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Bodies of Knowledge and Competency Standards in Project Management


The original version of this chapter, published in the first edition of this handbook, was written when the only knowledge standard for project management was the 1987 Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®)1 developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), headquartered in the USA. Subsequent to the publication of the first edition, the PMBOK® was completely rewritten and renamed A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) in 1996, with revised editions published in 2000 and 2004, but with the basic 1996 structure unchanged.2

In the meantime, other bodies of knowledge of project management have been developed around the world, notably in the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan. These are all markedly different from the PMBOK® Guide, but are the de facto project management knowledge standards in their respective geographic domains. Thus, the current situation is that there is no single universally accepted body of knowledge of project management.

This situation has stimulated numerous efforts to try and define which topics should be included in a global body of knowledge of project management, and how they might be structured. The most notable of these was called the OLCI, initiated in 1998. Results from this initiative will be discussed below.

Another development is the adoption in some countries of performance-based competency standards rather than knowledge standards as a basis for assessing and credentialing project managers. Another global effort, this time for the development of a framework of Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel was initiated in 2000. Progress and prospects are discussed below. First, we'll examine the origins and natures of key bodies of knowledge and competency standards for project management, and possible future developments.


Knowledge standards or guides, which typically take the form of bodies of knowledge, focus primarily on what project management practitioners need to know to perform effectively.

The most compelling argument for having a body of knowledge for project management is to help overcome the "reinventing the wheel" problem. A good body of knowledge should help practitioners do their job better, by both direct referencing and by use in more formal educational processes.

Koontz and O'Donnell express the need as follows: "In managing, as in any other field, unless practitioners are to learn by trial and error (and it has been said that managers' errors are their subordinates' trials), there is no other place they can turn for meaningful guidance than the accumulated knowledge underlying their practice..."3

Beginning in 1981, the Project Management Institute (PMI) took formal steps to accumulate and codify relevant knowledge by initiating the development of what became their Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®). The perceived need to do so arose from the PMI's long-term commitment to the professionalization of project management. As they stated at the time, "...there are five attributes of a professional body... :

1. An identifiable and independent project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® standards).

2. Supporting educational programs by an accredited institution (Accreditation).

3. A qualifying process (Certification).

4. A code of conduct (Ethics).

5. An institute representing members with a desire to serve..."4

The initial overambition of trying to codify an entire body of knowledge—surely a dynamic and changeable thing—was tempered in 1996 by the change in title to A Guide to...and the statement that the PMBOK® Guide was in fact, "a subset of the...Body of Knowledge that is generally accepted as good practice." That is to say that the PMBOK® Guide is designed to define a recommended subset rather than describing the entire field.

In summary, PMI sees their subset of the body of knowledge, as set forth in the PMBOK® Guide, as a basis for professionalization of project management. The PMBOK® Guide is used to support education programs, and for accrediting programs for degree-granting educational institutions. A test on knowledge of the PMBOK® Guide is part of the qualifying process for its Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. The United Kingdom, European, and Japanese bodies of knowledge were developed for somewhat different purposes in each case, although all share a purpose to provide a basis for assessment and certification of project management practitioners.

We now look at some of the principal bodies of knowledge of project management in more detail.


PMI has produced the oldest and most widely used of the bodies of knowledge of project management. It has been modified substantially over the years. In the words of an editor of the Project Management Journal: "It was never intended that the body of knowledge could remain static. Indeed, if we have a dynamic and growing profession, then we must also have a dynamic and growing body of knowledge."5

The precursor of the PMBOK® was PMI's ESA (Ethics, Standards, and Accreditation) report of 1983,5 which nominated six primary components, namely the management of scope, cost, time, quality, human resources, and communications.

The 1987 PMBOK® was an entirely new document, and the first separately published body of knowledge of project management. It added contract/procurement management and risk management to the previous six primary components.

