6th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Projects and Operations

I am starting a project of going through the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and blogging about its contents.    The 6th Edition was released on September 22nd by the Project Management Institute, and the first chapter is a general introduction to the framework in which project management exists, starting with section 1.2 Foundation Elements (section 1.1 describes the purpose of the Guide).

The section I am going over in this blog post is section 1.2.3 The Relationship of Project, Program, Portfolio and Operations Management.    In the last post, I discussed the relationships of projects to programs, which include them as a component, and portfolios, which include both projects and programs as components.   Let’s now discuss the relationship of projects to operations which is covered in sub-sections Operations Management and Operations and Project Management.


Remember the definition of a project that was given at the beginning of the Guide?

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.

Operations, on the other hand are the ongoing production of goods and/or services.   So you can see that behind the definition of a project is the distinction between it and the ongoing nature of operations of an organization.

However, if you look more closely at how organizations actually create and maintain business value, this distinction isn’t as clear-cut as it would first seem to be.    Here’s why:  many projects have as their objective the creation of a new product or a system for delivering a new service.    However, many projects have as their objection the upgrade of an existing product or service or the improvement of business operations.

In the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, although the definition of a project is the same as above, in the explanation below the definition it was made clear that a project could indeed include improvements to existing products as well as the creation of new ones. This means Six Sigma projects, which are designed to improve the processes of existing operations in order to reduce defects in their end results, are to be considered as included in the definition of a project.

This is made even more clear in the 6th Edition PMBOK® Guide with an even fuller explanation of projects which exist to improve existing operations.   But what if those improvements to existing operations are made on a continuous basis, which is the basis for kaizen?    If this is the case, then the distinction between projects and operations is a little fuzzier, because projects are then continuously being launched to improve those operations.    Can they be considered “temporary” endeavors any more if they are constantly being done?    Can they be considered producing a “unique” product, service, or result if they are done to simply create a new, improved version of the same?

Because the distinction between projects and operations is not as clear-cut in some organizations as in others, it is even more important that a project manager consider operations managers as stakeholders in the projects they are doing, especially if those managers are heading departments which will be the direct recipient of a new business service or result, or if they are affected in any way by it.    Also resources from those departments will often be used in carrying out the project, for the very reason that they will be eventually impacted by it.

The next section ties together organizational project management, which is the integration of projects, programs and portfolios.


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