Galen Low is joined by Jesse Fewell—Founder of Fewell Innovation—to share his story of contributing to the 7th edition of PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge and discusses the implications of the trends in project management that it reflects.
- If you want to get ahead in your career, get involved in your profession outside the office. For Jesse, it was volunteering with the Project Management Institute and then getting involved with Scrum Alliance and local meetups. [2:24]
- In 2007, Jesse was working as a project manager at Marriott International Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. He got approval to take a week off to go to the locally hosted global agile conference and it was in DC. Jesse got to listen to this project management luminary named Mike Griffiths. That’s when he started getting involved with PMI. [4:54]
- Mike Griffiths was one of the core members of the PMBOK’s 6th edition and invited Jesse to help write the Agile content that was included there. And then afterward, Mike was the co-chair for the 7th edition and invited Jesse to apply to be on the core team. That’s how Jesse got involved in being one of the people contributing to the PMBOK. [8:58]
- Jesse talks about the PMBOK’s big pivot. [11:13]
- Agile has been around officially for 18 years. But by 2019, there are a lot of people that are moving on beyond Agile, beyond lean startup, beyond DevOps, and beyond design thinking. [11:40]
Project management is no longer about deadlines and budgets.Jesse Fewell
- Jesse mentioned a cover story in the Harvard Business Review called Better Project Management. There’s a post by former PMI chairman, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, that makes the claim that projects are the catalyst for the 21st-century economy, projects as opposed to business operations. [16:23]
- A project manager’s job includes paying attention to ROI. [19:09]
Projects are no longer islands unto themselves; they’re part of a value delivery ecosystem. Project management’s a team sport.Jesse Fewell
- For the 7th edition of the PMBOK, the mission is to create a standard that reflects the state of industry practice. And the state of industry practice is one that’s now more inclusive in project management, where it’s not just one person anymore. [26:02]
- Jesse mentioned ‘cursive knowledge’, a psychological term, which means that the more you know, the more you assume everyone else knows. [30:57]
- Compliance is not the engine to success, but it might be a project requirement. We might need to be compliant with some core standards, and some regulatory expectations, but compliance to process is not going to prevent mistakes and it’s not going to guarantee alignment or momentum. [33:07]
Most projects, most of the time, are moving beyond any fixed methodology.Jesse Fewell
- Jesse talks about the silos within the project management community. [35:00]
There are some universal truths that can help reduce some of those mental silos we have of saying, ‘you could never learn anything from me and I can never learn anything from you’.Jesse Fewell
- In the global trends report, 43% of project managers are saying that in their environment, there’s no PMO and there’s no official methodology. And a third of all project managers have no certification at all. In fact, almost a third have no formal PM title at all. [39:41]
- In the Harvard business review piece that Jesse mentioned, 3 articles consuming a couple of dozen pages in the magazine, the term project manager was not mentioned once in the article that communicated the value of project management as a global economic catalyst. [40:38]
- With all the talking about informal project management, Jesse talks about who should read the PMBOK now. [48:45]
Meet Our Guest
Jesse Fewell has mentored thousands of technology professionals across 14 countries to improve their teams & companies using Agile methods.
He’s founded several startups, contributed to three industry certifications (PMI-ACP, CST, CEC), and authored publications reaching over a half-million readers in eleven languages. His industry contributions have earned him a IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Award.
Today, he specializes in helping agile leaders & professionals get the reward and recognition of transforming their chaotic overcommitted workplace to produce the best results of their careers.
Having a plan absolutely creates shared understanding. It articulates alignment on the direction. It creates clarity in the middle of chaos. That adds value to senior leaders.Jesse Fewell
Resources From This Episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Follow Jesse on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Check out Fewell Innovation
Related Articles And Podcasts:
- About the podcast
- 2022 Project Management Trends (on projectmanager.com)
- The Project Economy Has Arrived (on hbr.org)
- 10 Agile Methods For Agencies
- 3 Warning Signs Your Digital Transformation Is About To Stall & How To Course Correct
- Introducing Dear DPM – Anonymous Advice For Digital Project Managers
Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: You've been Googling again. Your search history shows a train of thought that goes from "project manager certifications" to "is PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge relevant for digital project managers?" to "are project managers still relevant?" And all the way to "what is the future of project management?"