The 1996 PMBOK® Guide was a completely rewritten document, which added project integration management to the existing eight primary components. The nine components were then renamed Project Management Knowledge Areas, with a separate chapter for each. Each knowledge area has a number of component processes, each of which is further discussed in terms of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. There are some thirty-nine component processes in all.

Integration Management

• Project Charter Development

• Project Scope Statement Development

• Project Plan Development

• Project Plan Execution

• Monitoring and Controlling of Project Work

• Overall Change Control

Project Closure

Scope Management

• Scope Planning

• Scope Definition

Work Breakdown Structure Development

• Scope Verification

• Scope Change Control

Time Management

• Activity Definition

• Activity Sequencing

• Activity Resource Estimating

• Activity Duration Estimating

• Schedule Development

• Schedule Control

Cost Management

• Cost Estimating

• Cost Budgeting

Quality Management

• Quality Planning

• Quality Assurance

• Quality Control

Human Resources Management

• Human Resource Planning

• Staff Acquisition

• Team Development

• Team Management

Communications Management

• Communications Planning

• Information Distribution

• Performance Reporting

• Stakeholder Management

Risk Management

• Risk Management Planning

• Risk Identification

• Risk Assessment

• Risk Analysis-Quantitative and Qualitative

Risk Response Planning

• Risk Monitoring and Control

Procurement Management

• Planning for Purchases and Acquisitions

• Contract Planning

• Requesting Seller Responses (RFPs)

• Source Selection

• Contract Administration

• Contract Close-out

—Based on information in Chapter 1 of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition, (PMI, 2004).


The knowledge areas and their component processes in the 2004 PMBOK® Guide, Third Edition, are listed in Table 2-1. As you can see, there are now forty-four component processes identified in this model.

Discussion of the nine knowledge areas and component processes are preceded by three chapters on the Project Management Framework, comprising an introductory and overview chapter, and chapters on the project management context and project management processes.

Whereas the PMBOK® Guide (1996) aimed to identify and describe generally accepted knowledge and practices—i.e., those that are applicable to most projects most of the time, and about which there is widespread consensus about their value and usefulness—a major conceptual change for the Third Edition is that they have replaced the criterion "generally accepted" from the previous editions "to identify that subset of the Project Management Body of Knowledge that is generally recognized as good practice" (author's italics), and they go on to explain that "'good practice' means that there is general agreement that the correct application of these skills, tools, and techniques can enhance the chances of success over a wide range of different projects. Good practice does not mean that the knowledge described should always be applied uniformly on all projects; the project management team is responsible for determining what is appropriate for any given project."7

While acknowledging that "much of the knowledge needed to manage projects is unique or nearly unique to project management," the 2000 PMBOK® Guide went on to note that it does overlap other management disciplines, and that general management skills provide much of the foundation for building project management skills:

"On any given project, skill in any number of general management areas may be required . . . These skills are well documented in the general management literature and their application is fundamentally the same on a project. . . .There are also general management skills that are relevant only on certain projects or in certain application areas. For example, team member safety is critical on virtually all construction projects and of little concern on most software development projects."8

In the PMBOK® Guide, Third Edition, this paragraph was replaced by a table defining "general management" as the "planning, organizing, staffing, executing, and controlling the operations of an ongoing enterprise," and listing the categories of such skills that might be of use to the project manager, including financial management and accounting; sales and marketing; contracts and commercial law; manufacturing and distribution; logistics and supply chain management; strategic planning, tactical planning, and operational planning; organizational behavior and development; personnel administration and associated topics; and information technology, among others.

This section of the PMBOK® Guide goes on to briefly discuss the key general management skills of leading, communicating, negotiating, problem solving, and influencing the organization, followed by a short discussion of socioeconomic influences.

In summary, the various versions of the PMBOK® Guide have focused on (project) management skills that are applicable to most projects most of the time, and have not included in the knowledge areas those general management skills that may be required only on some projects and/or only on some occasions.

