration" is the idea that you don't know everything at first but you are getting there. I'm in favor of this concept, but the term is a bit clunky... Say it ten times fast. Or get a tattoo.

This section closes with a note that sometimes people say "project management" when they mean turning everything (well, almost everything) into projects in an approach called "management by project". In a telling sentence, the PMBOK states that detailed discussion is outside the scope of the standard. Remember what this "standard" is? A compilation of practices "generally recognized as good practice". So either there is not general recognition of management by projects or it is not good practice. Why bring it up at all then? Hm?

So that is it for today. A bit of scathing commentary and a few facts. Next time we will get into areas of expertise or die trying.

Things to remember:

  • Triple constraint of Time, Scope and Cost with quality being the result.
  • A PM who goes from soup to nuts holding the Iron triangle in hand.
  • 6 Process areas - IPEMCC (to be covered in more detail later)
  • Professional responsibility and adherence to both "Code of Ethics" and "Code of Professional Conduct"
  • Risk - it is a risk until it happens. (don't get crazy ideas about asteroids hitting the earth though)
  • The PM owns establishing project objectives and accomplishing them. Make them CLEAR and ACHIEVABLE (see the part about PM accomplishing them).
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Appendix B - Contract Types
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Part 9 - Areas of Expertise
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Part 7 - PMBOK Introduction and What is a Project
  • Taking and Passing the PMP Exam - Part 15 - PMBOK version 4
  • The Cashmere Bikini
  • Principles vs. Rules
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Part 14 - The Examination Specification
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Part 13 - How the PMP Exam is constructed
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Part 12 - The PMP Examination Specification
  • Taking the PMP Exam - Appendix A -Exam Guides

  • Comments (1)


    IT should be 5 rather than 6 process areas: monitoring and controlling is one process group according to PMI.

    Post a comment

    (Comments are moderated to fight SPAM and will be published after I have a chance to approve them. Thanks for waiting.)


    The previous article is Taking the PMP Exam - Part 7 - PMBOK Introduction and What is a Project.

    The next article is No longer N*k*d.

    Current articles are in the main index page and you can find a complete list of articles in the archives.

    Creative Commons License
    This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
    Powered by
    Movable Type 3.34