It's all about the brand

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As a self-confessed ‘project management geek’, I keep an eye on how project management is portrayed on social media. A common subject for on-line discussion is the way various guides should be implemented or how they compare. By ‘guides’, I mean things like the APM’s Body of Knowledge, PRINCE2® and the PMI’s PMBoK® Guide.

One particularly heated debate recently revolved around whether a project run in accordance with the PMBoK® Guide could have more than one Project Charter. My first reaction was ‘why not?’ – if you need more than one, go for it. You decide what works for your project.

But the protagonists in this debate were quoting chapters and verses from the guide with almost religious zeal. I was beginning to believe that somewhere the words “Thou shall not have more than one Project Charter” (note the importance of the capitalisations – I’ll come back to this later) appeared in the good book. Clearly, in the eyes of some, anyone with the temerity to have a second charter for a sub-project would be condemned to burn in project hell for evermore.

Another common mantra is “PRINCE2® is a methodology and the PMBoK® Guide is a framework”. This gets debated ad nauseam and used as the basis of arguments on whether you should use one or the other – or which is better than the other. Whenever I have cautiously tiptoed into these debates, no-one has actually been able to tell me how ‘a methodology’ and ‘a framework’ are defined or why it is better to have one rather than the other.

My point is that the underlying messages in all these guides are the same. If you read what the APM Body of Knowledge, PRINCE2® and the PMBoK® Guide say about risk management (for example) – it’s really not that different. The basic principles are well established – they are just repeated with different terminology and placed in a different context.

Adherence to one flavour or the other with such religious zeal is misguided. If you do this, you are not advocating a fundamentally different approach to risk management (or any other function of project management) you are simply proclaiming your allegiance to one brand or the other. It’s all about style rather than substance.

In this blog I have carefully included the recommended trademarks and capitalisation (commonly applied to process names and documents to make them look more important). This is exactly the kind of nonsense that reinforces the “Thou shalt…” culture.

Project management is not rocket science – it’s predominantly common sense. No one should hype it up with trademarks, ‘commandments’ and self-important terminology (none of which, I’m pleased to say, the APM Body of Knowledge has succumbed to).

So let’s keep a sense of perspective and be rational about all of this. These guides are informative not prescriptive. No one brand is any better than any other when it comes to getting results. If you’re the kind of person that thinks the labels on your clothes are more important than whether they keep you warm and dry – then good luck to you.


Adrian Dooley is author of the Praxis Framework published by APM. He has also written the Praxis Framework comparative glossary of project, programme and portfolio terminology which is available for free here.

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Posted by Adrian Dooley on 3rd Sep 2015

About the Author
Originally a construction project manager, I became involved in the development of project planning software for PC's in the early 1980's. In 1984 I set up a training and consultancy company, The Projects Group, and ran that until its sale in 2008. I was a founder member of Project Manager Today Magazine and Project Management Exhibitions Ltd. From 1996 to 2000, I served on the APM Council. During that period I was the Head of Professional Development and was appointed to the Board of APM Group Ltd. I am now semi-retired but remain on the Board of APM Group. I was heavily involved in the development of the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and have drawn on that experience to create an integrated framework for P3 management at www.praxisframework.org.

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