The Association of Project Management Body of Knowledge (APMBoK®)

Morris9 [11] notes that when the United Kingdom's APM launched its certification program in the early 1990s, they did it because they felt that PMI's PMBOK® did not




adequately reflect the knowledge base that project management professionals need. It therefore developed its own body of knowledge, which differs markedly from PMI's.10

The fourth edition (2000) of APMBoK® was organized into seven main headings, with a total of forty-two component items, which can be represented as shown in Figure 2-1. There are brief discussions of all headings and topics, and references given for each topic.

Morris discusses the reasons why APM did not use the PMBOK® model. In essence, he says that the different models reflect different views of the project management discipline. He notes that while the PMI model is focused on the generic processes required to accomplish a project "on time, in budget, and to scope," APM's reflects a wider view of the discipline, "addressing both the context of project and the technological, commercial, and general management issues, which it believes are important to successfully accomplishing projects."

Morris goes on to say:

". . . all the research evidence . . . shows that in order to deliver successful projects, managing scope, time, cost, resources, quality, risk, procurement, and so forth . . . alone are not enough. Just as important—sometimes more important— are issues of technology and design management, environment and external issues, people matters, business and commercial issues, and so on. Further, the research shows that defining the project is absolutely central to achieving project success. The job of managing the project begins early in the project, at the time the project definition is beginning to be explored and developed, not just after the scope, schedule, budget, and other factors have been defined . . . APM looked for a structure that gave more recognition to these matters."11

One of the key differences between the PMI and APM approaches is that, in its own words, the PMBOK® Guide s Knowledge Areas include only knowledge and practices that "are applicable to most projects most of the time," while contextual issues and the like are discussed separately in its Framework section. On the other hand, the APMBoK® includes knowledge and practices that may apply to some projects and/or part of the time, which is a much more inclusive approach. This is demonstrated by the fact that the PMBOK® Guide specifically excludes safety (as noted above), while the APMBoK® specifically includes safety.

European Bodies of Knowledge

Following the publication and translation of the first editions of the APMBoK® in 1992 and 1993, several European countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, developed their own bodies of knowledge.

The International Project Management Association (IPMA), a federation of national project management associations, mainly European, developed an IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB)n in the late 1990s. In spite of its name, it is essentially a knowledge baseline, with the primary purpose of providing a reference basis for its member associations to develop their own National Competence Baselines (NCBs). The majority of members have since developed their own baselines, which provide a basis for certification of their project managers.

Another purpose of the ICB was to "harmonize" the then-existing European bodies of knowledge, particularly those of the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

The ICB comprises some twenty-eight core elements which are not grouped under sub-headings, but are presented in what has become known as "The Sunflower" structure — twenty-eight "petals" radiating out from a central core. There are also fourteen additional elements of project management knowledge and experience, making a total of forty-two elements. The twenty-eight core elements are required to be included in each member's NCB.

Japan's P2M

In mid-1999, Japan's Engineering Advancement Association (ENAA) received a commission from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to establish a new Japanese-type project management knowledge system and a qualification system. ENAA established a committee for the introduction, development, and research on project management, which produced A Guidebook of Project & Program Management for Enterprise Innovation— officially abbreviated to P2M—in 2001, with English revisions in 2002 and 2004.13

The task of issuing, maintaining and upgrading P2M is being undertaken by the Project Management Professionals Certification Center (PMCC) of Japan, which is also implementing a certification system for project professionals in Japan, based on P2M. PMCC is a not-for-profit organization, whose primary purpose is to promote the effective use of project and program management throughout Japanese industry. P2M and its associated certification system are its key instruments for fulfilling this purpose.

The rationale for developing P2M and the certification system was a perceived need for Japanese enterprises to develop more innovative approaches to developing their businesses, particularly in the context of the increasingly competitive global business environment, and also a perceived need to provide improved public services. The key concept in addressing this need is "value creation." The recommended means of achieving

"value creation" is through developing an enterprise mission, then strategies to accomplish this mission, followed by planned programs to implement these strategies, and then specific projects to achieve each of the programs. The focus of P2M is on how to facilitate the effective planning, management, and implementation of such programs and projects.