Your existential dread is starting to show.
But there's something you need to know that you might not already know, and that is this: there's a project management revolution underway. Wanna know more about it and how to prepare for it? Well then, just keep listening.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
All right. Today, we are going to get an insider's perspective into how the 7th edition, the most recent edition of Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge came to be. As well as some of the signals it's sending about what's in store for the future of project management at large.
So with me today is Mr. Jesse Fewell—a project pioneer, renowned author, founder of the Agile Certified Practitioner certification, and co-contributor to the latest incarnation of the PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge.
Jesse, thanks so much for hanging out with us today!
Jesse Fewell: Oh, my gosh, this is my kind of people, my kind of talk.
I'm, I'm loving the chance to talk shop about what's going on in the world of projects.
Galen Low: I love it. And I, I love the conversations we've been having in recent weeks. I know you've got a lot of thoughts, perspectives, opinions and kind of that inside track of what's been going on with the movers and shakers of project management. So hopefully we can, we can dig into that.
But, but first of all, I just have to say, wow. So, what an impressive list of credentials I have in front of me. Your agile practice guide has been translated into, I think, 11 languages. It's been read by probably over half a million people?
Jesse Fewell: It's something like that. And, and, and that's the power of what happens when you raise your hand to volunteer, to be a part of something that's bigger than you and, and you just, you, you hook the rope on the speed boat and then you just try not to drown as you go along.
Man, I gotta tell you, I, I'm, I'm blessed. #Blessed, because you know, when you, when you get out there and, this is actually a bonus career tip for anyone that's listening, if you want to get ahead in your career, get involved in your profession outside the office.
For me, it was getting volunteering, um, with the Project Management Institute and then getting involved with Scrum Alliance and then local meetups. For you it might be something else, but that, those created the opportunities for me to be involved in those things that sound super impressive. But I was just at the right place at the right time with the right people.
So you gotta create your own luck if you want to get ahead.
Galen Low: Isn't that the truth? We're all so kind of squirreled away in our, in our jobs and getting ahead in our careers, but the people who are doing the things that you're doing, like we, we need, we need them. We need people to be able to kind of step outside of the box a little and do something for, you know, the broader, I don't wanna say greater good.
Yeah, I'll say greater good. Right? I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's volunteering time and energy to facilitate and implement something that would otherwise be really difficult to get going.
Jesse Fewell: And even if it's just like finding out what's going on in your profession, getting out there, going to a meetup, going to a conference. Right now this week as we're filming this, the global agile conference is sponsored by the Agile Alliance every year is being hosted in Nashville, as we speak.
And, and it's the first time it's happened in two years. And that's where you find out what's going on. What do I, as a professional, need to be aware of? What are the changes happening that might impact my career? And, and so we've done a lot of that homework for all of you listening. So you buckle up and listen in because we got some good insights to share with you today.
Galen Low: I love that theme, right? Change. And staying with your finger on the pulse, like globally with your people, with your community, with your profession. It's not something that's static. A lot of people I talk to they're like, yeah, project management doesn't change that much. And I'm like, tell you what, how much time got?
Jesse Fewell: Or project management's so, like 2000? Project management's dead. Isn't it?
Galen Low: Isn't it dead?
Jesse Fewell: Mm. Okay.
Galen Low: I, I just, I, I mean, I wanna hear, I was like, where do I start? But what I, what I actually want to hear is that origin story of what you said. You said, you're the right person at the right time.
