Principles: from PRINCE2® to the 7th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide
Blog posted by: Nader K. Rad – project management author, speaker and adviser, 02 October 2020.
Nader K. Rad was a reviewer for the 6th edition of PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile®, MSP®, and he is also a member of the core development team for the 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide. His answers are his personal opinions, and he is not representing any organization or team in this interview.
Q: So, Nader, the new version of the PMBOK Guide is going to be principle-based instead of process-based. Does that bring it into the same category as PRINCE2?
A: It’s one more thing in common between the two of them, but they still belong to two different categories: PRINCE2 is a method and the PMBOK Guide is still a guide. Put simply, PRINCE2 tells you what to do, when to do it and who should do it, but the PMBOK Guide tells you how to do it. That may be an over-simplification but I think it helps everyone understand the difference.
Q: In other words, the addition of principles doesn’t turn the PMBOK Guide into a methodology?
A: It doesn’t. It’s not mandatory for a methodology to have principles and having principles is not enough to turn something into a methodology. Besides that, the PMBOK Guide was never meant to be a methodology.
Q: Are the principles in the PMBOK Guide different from those in PRINCE2?
A: They are similar but they are not the same. Principles in PRINCE2 are designed to support the method, which means that they support the what, when, and who questions; this makes the PRINCE2 principles relatively more concrete and, the principles of the PMBOK Guide relatively broader in scope.
Principles in the PMBOK Guide are mainly designed to support the how questions, making them relatively broader and including some aspects that may be outside the scope of methodologies. The principles are designed to support any method/framework such as PRINCE2 and Scrum and, therefore, some principles are more general and can have more than one interpretation.
Q: Can you give an example?
We published the public exposure draft of the standard in January and, at this stage, we are reviewing the comments received and making adjustments to the principles. One example I can give comes form from the Nearly Universal Principles of Projects (NUPP): one principle states that we need to prefer results and the truth to affiliations. This means it’s not a good idea to say “I’m an Agilist who uses Scrum and I have nothing to do with PRINCE2” or vice versa. True experts don’t have such an in-group/out-group mentality; they learn everything relevant and make the best use of it in their projects.
Q: Is it easier or harder for practitioners to use PRINCE2 and the PMBOK Guide together?
A: Definitely easier! The previous editions of the PMBOK Guide explained that it’s not a methodology and practitioners need to use a methodology with it. Despite that, many people mistook its process-based format for a method and were trying to use it as one, which obviously causes problems. With the new edition, it’s virtually impossible for someone to make such a mistake and the need for a method is a lot clearer now.
With this new approach, it’s extremely easy to combine the PMBOK Guide and PRINCE2.
Q: Why is that so?
A: The previous versions of the PMBOK Guide were all about processes and many of them had counterparts in PRINCE2. Any combination needed to be consistent, which makes it complicated. The new version offers advice instead of processes, and therefore, can be easily applied to any set of processes. There’s also no conflict between the principles in the PMBOK Guide and those in PRINCE2, because the former is more general. In fact, you could use them to get a better understanding of what PRINCE2 principles are about. The 7th edition also has a lot of content about value management, which is compatible with the Management of Value guidance (MoV) and can encourage practitioners to expand it using MoV.
The 7th edition also makes the interfaces between project management and other layers of management clearer for practitioners. Many organizations think they can address any problem in any project by improving their project management systems, even though these issues might be reflections of their programme and portfolio management. I hope the new edition of the PMBOK Guide can make it clearer that organizations need to pay more attention to those layers and can encourage practitioners to use other resources such as Management of Portfolios (MoP) and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) as well.
Q: How do you see the future of project management?
A: I believe we are in a transition period, where our excitement about exploring possibilities has turned into ideologies and dogmas. It won’t last long and I hope we can facilitate this transition to the next stage faster; when we synthesize our collective experiences into more productive ways of work and focus on the outcomes of projects instead of trying to prove that “the other side” is wrong. I think focusing on principles, which are general and unifying, is a great step toward this future.
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