Project Knowledge Areas – PMI’s little-known Treasures

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I must tell you, I am afraid, no, I am terrified with what PMI is proposing to do to the knowledge areas in the PMBOK Guide ® 7th edition. Now, to be clear, we don’t know what will exactly happen in the next edition, but from what I am hearing and reading, the knowledge areas in the next edition will be removed. Yep, gone, no longer there, vanished like they never existed.  Eight performance domains will replace all ten knowledge areas. We won’t know the negative impact this will have on the industry for a while, but my predictions are removing these knowledge areas will be a huge mistake and will both hurt the profession and inevitably impact project success.

The Project Management Knowledge areas are treasures that PMI has invested in for years.  We can only guess at the reasons PMI has made such a drastic departure from that model.  

Process Flow

While project managers might not always leverage the knowledge areas, there are times that the knowledge areas prove to be a highly used and valuable reference tool used to address problematic project scenarios.

Let’s take a look at once such project scenario and how it would typically be managed leveraging the knowledge areas.

Scenario: The customer wants to bring in the project schedule by a month.

Impact Assessment (leveraging the 10 Knowledge areas): 

In this example, the project manager would take a methodical approach leveraging the knowledge areas as the respective impacts.

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management – Impacted
  • Project Schedule Management – Impacted
  • Project Cost Management – Impacted
  • Project Quality Management – Impacted
  • Project Resource Management – Impacted
  • Project Communications Management – Might be impacted
  • Project Risk Management – Leveraged to assess the impact
  • Project Procurement Management – Impacted
  • Project Stakeholder Management – Impacted

Perfect, that is the standard process we have been following for years. Right?

Well, not really, but let me continue.

You can see that when the project manager uses acknowledge the knowledge areas and the associated risks, it improves the overall probability of project success by having a comprehensive response plan to the scenario.  When they start to think about other impacted knowledge areas, they are setup much better to no miss anything related to that risk.

Ok, wait, it only gets better.  What if you had an easily consumable graphic that conveyed how the knowledge areas are connected to one another.

Today, I would like to introduce to you a concept I documented in my book, “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running and Shutting Down,” the Knowledge Area Circle.  The idea behind the knowledge areas circle is that when one knowledge area is impacted, it might indirectly impact other knowledge areas.

Let’s look at an example of the Schedule Knowledge Area Circle in Figure 1.0. 

Figure 1.0 Schedule Knowledge Area Circle 

In the Schedule Knowledge Area Circle, you can see if there is an impact to the project stakeholders, there could also be impacts on Scope, Resource, Cost, and Communications. So, don’t focus solely on the schedule risk, look at what would happen to scope, what could happen to Cost, …etc. 

Make sense? This quick and easy consumable graphic will allow all project managers to see the possible impacts of the other parts of the project when a single risk occurs. 

What do you think? Do you believe that most project managers consider other knowledge areas when looking at their project risks? Is this something project managers are already doing and not telling anyone? 

Can you see why I am so worried when these go away? 

Comment below, and let me think! I some new training coming out that will help you learn how to manage your projects regardless if PMI takes away these knowledge areas. Check out my training and ebooks here for more information. If you are interested in reading more information on project management and project communications, I would love you to check out my article here.

Thanks! Bill Dow, PMP

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