You've been sewn into the Project Management Institute for some time. You've done things like, I'm like, I'm just opening the door into agile for a lot of practitioners around the world. But like, what is, what is that story? What is the anecdote of you getting involved with PMI?
Jesse Fewell: Oh, my gosh. Okay, so Iowa, my, my role, eh, this was in 2007.
I was working as a project manager at Marriott International Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. I was literally in the basement, that's where my cubicle was. It was one of those cloth paneled cubicles, where you would push pin a photo of your family there. Right? And, and I'm working there in the basement.
And I, and I, I got approval to take a week off to go to the locally hosted global agile conference. I just mentioned, 2022 is happening in Nashville. Well, 2007, it was in DC. And I got to listen to this project management luminary named Mike Griffiths. And, and, and the talk was like Agile for the PMP or something like that.
And I'm like, Hey man, that's, that's right on my alley. Let me go check it out. It was a great talk. I went up to him afterwards. I said it, Man, thanks so much for that. I really like the idea of creating like a formal community inside the Project Management Institute's 1 million members that are focused on Agile methods and Agile stuff like that.
How can we make that happen? These, well, I'm actually a little bit busy. I'm on the board of directors for the Agile Leadership Network and the board of directors for the Agile Alliance. I'm also currently lecturing at PMI seminars world. I'm a little bit, how about you do it?
I'm like, Bro, no, chill. Like I am a Noel buddy. I'm a project manager working in the basement of Maryland. I had to go, I don't know anything about this. I don't know what you're talking about, but I, I'm an open vessel. I'll make the first phone call. So I made a phone call and, and I found out that there was a formal process for creating a formal community, and all I needed to do is drum up some interest.
And, and I said, Oh, you mean, you want me to go contact technologists to see whether they're interested, informing a community about doing things differently than the old fashioned layer? Alright, hold my beer. And then, and then, and then before we know it, we're the, it's Agile 2009 at Chicago at the conference.
And we're launching the PMI Agile Community of Practice. It was the first one, first one of the formal virtual communities that now are the, taking the shape of projectmanagement.com. And because of that, I was invited to help design a certification. Because of that, I was invited by the Scrum Alliance to be one of their licensed trainers. Because of that, I got invited to found a global consulting arm in, in Bangalore, India. And so on and so on.
And all I did was go to a conference, talk to the speaker and say, Sure, I'll make the first phone call. And it all snowballed from there. So that's, that's the story. And I'm sticking to it.
Galen Low: That's incredible. I, um, and I imagine, you know what, just the advice that you shared at the beginning, right? A lot of people would say, haha, thanks Mike Griffin, no. I ain't got time for that.
But kudos, you, you took the initiative and opportunity is there to create these communities within our, within our craft. Not to say that everyone will necessarily, you know, drop into that same story. And that's what they'll live, but the opportunities are there, it seems with a little bit of initiative. That's so cool.
Jesse Fewell: They are, they are, they really are. It's really just a matter of, of choosing what your preferred channel. Is it the meat of the virtual meetups, which now are the de facto of post pandemic reality.
And now we're having people collaborate across countries for topics of interest. And is it the next conference? Is it a training class outside of the office? Is it maybe asking your boss for a tour of duty at a different department for six to 12 months? Just getting involved and seeing what else is out there, it's, it's huge.
Galen Low: And then obviously that road also led to the PMBOK. I'm gonna affectionately call it a PMBOK because I don't wanna say a Project Management Body of Knowledge every time for the next few minutes, for the rest of this conversation.
But you actually have been a contributor, and specifically I wanted to talk about the 7th edition, the latest edition as of recording. How did you get involved in being one of the people contributing to the PMBOK?
Jesse Fewell: Well, remember Mike? So, Mike Griffiths was one of the core members of the 6th edition and invited me to help write the Agile content that was included in there.
And then afterwards, he was the co-chair for the 7th edition and invited me to apply to be on the core team. It was a select, it's a selected process. And, it's, there's very specific criteria, particularly around making sure that there's representation from multiple industries, multiple countries.
