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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

That New PMBOK® Is A Big Kid!

“If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“War and Peace” is even longer than the new PMBOK! That’s saying something!

In reading the PMBOK® Sixth Edition, I couldn’t help but notice it is bigger than the Fifth Edition. The Fifth Edition came in at a lean 589 pages while the Sixth Edition is a whopping 756 pages! Approximately 22% more content. Wow.

For those of you who are about to take the exam, more content in the same number of questions. Enjoy!

I just finished reading it, and there is a lot of good stuff in there. It is obvious that a lot of smart and talented people put their hearts into it. However, I can’t help wondering if the next Edition should focus on simplification, not additional content.

Adding complexity is something that naturally occurs over time to processes, programs and organizations. Something occurs, and we put in place a process to address it. Then something else happens and we do another remedial process. Over time we have a web of complicated rules and guidlines that are almost impossible to understand, let alone comply with!

Let us remind ourselves of some of the simplification rules that we have learned over the years.

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) says that for many things, 80% of the events comes from 20% of the causes. Another way of saying this is you can get to 80% of where you need to be by focusing your time and energy on 20% of the work. What a deal!

So why don’t we use that as a guide for our work? We are always chasing the 20% more!

"When you hear hoof beats, think of horses not zebras” is credited to Dr. Theodore Woodward, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was trying to help his interns understand that diagnosis tend to present in rather obvious ways. Not every case is worthy of a TV show! This is another way of saying “focus on the obvious”.

A variation of that is Occam's razor, which states (my translation) the most obvious answer to a question is usually the right one.

Why are these so to hard practice in the workplace? Why is it that the very governance recommended in the PMBOK is often put in place and administered in a way that obvious and common-sense solutions are thwarted?

I wrote a series of articles on a related topic here: www.projectmanagementforum.net.

Sigma! One sigma is = 68.27%, two sigma = 95.45%, three sigma = 99.74%. Unless you are working in a specialized field, 99.74% is a pretty good control limit! But are there any “Three Sigma” certifications (none that I could find!). Nope. We have “Six Sigma Certifications”, and six sigma reflects the near perfection 99.9997%!

How many processes really need that? Any good Project Manager will tell you that there is a concept called the Cost of Quality. Moving from three to six sigma costs money!

I personally think that we should view governance the same way. We should introduce it as a new PMI® term and even make up the acronym "CoG" or the “Cost of Governance”. While the PMBOK is very clear that the Project Plan should be “tailored” to the needs of the project, human tendency is much more inclined to add governance than pull back. This is especially true when the Project Manager must report out to nervous executives whose thirst for information knows no limit!

This is such a great idea that I recommend a new Chapter in the PMBOK complete with new terms and a cool CoG decision matrix! 1000 pages here we come!

Or we could all just focus on the critical activities and realize that nothing is free!


I am spending a lot of time learning how to think about predictive analytics in a whole new way. My experience has been based on analyzing past behavior among population groups to determine statistically significant areas for my organization to focus resources on. But recently I have been learning about the Microsoft Naïve Bayes algorithm as a statistically based risk identification tool that uses a completely different process. It is incredibly fascinating and exciting, but it is causing me to stretch my brain in ways I haven’t done in years! I work with some smart people, and hopefully I can keep up!


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