The original Japanese document comprises around 420 pages, so it is a large and very detailed document.

Alone among the main bodies of knowledge, P2M not only covers the management of single projects, but also has a major section specifically on program management.

On the project management side, P2M has chapters on the following project management segments or domains:

►Project Strategy Management

►Project Finance Management

►Project Systems Management

►Project Organization Management

►Project Objectives Management

Project Resources Management

►Risk Management

►Project Information Technology Management ►Project Relations Management ►Project Value Management ►Project Communications Management. TOWARDS A GLOBAL BODY OF KNOWLEDGE?

The current situation is that there is no one globally accepted body of knowledge of project management. Each main professional association has a vested interest in maintaining its own body of knowledge, as each case has involved such a big investment in, and commitment to, subsequent certification processes. It is therefore difficult to envisage any situation that might prompt professional associations to voluntarily cooperate to develop a global body of knowledge to which they would commit themselves.

Nonetheless, there have been many Global Forums since the mid-1990s, often in association with major project management conferences, which indicates a wide recognition that a globally recognized body of knowledge would be highly desirable.

One particular initiative was the coming together of a small group of internationally recognized experts to initiate workshops, beginning in 1998, to work towards a global body of project management knowledge. This group, known as OLCI (Operational Level Coordination Initiative) has recognized that one single document cannot realistically capture the entire body of project management knowledge, particularly emerging practices such as in managing "soft" projects (e.g., some organizational change projects), cutting edge research work, unpublished materials, and implicit as well as explicit knowledge and practice. Rather, there has emerged a shared recognition that the various guides and standards represent different and enriching views of selected aspects of the same overall body of knowledge.14


Competency has been defined as "the ability to perform the activities within an occupation or function to the standard expected in employment."15 There are two primary approaches to inferring competency: attribute based, and performance based.

The attribute-based approach involves definition of a series of personal attributes (e.g., a set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes) that are believed to underlie competence, and then testing whether those attributes are present at an appropriate level in the individual. The attribute-based approach appears to be the basis for PMI's Project Manager Competency Development Framework (PMCDF),16 although this is intended for use in professional development for project managers rather than in selection or performance evaluation.

The performance-based approach is to observe the performance of individuals in the actual workplace, from which underlying competence can be inferred. This has been the approach adopted by the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) as a basis for its certification/registration program.

Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management (ANCSPM)

Several factors combined to lead AIPM to develop competency standards, including a recognition that the possession of knowledge about a subject does not necessarily mean competence in applying that knowledge in practice. The Australian Government was also very influential, through its Department of Employment, Education, and Training, which very actively promoted the development of national competency standards for the professions.

The format of Australian Competency Standards emphasises performance-oriented recognition of competence in the workplace, and includes the following main components:

► Units of competency: the significant major functions of the profession.

►Elements of competency: the building blocks of each unit of competency.

►Performance criteria: the type of performance in the workplace that would constitute adequate evidence of personal competence.

►Range indicators: describe more precisely the circumstances in which the performance criteria would be applied.

The ANCSPM units of competency align with the nine knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide. The elements of competency are expressed in action words, such as determine, guide, conduct, implement, assess outcomes, and the like. There are generally three elements of competency for each unit, but occasionally more. There are typically two to four performance criteria for each element of competency. ANCSPM also has substantial supporting material, which includes "a broad knowledge and understanding of . . . [various relevant topics]" and checklists of "substantiating evidence."17

Other Competency Standards

South Africa is developing its own performance-based competency standards. Standards have been completed for a National Certificate in Project Management—NQF Level 4 (SAQA), and work on Levels 3 and 5 is proceeding.18

In the UK, the Occupational Standards Council for Engineering produced standards for Project Controls (1996) and for Project Management (1997). These were reviewed in

2001, and the revised standards endorsed by the regulatory authorities in 2002. These are now the responsibility of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board.19

The above standards are formally recognized and provide the basis for award of qualifications within their respective national qualifications frameworks.