So it was really by virtue of having established relationships in the industry with people who, who invites you or challenge you to put your name out there. I read a post recently. I think it was, uh, CIO Magazine that said that one of the things, one of the recommendations for moving your career forward is to have sponsors. Not just mentors, but sponsors who will go out on a limb for you.
And the only way that happens is if you invest the time to find those relationships and what, what I notice with sponsors and mentors, and I consider Mike Griffiths to be, like definitely a mentor. Two to three laps ahead of me at every step of the way. He's written more books than me and all of that. Shout out to Mike.
But you could see, I could see that he was somebody that was two to three laps ahead of me and I wanted to kind of follow along and as he grew, I grew. So when you have those sponsors who get that big executive job, and you've got the five year relationship with them, they might say, Hey, I'd like you to go ahead and apply for a head of PMO.
I finally got my first executive role. It only took me 10 years. We've known each other for five. I think you'd be a good shot at it, but you got, I can't just give it to you, you gotta earn your way in. That, that's the, all you need is the crack and the opening.
And so that's how I got into the project, right after it had just suffered or encountered a significant pivot. So I, I, I got to see the immediate aftermath of a complete reinvention of what the project was supposed to be about, but then I got to be a part of the ride through the rest of the way.
Galen Low: Let's, let's dive into that pivot.
What was this big pivot? Are we allowed to talk about it?
Jesse Fewell: Yes, yes, yes. This is the whole point. So, I'm gonna say the 5th edition was something like 600 pages in 2012, yeah, 2012. I remember I was in India when it came out. And then there was, uh, the 6th edition was 800 pages. And it was like, you could draw, I, I actually have this in my, in my PowerPoint. You could draw a graph based on the, how, which addition was the next one. And it bumped up by another 200 pages.
And so there were a couple of things that were happening in the, right around 2019, when this started kind of percolate.
One of them was, all right, it's time for the 7th edition. Regularly scheduled, uh, refresh. By 2019, Agile been around officially for 18 years now. And the 6th edition acknowledged that that was one way of doing things.
But now is 2019 and we're finding, there are a lot of people that are moving on beyond Agile, beyond lean startup, beyond DevOps, beyond design thinking. And, and where they're being a, a little bit or not a little bit, a lot bit more dynamic in what practices they bring to their projects and their products and their initiatives.
And, and so then they started reaching out to the, the, the community. All the project managers across the world, workshops and five different continents and asked them, So, um, what would you say is the most important advice you would give to any project manager? In fact, what would advice would you give to your younger self? And what came back was, not follow the 44 processes, implement all the templates, governance, governance, governance, governance.
That, that's not what came back. What came back was more like some foundational project management principles, like be a leader. You're a project manager. You're not a paper pusher. Lead, lead them. Another one is build a team. These aren't just resources that you move around, like pawns on a chessboard. These are people and you need to lead them as a build a team.
Another one is use systems thinking. No project is an island into itself. It's part of an ecosystem and you need to understand those dependencies. And you gotta, uh, be open minded about where the project leads and where it goes. And, and it turns out there was like a solid dozen of these that started to percolate out from the actual practitioners in the field. That was the second thing.
And the third thing is, are we looking at a thousand pages? Are we looking at a 1000 page management standard? Like, what does that even make sense? Also, you know, as soon as we print this thing, it's gonna be stale. I don't know. I've heard, anybody heard of this thing called the internet? Where you can put some of this stuff online and then you can search it and then you can update it. And so, all of those things started coming to a head where we were seeing more change in the marketplace with how projects were being done.
We found that the old way of describing the state of practice was now no longer sustainable and needed to pivot to a more, to a blended distribution channel of both print and digital. And so all of that came to a head and when they realized, we need to rethink this thing. And that's, that's about when I jumped on board.
