Monday, February 10, 2020

PMBOK Guide 7th Edition Standard: Principle Application Vs Delivery Capability

Recently, I spoke on the changes happening for the PMBOK® Guide, 7th Edition – Standard, in a webinar conducted globally. (link)

After this session, I had this question offline. 

“Should all the principles be followed for effective delivery? Is there a correlation?”

This question set me thinking about the usage of principles across the delivery spectrum. The standard is currently in draft stage and the principles are outlined there, though it may change. 

Question’s First Part
However, I’m not focused about the number of finalized principles in this post as that will be determined by the team preparing the standard and suggestions, comments from management practitioners. Rather, I’ll be outlining the application of these principles as the first part of the above question goes.

Should all the principles be followed? 

All the principles need not be applied to the same extent in every project delivery, i.e., the degree of application for the principles can vary. 

As per the standard draft, the degree of application of the principles will be influenced by:
  • Organizational context,
  • Project undertaken,
  • Deliverables to be given,
  • The team working on the project,
  • Stakeholders involved in the project,
  • Environmental conditions involved. 

Question’s Second Part
The next part of the question raised was: 

Is there is there a correlation between the principles applied and the ability to deliver? 

This is not mentioned in the standard part of the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition. But, it’s a very interesting question. If you read deeply and look closely at the standard, the degree of application of the principles and project delivery are actually interrelated. 

An Example:
Let’s say a small, simple, organic organization is delivering project to its clients. This organization has few employees – 10 to 15 in number, and the owner of the organization is the manager or leader of the project.
  • Do you think this organization will want to apply all the principles completely? 
  • Do you think this organization will train the resources on the applicability of the principles?
  • What will be the actual value received by principles such as tailoring, assuming that the organization uses very small number of processes? (remember: it’s a small organization) 
You can add other questions in this regard as well. 

However, there will be certain principles which will be of high importance to such organizations. For example, principles such as “Focus on Value” will be of high importance to this organization, other principles such as “Tailor the approach” may not be equally important – and sometimes may have very little usage! 

Four-Quadrant Classification:
Hence, the second part of the question leads to a four-quadrant classification considering two aspects:
  • Degree of application of principles (in one axis)
  • Delivery capability (in another axis)  

This brings four areas for the organization concerned and they can fall into one of these categories. 
  • Low application of Principles, Low Delivery capability (LP, LD)
  • Low application of Principles, High Delivery capability (LP, HD)
  • High application of Principles, Low Delivery capability (HP, LD)
  • High application of Principles, High Delivery capability (HP, HD)
I’ve simplified the shortened versions and in the four classifications shown above:
  • P – stands for "degree of principles' application", D – stands for "delivery capability"

This is represented in the below figure. Do note that it's my interpretation and visualization. 

© Satya Narayan Dash. All Rights Reserved.

If you look at the above figure, you can see it’s based on the degree of application and delivery capability, and we have various types of organizations. 

Let’s understand this four-quadrant classification. 
  • LP, LD (bott0m-left quadrant): These organizations are small, simple/organic. These organizations don’t have a need to apply all the principles fully, and simultaneously their delivery capabilities will also be low. 
  • LP, HD (top-left quadrant): These are mostly start-up organizations, where survival matters a lot, for which they have to deliver frequently – anyway possible and quickly. These organizations, however, don’t apply all the principles to a very high degree.
  • HP, LD (bottom-right quadrant): In this case the delivery capability is not of high importance, but it’s important to know the degree of application of principles in a variety of situations or scenarios. In my view, high-end consulting organizations will fall under this category. 
  • HP, HD (top-right quadrant): If organizations apply principles to a high degree and also have high delivery capability, I’ll consider them to be matured organizations. By matured, I don’t mean these will be large scale organizations, but they have the ability to deliver in various approaches – be it iterative, traditional, agile, hybrid or any other. These organizations also apply the principles to a high degree. 

This is the first impression I’ve while comparing the degree of application for the principles and the delivery capabilities. As the PMBOK Guide 7th edition comes with more clarity, I may update this figure.

And I welcome your views and thoughts.

[1] Webinar - PMI PMBOK Guide 7th Edition Standard – What’s New? by Satya Narayan Dash, Conducted by Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG)

[2] The Standard for Project Management Exposure Draft for PMBOK Guide 7th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

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