Towards Global Performance-Based Competency Standards?

As noted earlier, a global effort for the development of a framework of Global Performance-Based Standards for Project Management Personnel (GPBSPMP) was initiated in 2000. The work of an international group, with representatives from most major international project management associations, has been facilitated from the outset by Dr. L.H. Crawford of the University of Technology, Sydney. The philosophy of this endeavor is to be maximally inclusive, so that emerging standards will incorporate input from virtually all project management knowledge and competency standards developed to date.

When these standards are produced, they will have the potential to be adopted as truly global, because each project management institute/association should be able to see a direct correspondence between its standards and the Global Performance Based Standards. One can only hope that this venture will be successfully completed, and its potential for global adoption realised, for the benefit of all in the project management field.


The author gratefully acknowledges the ready assistance of his UTS colleague Dr. Lynn Crawford, who was particularly helpful in clarifying certain facts and interpretations; and of Crispin Piney, who reviewed the chapter to check the accuracy of my statements about the Third Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.


O In your own career, what aspects of general management are equally important to project management skills and knowledge? Should project management perhaps be considered a "general management" skill?

© Are there aspects of the European and Australian models that you find applicable to your work? Should they be included in the PMI standard, in your view?

© Discuss the difference between attribute-based and performance-based competency models. If your competency were required to be measured, which would you prefer to be gauged by?


1 Project Management Institute, Project Management Body of Knowledge (Drexel Hill, Penn.:PMI 1987).

2 Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK® Guide, 2GGG Edition, PMI, 2GGG; and A Guide to the Project Management Body ofKnowledge, Third Edition, Project Management Institute, PMI, 2GG4.

3 Harold Koontz and Cyril O'Donnell, Essentials of Management (New Delhi, India: Tata McGraw-Hill 197S)

5 Project Management Body of Knowledge: Special Summer Issue," Project Management Journal 17, No.3 (19S6) p.15.

6 "Ethics, Standards, Accreditation: Special Report," Project Management Quarterly. PMI: Newtown Square, PA. August, 19S3.

7 Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition. PMI: Newtown Square, PA. (2004).

S PMI 2004, ibid.

9 Peter W.G. Morris, "Updating the Project Management Bodies of Knowledge." Project Management Journal (September 2001).

10 Association for Project Management, Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th Edition) (Peterborough, UK: APM, Edited by Miles Dixon, 2000).

11 Morris, ibid.

12 International Project Management Association, ICB: IPMA Competence Baseline (Zurich: IPMA, C. Caupin, H. Knopfel, P. W.G. Morris, E. Motzel, and O. Pannenbacker, 199S).

13 Engineering Advancement Association of Japan, P2M: A Guidebook of Project and Program Management for Enterprise Innovation: Interim Translation (Japan: ENAA 2002).

14 L.H. Crawford, Global Body of Project Management Knowledge and Standards. In P. W.G. Morris & J.K. Pinto (Editors), The Wiley Guide to Managing Projects, Chapter 46. (Hoboken, NJ; John Wiley & Sons, 2004).

15 L. Heywood, A Gonczi and P. Hager, A Guide to Development of Competency Standards for Professions: Research Paper 7 (Australia: National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition, Australian Government Publishing Service, April 1992).

16 Project Management Institute, Project Manager Competency Development Framework (Newtown Square, Penn.: PMI 2002).

17 Australian Institute of Project Management (Sponsor), National Competency Standards for Project Management (Sydney, Australia: AIPM 1996).

1S South African Qualifications Authority, Notice of Publication of Unit Standards-Based Qualifications for Public Comment: National Certificate in Project Management—NQF Level 4. (South Africa: Government Gazette Vol. 437, No. 22S46, 21st November 2001).

19 Engineering Construction Industry Training Board, National Occupation Standards for Project Management (Kings Langley, UK; ECITB, 2002).

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