Galen Low: What, what, what a great time to jump on board after they've gone through all of that. And yeah, for our listeners, just to underscore what Jesse's saying here, the 7th edition of the PMBOK is a pretty dramatic departure, and I think it's like a quite positive and exciting departure. It was a light read.
I did my PMP. Let's see, I studied the 5th edition. I'm glad to have skipped the 6th edition. Now that what, what you said was they added 200 page. And when I sat down for the 7th edition, I was preparing myself, I'm dating myself here, but anyone who used to get encyclopedia sets and you just get like the addendum every year, they're like, oh, we found a new creature.
This, this species' a spider and you to have this extra book that you just tack on the end. Like, that's what I was kind of expecting. I was like, okay, 5th edition plus 6th edition plus whatever they're adding to the 7th edition. And it was a completely different experience to read it. I think I got through it in a week and I'm not a fast reader.
And there was so many things that I was nodding about, and things that, you know, at the digital project manager, you know, principles that, that we really like to champion, that took away that stiffness of what I hear from a lot of people who do their PMP. And they're like, I did my PMP and I've got all these processes and I've got all these templates and do I have to use all of them?
And like, this is really, this is really, um, it's really hard, like, and no one wants to do all the things that it says in the book.
Jesse Fewell: And you don't need to.
Galen Low: Yeah. It turns out nobody was doing it.
Jesse Fewell: No.
Galen Low: I love that.
Jesse Fewell: So it, it was, it was a real, it was indeed a real fundamental shift.
Galen Low: And then, I mean, post pivot, like where do you go from there?
I mean, you basically have to, it sounds like you threw the book out.
Jesse Fewell: Threw the book out. Well, um, I mean, there's a couple of specific changes that are worth mentioning. One is that project management is no longer about deadlines and budgets. There is a cover story on the Harvard Business review at the end of last year, where an entire insert, called Better Project Management.
So if you were to Google, HBR, better project management, then you'll find, that there's a post by former PMI chairman, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez that makes the claim that projects are the, are the catalyst for the 21st century economy, the projects, as opposed to business operations. And I studied operations research in college, and I was like, yeah, this is what management is.
It's about efficiencies of operations. And he's like, no, no, no, no. That's no longer gonna cut anymore. We need more disruptive innovation. We need more infrastructure build out. We need more and projects project us into the future. That's, that's where the word comes from. And, and so it's no longer about deadlines and budgets.
And so the what, one of the big shifts and one of the challenges is you have an entire profession that's used to their knowledge areas of human resource management, scope management, time management, integration management, management, management management. And they've got their ITTOs, my process input, my tools and techniques and my process output.
No CXO cares about any of that. They don't care about any of that. They wanna know what is the value you bring as a project leader to the table. And, and those are now moving away from knowledge areas, competencies, arguably to domains of performance, also outcomes. So for example, an executive who wants to have that economic boost is gonna say, Okay, you know what?
Project manager, we've got a charter, we've got some people, we've got some funding, but this thing is super volatile. It could go in any direction. I don't know what to do with that. Are you trained in managing change, project manager? Okay. Watch me go.
Or another one is, this project has so many stakeholders where, it's a government project and everyone's got an opinion and nobody is, is qualified to give an opinion except that they're voters. And, and so what we need as a project manager to somehow corral all of that. Do you know anything about stakeholder management, project manager? So what we're doing is we're re-articulating the value proposition of the profession.
The profession is not about doing work. The profession is about those eight core value propositions, performance domains around reducing risk, creating clarity from a plan out of chaos. Managing, navigating uncertainty. And all of those, particular, uh, you know, like creating value with the investment that's being made.
It's not just about getting work done. It's making sure that the there's an ROI. That's right, project manager. Your job is to pay attention, includes paying attention to ROI. So the fundamental value proposition is even more now today than it has been over the last few decades, just by nature of the workplace that we're in.
