Studying PMBOK® 6: Why Good Is Better Than Best in Project Management

Studying PMBOK® 6: Why Good Is Better Than Best in Project Management

Tim Jerome

Last updated April 19, 2018


Best practice is a widely used term in most, if not all fields, and it’s a term normally used when discussing the PMBOK® Guide. However, both the fifth and sixth editions of the PMBOK® Guide don’t offer a good definition of this phrase. Instead, they define another phrase—good practice. After a little research, I realized what good versus best practice meant and why good is appropriate. I looked at the implications of good practice within the new edition of the guide. I also found out why this is important—both for the exam and for our ongoing personal and professional development.

Definition of Good Practice

Best practice generally means “generally accepted as superior to any alternative because it produces results that are superior to those achieved through other means or because it has become the standard way of doing things…”

Best practice infers, “this is the way we do things. If you want results, follow this.”

Good practice, as defined by the sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide means “… there is general agreement that the application of the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project management processes can enhance the chance of success over many projects in delivering the expected business values and results.”

This means that these practices are applicable to most projects most of the time, and there is a consensus about “… value and usefulness.”  

This means that if required, projects will deviate. We stick to what works, and when necessary, we apply what business requires and prefers. We are given authority where necessary.

Good practice also infers that we are not done. There are others who will follow who will do things better. But we know this works today and we will continue until a better solution is provided. We remain steadfast and open-minded.

I could have said that good practice is that way because “it works.” I could say, “your experience is different because you may not have people with 15 or 20 years of experience around you, so you haven’t seen this type of management and leadership in action.” However, the best way to introduce you to the context of the standard is by immersing in the material and working with the tools within scenarios. You must experience something you’ve never experienced before, and that’s tricky. That is why the PMP® exam is different from other exams – you step away from your experience of success, and have to trade it for a lot of material that is often confusing.

The PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition Approach to Good Practice

The new edition of the PMBOK® Guide is a transition in the way good practice is framed. The definition is the same in both editions; however, the sixth edition has re-structured the content to represent the actions that represent the intention of good practice. Each knowledge area now includes:

  • Key Concepts: What you need to know first and foremost about this specific skillset.
  • Trends and Emerging Practices: How the changes in the world around us are impacting this specific skillset. 
  • Tailoring Considerations: How to modify the characteristics of this skillset if required, or to receive better outcomes due to your project’s uniqueness.
  • Consideration for Agile / Adaptive Environments: What you need to consider within this skillset when you are embracing great change.

The PMBOK® Guide is not the end story. It is aligned with what we know works well; however, we all are responsible for adapting it to our scenario and extracting success and guiding its development moving forward. 

Why This New Edition is Important

The PMP credential represents the Project Management Institute (PMI) standing behind you and publicly stating that you are an expert, and capable of supporting and representing project management. You’re also obligated to grow project management. 

Formal training in project management prepares one for this obligation; it establishes fundamentals, and following the mindset of good practice, establishes ground rules and guidelines for modification. Morals and ethics cannot be modified; this drives integrity away and splits our internal voices into arguments. The modifications described here are the ones that are required by the business, stakeholders and the deliverable to meet some objective, without sacrificing values and integrity. This is the job of true leadership – maintain the inner light of integrity, know the good way to do things, and simultaneously understand the demands of the environment and the always-in-the forefront objective – why we are doing this. It’s a tough role, and the people signing up for the exam are to be commended – we’re often thrown into this work untrained, without a lot of wise guidance. 

The PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition was structured to understand and support this struggle. People who authored this edition do the same work you do and came to the same conclusions. There is a good way of doing things, and we can step up and be the leaders to usher the project to success, moving project management forward. 

PMBOK® is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

About the Author

Tim Jerome, PMP® MBA, has led and supported projects globally for over 15 years. Tim has taught Project Management and PMP® Certification preparatory courses for over 10 years, assisting in educating and supporting hundreds of project managers.


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