The PMBOK Refresher

Preface to The PMBOK Refresher

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About the Official PMBOK Guide

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) publishes a book titled as "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge," and it is commonly known as the PMBOK Guide. The guide describes a large set of fundamental project management knowledge and processes, also called good practices, that can be applied to practically any project. Project managers refer to this guide when preparing for their certification exams, but the guide is not easy to read.

Included as an annex to the PMBOK Guide is a standard that forms all the information described by the guide into a practical framework. An annex is a type of appendix that distinguishes itself as more important than just an appendix. In this case, the annex contains an actual international standard. The annex is called The Standard for Project Management of a Project, and it has been approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Project managers around the world use that standard as a template for initiating, planning, managing, and closing their projects. Chapter 14 of The PMBOK Refresher covers that annexed standard.

The PMBOK Guide is written in an abstract style by a committee of PMI volunteers. It’s written in that way so you can apply it to any project. You then decide which particular practices are needed, and then you apply them to your own project, and if needed, modify the practice to best fit your needs. That abstract style of writing is similar to how laws and regulations are written. It’s dense, difficult to comprehend, very long, and can be vague for readers who are not familiar with reading and comprehending regulatory documentation.

The PMBOK Guide is now a mature document, so it probably may not be put through a revision that involves major changes and additions. It is likely that newer editions of the guide will mostly involve clarifying, reorganizing, and revising the existing information instead of adding large parts of new information. However, the author plans to keep The PMBOK Refresher up to date with any changes made to the original PMBOK Guide.

About The PMBOK Refresher

The PMBOK Refresher bridges the comprehension gap between you and the official PMBOK Guide. Up until now, there has been no book nor website about the PMBOK Guide like The PMBOK Refresher. The Refresher has fifteen parts that are entirely practical in approach, easy to read, and designed to help you study the information described by the PMBOK Guide. The PMBOK Refresher uses an easy-to-follow question and answer style. Practically every sentence and diagram in the PMBOK Guide has been converted into a question and answer; therefore, coverage is very thorough.

The PMBOK Refresher also goes beyond the official guide. Many additional questions and answers have been added to elaborate upon particular PMBOK topics that need extra background information, context, and clarification to help you better understand the topic. Those supplemental questions and answers are high-lighted in yellow to distinguish them from those which are directly based on actual text in the PMBOK Guide.

Each part of The PMBOK Refresher is devoted to a particular chapter in the PMBOK Guide. Each part contains chapters and sections that divide the PMBOK into managable pieces of information. Each section contains an interpretation of the PMBOK text that is easier to comprehend and followed by a set of questions and answers to test your knowledge. The first part covers Chapter 1 of PMBOK, the second part covers Chapter 2, and so on. Each part of the Refresher sequentially covers the remaining chapters, appendixes, and the annex (which contains the actual Standard for Project Management of a Project). Some appendixes of the PMBOK Guide will be omitted because they do not directly provide practical information, such as the appendix about who was involved in writing the PMBOK Guide.

The valuable information provided by The PMBOK Refresher's interpretation, elaboration, and test questions about the original PMBOK text will help you to increase your proficiency and speed in learning about the project management body of knowledge. It will go deeper and be more practical than most any other study guide on PMBOK. It is an extremely useful reference freely available to anyone connected to the Internet. Anyone who has to do anything with a project, such as a layman, student, business person, technical person, project scheduler, project manager, program manager, or portfolio manager will benefit from this work for many years to come. Individuals who are preparing to take the project management certification tests will find it an excellent source of material for preparing for those tests.

How to use The PMBOK Refresher

Each chapter and section in The PMBOK Refresher directly correlates with each chapter and section in the official PMBOK Guide. Each section is made of questions and answers. All answers are initially hidden. To see any answer, just click or touch its question and it will appear.

Be aware that many times the answer of one question becomes directly incorporated into the next question, so avoid reading the next question before answering the current question.

Using the Proper and Appropriate Perspective

The term "organization" is often used in the PMBOK Guide and The PMBOK Refresher. Many times it’s used as an adjective, such as organizational strategy, organizational plan, and organizational objective. Who is this organization? An organization may be a government, a large corporation, a division of a corporation, a medium or small company, a department, team, or even a single individual. So which one of these organizations is PMBOK referring to? Well, the authors of PMBOK are leaving that for you to decide. So look at it this way, whoever owns the project, that is the organization.

In reality, the organization that owns a project (and the program or portfolio it may belong to) is typically the one who is financing the project. This means it is probably a company, corporation, or government, but a smaller, lower-level, organizations, such as a department, team, or individual may come to mind. Those smaller entities can be thought of as the organization, but the authority and financing to proceed with a project typically comes from higher-level types of organizations. So when the perspective is of industry, you can picture the organization as either the sole proprietor, a company, or corporation. If the perspective is of government, you can picture the organization as either a local, state, or federal government entity. To be clear, the organization is the entity that has the final authority over the project and provides the financing to proceed with the project.

Another term which you should also be careful with is strategic. Strategizing is, in reality, an important behavior found in all types of organizations and within every level of an organization. In the PMBOK Guide you’ll often see the term used as an adjective, such as strategic plan and strategic objective. In the context of PMBOK, strategies are conceived at the very highest level of an organization. They steer, direct, and guide the organization, so they are referred to as organizational strategies and their objectives are referred to as organizational objectives.

Projects have a special relationship with organizational objectives. They are used to reach organizational objectives. This means that organizational objectives are translated to project objectives. Furthermore, an organization will depend on using projects to derive their organizational strategies. This means that strategies can be the actual objective of a project.

Here are the relationships between project objectives and strategic objectives.

Here is another way to state the relationships. Organizational management develops strategies, portfolio and program management convert strategies into objectives, and project management converts objectives into project plans and implements them as projects. If there is no portfolio and program management, then project management converts the strategic objectives into project plans and implements the plans as projects.

The following diagram illustrates those relationships. It shows the relationships as circles inside of circles, also known as a Venn Diagram. Keep in mind that it’s only an example for one large organization, so the projects, programs, and portfolios will differ with other organizations.

Figure. The relationships between strategic objectives, project objectives, program objectives, and portfolio objectives.
The relationships between strategic objectives, project objectives, program objectives, and portfolio objectives.

The diagram shows sets of objectives as a hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy are strategic objectives, those which guide the entire organization. Objectives within a particular circle are in-line with the objectives of the outer circle. This means objectives within the same circle have a common higher-level objective. So when either the PMBOK Guide or The PMBOK Refresher refers to strategies and their objectives, that is how you can visualize them.