Galen Low: Oh, I love that. And I, I love, like, what I see in it is this bridge being built. I always felt like the project management body of knowledge, rightfully so, made a lot of sense to project managers and became this language that project managers could talk about. But outside of that sphere was like, what are you talking about?
Inputs and outputs. Like, what are you, what is it? What are you gonna do for me? What's in it for me? And I love the, the emphasis on value creation and leadership, which is something that I, I 100% agree with. You know, I, uh, anyone, anyone who reads the material on the digital project manager on our website, you know, that we are all about really amplifying that value and, and not being perceived as a paper pusher and not aspiring to be a paper pusher, because there's so much more that we can do.
And exactly what you said, people are like, oh, do you know anything about that? You know, hold my beer. Right. Because we do, but people are just finding out that we know about this, even though, because we've been calling it a thing for a long time and now everyone's like, Oh, you mean, you can help me navigate change and build adoption and, you know, corral people and build consensus and, and make this go well, and de-risk it?
Oh, yes, yes. That's what I would like. I'd like that, please. So, very interesting shift. I love that project economy thing.
Jesse Fewell: Yeah. And, and that project economy, that's one part of it. Another part of it is that, is you mentioned the bridge building between the, uh, the secret handshake society of project managers, talking about critical path method and, you know, risk register.
And, you know, that's our, that's our own language, our own lingo. And it makes us feel like, the Knights of the round table. Like we, the Knight's Templar, we know our secret handshakes. But what what's happening now in the industry is that we're seeing that, that the complexity of projects expands the capacity of any single project manager's brain to contain.
And that project management now is becoming a team sport. And so what we need is we need an official standard that's consumable by people other than project managers. So I'm looking at some data coming from, uh, a recent project management study, global trends in project management and said, I'm looking at this, quoting it right now.
86% of all projects involve multiple office locations. And so, okay, so that's more complexity. 70% of PM say the majority of projects require collaboration outside of their own department, outside of their own environment. And it's even more complicated than that because there's this what, there's an ecosystem of, of dependencies, right?
And so what this wall is reflecting to add down to is number one: projects are, are no longer islands unto themselves; they're part of a value delivery ecosystem. And number two: project management's a team sport. Those estimates, they better not be coming from you cuz you're not doing the work. Those requirements, they better may not be coming from you because they came from, because they, they gotta come from the sponsors who want it.
And so that's just a couple of examples of how you, as a project manager really need to start developing some collaborative skill sets, inviting people to the table because the projects, not only are they the economic engines that we've talked about, but they're also, they're also the linkage of all of this systems complexity to where we need more bodies involved in project management.
Galen Low: I really, I, I love that. And I think it's a really exciting blur. We were having a conversation, our, in our community, in our Slack group about this. And yeah, there is a lot of blur happening around project management. Who does it? What is the skillset? How is it different than managing like a product life cycle? How is it different from operations?
And I think, you know what you're saying there is, is really resonating in a sense that, Hey, in this day and age, every organization, they need that propulsion engine to do stuff that is different than operations or a different mindset than operations. Even if it is kind of blending with operations, like it's just project over project, over project.
But what it comes down to is that it's about focused collaboration and like an investment of focused energy to do a thing. And I think in the old world, we're kinda like great, everyone's doing operational stuff and they're working on these projects off the side of their desks.
So we need a project manager to like, just have them do other work that then feeds into a project, rather than, actually everyone should have an understanding of how projects are delivered in some way, shape or form, because we are working together. We are collaborating on this thing and it's not necessarily just a title.
Jesse Fewell: Who could they go to to help them understand how projects work? Um, who could advise them and inform them on, in basic English, not PM lingo, but in basic English.
Can you explain to me how do we build a schedule out of all of this chaos? Okay, well, I'm glad you asked because you know, it used to be, it used to be that, when it came to estimates, I would record and sometimes generate expert judgment assessment. But now, today I've expanded my skillset and my roster, to let's set a facilitated team-based discussion about this.
