Orthodox project methods and standards are not 'best practice' as they do not deal with the essential business and value elements.

Exploding Project Myths 2

Bodies of Knowledge (PMBOK, BABOK) and methodologies (Prince2, MSP, et al) have been developed and widely promoted as ‘best practice’. Many project professionals firmly believe that if you just follow these standards you will be successful.

This belief is not borne out by the evidence. Over the past 20-25 years during which these standards have been promoted and used widely, project success rates have only improved marginally.

Some blame this result on imperfect implementation, but the real problem is more fundamental.

The Real Truth

Project management standards are ‘good practice’ in their place – except where they sub-optimize business results

First, most of these standards are only claimed to be ‘good practice’ – it is their devotees that raise this claim to ‘best practice’.

Second, these standards are mostly developed by project professionals for project professionals – and there is nothing wrong with that. As such, they focus mainly on the project dimensions of projects and therefore do not effectively address all the needs of the critical business dimensions of projects.

As projects are business initiatives, they need to be viewed from a business perspective. Y, many of the required business elements of project delivery are missing from these ‘standards’ even though it is these very business elements that determine business success or failure and how much of the available value is realised.

In Conclusion

TOP builds on these good practice standards, realigns them in terms of value optimization where necessary; but does not duplicate them. TOP is mainly concerned with the business and strategic leadership dimensions of projects and the required business mindset – the project dimensions are already well served.

How TOP aligns with the ‘standards’ is available on the TOP website.

Topics: Standards/Frameworks/Methods, Mental Models, Beliefs and Myths

Further Reading



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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (June 2011) as "Project Management And Other Standards Are 'Best Practice' (Myth)"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections