Blog Post #3: Shortcomings of 'Traditional' Project Management

(Fair Lawn, NJ - January 16, 2018) - This is the 3rd in a series of blogs posted in 2018 with excerpts from an upcoming book: Project Management for Performance Improvement Teams (PM4PITs) co-authored by our COO -- Bill Ruggles -- until it comes out in early May!

The 1st blog provided an excerpt from the book's Preface which identified the ingenious, iterative and scalable "APECC" framework that serves as the foundation for the entire book.

The 2nd one provided an excerpt from the book's single longest chapter #3 - Project Change Management and Bill's co-author Dr. H. James Harrington who wrote most of its content.

This 3rd blog provides an excerpt from Chapter 1 which addresses 'traditional' project management (and continual improvement) and its 3 key shortcomings.

 What’s Wrong With the 'Traditional' Framework for Project Management?

Since 1996, the 'traditional' or 'mainstream' framework for project management, especially in North America, has been defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) – a global, professional association for project, program, and portfolio management based in the USA – via its publication called The Project Management Body of Knowledge (aka PMBOK® Guide).1 The current version -- the 6th Edition -- was released in September, 2017.

While there’s a lot to like in this latest version, we believe that there are at least three (3) major shortcomings that fall short of providing Senior Leadership, the PMO Director, and, most importantly, the Project Manager and his/her Project Team with the latest in conceptual and practical underpinnings to address the challenges and opportunities of 21st century projects.  These three (3) shortcomings are the following:

  1. The outdated “Triple Constraint” and “Iron Triangle” concepts that are being taught by PMI's "Registered Education Providers" (R.E.P.s);
  2. The two crucial Knowledge Areas (Project Change Management and Project Technology Management) and their 12 combined processes that are missing; and
  3. The ambiguity of the interrelationships among and interactions between its 5 Project Management Process Groups.

Here’s how we view these three (3) shortcomings:

Shortcoming #1:  The Outdated 'Triple Constraint' and the 'Iron Triangle' Concepts

These two related concepts presume that each project has three (3) constraints – Scope, Time, and Cost – that, together, form a three-sided object – a triangle – whose rigid shape, according to its proponents, must be maintained at all times in accordance with Stakeholder expectations or in order to deliver Quality.  Hence, during the project’s life cycle, if one of these constraints changes (e.g., increased Scope) so, too, must at least ONE of the other two constraints (e.g., either more Time or higher Cost) change to maintain or balance its rigid triangular shape as in Figures 1.1a and 1.1b below:

Unfortunately, we believe strongly that these two concepts have become anachronistic or outdated, at best, and no longer applicable, at worst.  They need to be updated or replaced!  We also believe that any new conceptual models should reflect the contents of the latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide which actually identifies a total of SIX (6) project constraints, NOT three, which have to be balanced on each project.  Yet, none of the hundreds of PM Training Vendors, including the PMI® Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s), seem to have noticed and updated their curricular materials to reflect this overdue update.  (Authors' Note: Hopefully, that will be changed with the publication of this book.)

Shortcoming #2:  Two Missing Project Management Knowledge Areas and Twelve Processes

Chapters 4 through 13 of the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide provide detailed descriptions of the ten (10) Project Management Knowledge Areas:  Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resources, Communications, Risk, Procurement, and Stakeholders (in that order).

While we are satisfied with the ten traditional Project Management Knowledge Areas, we believe that there are still two missing – Project Change Management (addressed in last week's blog) and Project Technology Management – each of which has six (6) Processes. We believe that these two Knowledge Areas (we call them “Performance Domains”) and 12 Processes should be added to the traditional ones (and we do so with our Contemporary Framework in Chapter 2.)

Shortcoming #3: The Ambiguous Interrelationships Among and Interactions Between the 5 Project Management Process Groups

We believe that the interactions and interrelationships, as currently displayed in the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide (see the Figures on pages 555 and 562) among and between the five (5) Project Management Process Groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling, and Closing, are simply too ambiguous. .

The way the relationships between the Process Groups are illustrated are impractical for performance improvement Project Managers and their Project Teams since they are NOT fully iterative, especially between what we call the “Big 3” process groups: Planning, Executing, and Monitoring/Controlling in which over 93% of the processes occur!

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about 'traditional' Project Management in a performance improvement context by contacting us either at or simply leave us a comment below.

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