Thanks for coming to me, cuz I'm the one that's formally trained on how to do this as a project manager. So that I think it, some people are concerned that it's minimizing the contribution that a project manager can bring when we start opening the, the table up to other participants. And I think it, it, it puts you in even more of a spotlight because now more people are gonna come to you to help them, rather than coming to you just to give them status.
Galen Low: Right. Yes. Yeah, exactly. I agree in the sense that like it's an elevation, not a threat and there's more people understand project management. There will still be a need for like a delivery leader, a project leader. It won't be as flat, projects just can't be, and especially with concurrent projects.
It just, you know, it needs that leadership. I will circle back on that. Cause I wanna circle back later about something we were talking about the, the informal project manager. But, but for the time being, I would say it's an elevation and, and, and not a threat. But I did wanna pause along the way and ask you something because he said something very interesting that I was always quite keen to understand more about, which is that it's not the PM lingo anymore.
And I think some of our listeners might be like, well, why didn't you do that before? Like, you know, like, why didn't we simplify to semantics before? But like, what was different in the process about how the new body of knowledge was written kind of to get into that accessible language?
Jesse Fewell: That's a, that's a really good point because it was a methodical decision process.
So the, the, the first thing was the mission. Uh, and the mission is to create a standard that reflects the state of industry practice. And the state of industry practice is one that's now more inclusive in project management, where it's not just one person anymore. There's multiple, not to, not even stakeholders, but multiple leaders on a given project that contribute to different. There's senior contributors that are coming in on all of that.
So that means that we need, we need a standard that's human readable. We need a standard that can be readable by somebody that hasn't gone through a lot of process wonk, wonky process, nuts and bolts kind of stuff. Right? So that was one. And then, and so that now the, the PMBOK eye is no longer targeted just to the project manager, but to anyone involved in projects. That was one.
And then the second one was that the charter, we realized that the, the 13 knowledge areas and the 44 processes, they've always been relatively, they felt like you said your word was rigid. Some people called it prescriptive. It was always meant to be tailored, but the fact that we called out those specific knowledge areas and those specific, it felt, it felt, it felt rigid.
And so, the way that was justified or explained or framed previously was that it's okay. It's okay. It might not be for your project. This standard is really targeted to most projects most of the time and that was a little bit of a way to frame that, you know, it's, you don't have to do human resource management planning as a process, all the time, necessarily.
Well, now we're getting to the point where, you know what, we've gotta expand this out. We can't be, we can't be selective anymore. We need a standard that applies to all projects all of the time. So how about this? How about instead of worrying about your create, scope management plan process, or make scope management adjustments process.
How about this? How about we just have a value proposition of create a plan? However you go about it, oh, by the way, here's an entire section on all the tools that you can use to create a plan. Go get some formal training if you want, but whereas a standard we're recognizing there are multiple ways to go about creating a plan. And having a plan absolutely creates shared understanding, it articulates alignment on the direction, it creates clarity in the middle of chaos. That adds value to senior leaders.
So those were the two big things that, that came out of it. One was we discover that it needs to be for all projects all the time, and it needs to be targeted, not to a project manager, but to the project management group or project management team.
And so because of that, the decision was made, wait for it, to hire onto the team a professional writer. For the first time in the half century of the Institute's existence. Imagine this, we had a professional copywriter involved in our, in putting together the standard and it was, um, it was super helpful.
It was super helpful because we needed to translate our lingo into English and into conversational Spanish and conversational French and, and so on and so on. So that, that was, that was the method behind the madness.
Galen Low: I love that. I love this. Like, you know, as someone, my background's in sort of human-centered design and human-centered digital transformation and that sort of like, Hey, let's think about the end users and making this inclusive and accessible.
And I love that there's that element because I do feel like I've been translating the value of project management for like a decade. Because people are like, won't get it if I tell them, you know, the name of that process on the outputs. But they will get it when they say, oh yeah, you know, we wanna drive an outcome that's valuable. And, uh, we, you know, we need, we need ways of working. We need ways to do this, cuz we need to collaborate effectively.
