How is the PMBOK like Wikipedia?

When you are stuck in traffic, you have free time — just kidding — for random thoughts to bubble up into your conscious mind. On one such occasion, I found myself considering the similarities between the construction of articles on Wikipedia and PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK).

At first, these two entities may not seem to have much in common, but bear with me. A wiki is a Web site developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content. The best-known wiki is Wikipedia, formally launched on 15 January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, using concepts pioneered by Ward Cunningham. The idea behind a wiki was to create an information repository where anyone — hopefully with domain expertise — could add topic content, which could in turn be edited or commented on by others. The result of the collaborative input should provide useful and valid content on a wide range of topics. Today, Wikipedia has over four million articles.  And Wikipedia is also has an administration and governance model for administration, oversight and management of the content.

Wikis are not limited to Wikipedia. Projects use wiki tools to build a reservoir of project documents and facilitate collaboration among project staff, especially when they work in separate locations. The Twiki Workspace project, for example, provides a set of tools to manage projects, facilitate collaboration, and maintain project documents, forms and policies as well as supporting social networking on the project. The core software can be downloaded using open sources and the tools are available for purchase in bundles for 5 users or 25 users.

So, what does this have to do with PMBOK?

From its beginnings in 1981 when the PMI Board of Directors approved the development of a book detailing procedures and concepts necessary to support the profession of project management, the effort was a “collaboration”. Twenty-five volunteers from local PMI chapters wrote the sections of the report. Review and comment on the evolving standards was solicited from organization membership through a series of circulated working drafts and workshops. The process to reach “A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge” took several years. I wonder if they could have finished more quickly if they had had a wiki.

So the bottom line is – many executives who think the PMI PMBOK is a standard for Project Management do not realize that it is just a book of best practices that is put together by a group of PMs.  Remember that when you are implementing your processes on your project – you always need to apply the right processes to the type of project you are managing!

4 Responses to “How is the PMBOK like Wikipedia?”

  1. Eric Says:

    Thanks Bruce for the post.
    I think that the greatest problem of Wikipedia is that the content of this website often has some inaccurate and incorrect information. I personally use Wiki as an additional source of information; I do not regard it as a reliable website where I can find really helpful and truthful information.
    But the way, in academic writing lectures do not allow using Wikipedia in Reference List.

    As to PMBOK, it is a scientific and well founded work developed by PMI, which is one of the greatest and most respected organizations specializing in project management. The Guide seems to be the reliable source of information on PM. Thanks.

  2. LS Says:

    Some recent research has actually shown that Wikipedia is in fact more reliable than Encyclopaedia Britannica.
    There are some errors but these can be removed more quickly and easily than in an Encyclopaedia. Also, as the EB is written by a fixed number of people, whereas contributors to Wikipedia are limitless (well despite population numbers and so on). Therefore, a much greater pool of knowledge is available.

  3. Eric Says:

    In my opinion, Wikipedia will remain unreliable source of information on anything it tells about (including project management) because it’s written by limitless number of people. Although it seems to be great for Wiki to be updated by multiple contributors the source still includes errors that grow as much as new content is added. Even if to try to remove all those existing errors, new errors will appear and it will be harder for contributors as well as for the website administration to keep Wikipedia content correct, reliable and accurate.

  4. Kevin Brady Says:

    Love this. PMBOK is like a wonderful but very heavy everything you could need tool box. But as all good carpenters know you only need some of these tools most of the time. I think PRINCE2 is the professionals refinement of this emporium of tools, processes, procedures and templates.

    PMBOK is like trying to swallow a whole bull when you only want a stake 🙂

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