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“Why Management” – The Ultimate Knowledge Area

Three years ago, one of my master degree students at the Lyon CESI, France, wrote a very special memoir for his thesis: the document was structured like a chapter of the PMBoK®, with nice and tidy “inputs-tools and techniques-outputs” tables. He had written about what he considered was a missing knowledge area in the PMI® project management model, “Change Management”: all that has to be done to prepare the end users of the deliverables to deliver their own part of the deal, the anticipated benefits. He was challenging what is now a paradigm for many well-intentioned project management folks. How could he question the “nine knowledge areas” fabric of the PMBoK®? The thesis evaluation committee that processed his memoir flunked him! It was as if he was questioning Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, right? So, on that subject, I invite everyone to read Stephen Covey’s book: “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness 1.

Maybe I am about to get flunked too for what I am going to say here, or maybe, to paraphrase Covey’s new book title, we can get together “from effectiveness to greatness” on our projects. My student was right about the missing 10th knowledge area of the PMBoK®. But he had proposed a subset of it, not all of it. I have slowly realised this was the case, these last few weeks, as I was working very hard with some of my customers in designing and integrating “benefits realisation management” processes into both their portfolio and their project management processes.

I talk a lot about the why of a project (its ultimate purpose, its “raison d’être”). So much so that one participant in my workshops, a seasoned project manager, told me after a two-day workshop that he was appalled to realise that, during his 30 years as a project manager, he had delivered projects without caring about the why of these projects. He said that in doing so, he had very seldom delivered projects providing the benefits intended. He cannot be blamed for that, because so many project managers do the same, as reflected in the best practices included in the PMBoK®: None of the knowledge areas is dedicated to “Why Management”.

Let’s have a quick look at the current contents of the PMBoK®:

  • Scope is mainly about “what”,
  • Time is about “when”,
  • Cost is about “how much”,
  • Quality is about “what”
  • HR and Communications are mainly about “who”
  • Risk is about “what”
  • Procurement is about “what” and “who” and “how”
  • Integration is about all of the above.

In the new 4th edition of the PMBoK ®, there is a brand new sub-process that has been added to Scope Management and which is done right before defining the scope: “Collect Requirements”. I believe this is a first step in the right direction, but still not enough to ensure that benefits realisation will be more effective. It is also understandable that this situation has prevailed for such a long time, because benefits realisation is a four-headed beast, at a shared boundary between project management, program management, portfolio management and production management. Some of it must be planned and cared for within the boundaries of a project. That entails delivering the “right thing” and managing organisational change (my student’s proposed 10th knowledge area) to ensure that the transition from the “before the project” state to the “after the project” new desired state is complete, so we can reap the anticipated benefits. Some of it is strictly the domain of program management, portfolio management and of the new recurring post-project operations, for which the use of the delivered “right thing” was intended.

I am certain that in future editions of the PMBoK®, this “little” glitch will be taken care of. Meanwhile, for those who cannot wait, this 10th knowledge area, “Benefits Realisation Management”, is amply discussed on the internet and even greatly documented through the project management processes, methodologies and tools generously shared with us by the Office of Management Commerce 2, the Government of Tasmania 3 and the like. And most material on benefits realisation management also includes a subset covering change management, clearly a project management issue for me and many others. The chapter on the 10th knowledge area is already written, although not yet integrated into the PMBoK®. It is slowly but surely coming to town.

  3. (The Tasmanian Government site is one of the great project management information resources on the internet – they are small but they rock!)

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