Why the PMBOK Matters
The PMBOK is about something much bigger than giving PMPs a framework for managing projects.
What's the True Value of the PMBOK Guide?
It's true that learning the PMBOK and becoming PMP certified is likely to help you as an individual to become more effective managing projects. But there is much more to it...
Indeed, many individuals who are very experienced at project management question the value of learning the PMBOK and earning PMP certification. I understand, as it does take a lot of effort. However, it is valuable to gain concentrated exposure to the whole body of knowledge in a subject, such as project management, and there's no way you can do that with experience alone.
However, there's something more...
For those who are less experienced and want to boost their careers, the PMP tends to solidify their knowledge and validate their skills, enabling them to some degree to re-invent themselves, breathing new life into their careers. As with an experienced individual, they are exposed to the whole body of knowledge in the field of project management, and it can be helpful to do that earlier in your career if possible!
But there's something even more important...
Industry participants who want to raise the bar on who they hire tend to be fans of PMP certification. It reduces the risk in a hire, as they know that at least the person's application was accepted by the PMI and they passed the test. At a minimum, they have some experience and have mastered the PMBOK.
But that's not the most important reason...
There are many companies that want to raise the level of project management capability within their organizations. In some cases, delivery of projects is actually what the company does. In other cases, projects support the business by leading change and getting things done around the edges of the organization. Getting everyone on the same page in a systematic way is very helpful to achieve this.
This is closer to the biggest reason...
Project management is a global profession, and it has arisen in part due to greater demands to manage complexity. The PMBOK was created by incorporating input from professionals in a wide variety of industries, locations, and types of projects, and it creates a standard. Mastering that standard,you would think, raises the bar for performance, but also creates mobility for professionals.
Again that's closer, but that's not quite it.
Look to Other Standards for the Answer
The PMBOK is a standard. So why not look at the engineering field, where standards abound, for guidance?
Consider this quote:
"A shared language is a crucial component of the design methodology of any system or process, be it electrical, software, mechanical, or chemical. And if that shared language is based on a pre-existing language, the team which must share design will be up to speed more quickly and more able to complete the design task - and the more-demanding long-term maintenance and integration task - better, faster, and cheaper."
-- Richard Mark Soley, Ph.D, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Object Management Group, Inc., Lexington, MA, USA
The PMBOK Guide gives PMs around the world a shared language. It's not just a vocabulary, although that's part of it. It's also a complete framework for what is needed to manage a project successfully.
Like in engineering, organizations that have PMs that have a shared, standards-based language about project management are equipped to more rapidly and effectively deal with increasingly complex projects.
And that, I think, is the ultimate value of the PMBOK.