BoK standard?

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I have a problem with the Body of Knowledge. Not the APM Body of Knowledge in particular, but with project management BoKs in general.

In this post Im going to pick out two specific concerns. Im still working out exactly what my overall concern is, so this is work in progress and, I hope, a continuation of the conversations around the recent post by Jon Whitty and the news story on the APM website

My first concern is readers understanding of what a BoK is and what its for. A few weeks ago, an experienced knowledge management practitioner told me about a conversation hed had with a project manager colleague.  The conversation went roughly like this:

Project manager: What youre doing isnt proper knowledge management. We should be doing more of this stuff thats in the APM Body of Knowledge 6th edition.

Knowledge manager: What do you mean?

Project manager: The BoK says knowledge management is all about capturing knowledge and experience. So that it can be shared.

Knowledge manager: Thats not my view of knowledge management.

Project manager: Its in the APM Body of knowledge, so it must be right.

Knowledge manager:  Theres more to knowledge management than writing things down.

Project manager: The BoK says knowledge management is about capturing knowledge. We should be doing more knowledge capture.

Somehow I dont think this is what Andrew Bragg meant when he wrote that the APM Body of Knowledge is the beginning of the debate, not the end. Is there a danger that the standard terminology of BoKs stifles development of knowledge and understanding rather than providing a starting point for debate? Have you had any similar experiences with any BoK?

My second concern is to do with the difference between knowledge and knowing. This might seem rather picky. The point is that to be good at project management requires more than an individuals possession of knowledge about project management. The problem is that we tend to confuse the knowledge we possess with being good at what we do. How do we know what makes a good project manager? In practice we measure being good at project management largely by the ability to pass exams in other words the knowledge possessed by individuals. And the primary reference source for this knowledge is the relevant BoK.

Taken together, what effect (if any) do my two concerns have on the development of knowledge about project management? And on the development of project management professionals?

On 28th of November 2012 Judy Payne and Jon Whitty will be leading an interactive discussion that invites participants to challenge preconceptions about project management knowledge.

Judy Payne

Posted by Judy Payne on 27th Nov 2012

About the Author

Judy works as a management consultant and reluctant academic specialising in knowledge management, collaborative working and learning. Her work is positioned firmly on the boundaries between academia and practice. Not the most comfortable place to be, but there’s such a huge gap between the two that there’s a lot of bridging to be done.

Judy works with public, private and third sector organisations to improve their management of knowledge, with universities to develop and deliver online degree programmes and with master’s students to help them learn how to do management research. At APM, she co-founded the Knowledge SIG and is co-chair of the K SIG committee. She has contributed new knowledge management sections to the sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide and to P3O® Best Management Practice, and represents the UK as an expert on an ISO Working Group developing a knowledge management standard. She is writing a book on KM in project environments.

Judy is also known for introducing collaborative working and social software to the Henley Knowledge Management Forum and for being a member of the #teatowelclub on Twitter.

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