The Upcoming 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—How Agile is it?

The 4th Edition PMBOK® Guide had a section before the knowledge areas, Chapter 2, which it called Project Life Cycle and Organization. It was mainly concerned with

  • splitting up a large project into phases,
  • the relationship between projects and ongoing operational work,
  • discussing the various types of stakeholders
  • the effect of organizational structure (functional, projectized, and matrix) on project management

This section is expanded in the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide to include a discussion of the more traditional waterfall methodology vs. the newer, more adaptive methodologies including agile. Note how I said “discussion”; anyone who is an actual practitioner of agile methodologies will probably find the discussion insultingly brief. This is especially true when you consider that in the IT application area, 80% of software development projects now utilize agile methodology.

However, PMI is trying to gear this book to ALL application areas, and so in my opinion they are trying to acquaint project managers with an understanding of the difference between the traditional vs. alternative methodologies, but without giving so much detail on those alternative methodologies that they become confused.

The fact that PMI has recently started a pilot program for certification in what it calls PMI Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP means that they are seriously addressing the needs of the agile community. If you look at the books recommended for study for the certification exam, they include many popular books, but there is no one-volume Agile Body of Knowledge Guide at this time, at least as far as I know.  It will be interesting to see if there is a movement within the agile community to create such a guide; my prediction if they create one is that will have to be updated more often than once every four years.

So the answer to the question: How agile is the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide? is “it’s not agile, it’s fragile” if you are in the agile community. If you are not in that community, however, “just enough” is probably the best response you can get at this point.


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