Jesse Fewell: And yet ironically Galen, I, I find that those of us in that digital world, we can get locked into our own lingo log jam at the same time. Like, you know, so, I think the, uh, the persona analysis mapping that we've done is, is, is missing a customer experience element pivot, cuz the episode number five in the customer experience, your energy is like, what a language are you speaking, man?
So even we, who want to get involved a little bit more user centric can sometimes get lost in our own lingo.
Galen Low: It's a page that we should, yeah, we should, you know, take out of the proverbial book, no pun intended, but, uh, and, and apply it our day to day lives. I mean, you know, at the end of the day, we're just humans working together to do stuff.
A lot of that's gonna come down to communication and organization and risk. And yeah, yeah. I, I agree. I, I, I probably just got lost in my own dragon, just there for the past two minutes. So.
Jesse Fewell: No, but nah, I was here. You're good. I was just, I was just making the observation. There's actually a term for it.
In psychology, it's called the cursive knowledge and that the more you know, the more you assume everyone else knows. Well, it's totally obvious. So we need a work breakdown structure here. Everyone's like, can you say that again? Work breakdown structure. What was that? That was my first ever internet blog post coming out of PM bootcamp.
I was so proud of the fact that I knew what it was. I wanted the whole internet to know I'm gonna create a blog just, and this is my first post. It's a human thing. It's a human thing to get lost in our lingo. And that's why it's helpful to, to make sure that there are people who are skilled and in getting to the, the fundamental story.
What is it that we're trying to say here?
Galen Low: I love that. And I coming back to that reversal, right, coming from, like, I always have perceived the PMBOK is like a toolkit. Right? It's got some tools in there that I can use. And that was my way of interpreting that, you know, it was kind of like, here's how, here's what will work for most projects, but also it might not work for every project.
So I was like, aha, this is just a box of tools. And that was useful and fine, to be honest. But now it's like, what is the art of choosing the right tools? That is much more like beneficial and a recognition of the state of the industry reflecting the state of, of the craft and the industry and how business and projects are being done.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's even stats in that trends report, which I thought were kind of interesting and surprising about how many projects, you know, would, would self-report as either having no methodology or using some kind of hybrid methodology, which I'm, I'm in, I'm envisioning that interview, right?
They're like, oh, tell us about your project methodology. And I'm sure someone said, like, that's a hodgepodge of a bunch of methodologies. And they're like, yep, let's put that as hybrid. There's like so much work and projects getting done and they're getting done. And what made them succeed or fail?
What made them succeed or fail is not whether or not they used that process and had the right input and had the right output, that may have been a contributor. But what made the project a success is, did it deliver value and did it deliver the outcomes that everyone was hoping to get in terms of the project objectives?
And I was like, oh.
Jesse Fewell: One way to say it might be that compliance is not the engine to success. But it might be, it might be a project requirement. So I might need to be compliant with some core standards, some regulatory, expectations, but compliance to process is not gonna prevent mistakes and it's not gonna guarantee alignment or momentum.
I'm gonna have to pull another tool out of the toolbox in order to overcome this barrier and that barrier. So that was, I think that, that's where the industry practice has evolved over the last 20 years. And that's why the Project Management Institute felt a fiduciary responsibility to reflect that, you know where, what's happening now is most projects, most of the time are moving beyond any fixed methodology.
And that's what the data's saying right now is that there isn't any consistent methodology from one project to the next universally or even in a plurality of projects. So you do what you need to do to get it done as long as you're consistent with laws and standards and expectations and requirements and within your constraints.
So, that's, that's kind of where the industry is evolved.
Galen Low: Yeah, no, I like that. And like some of the conversations that I've seen recently in our community have been like, you know, like I've got a friend who, uh, does, you know, military construction projects. I'm like, what's that got to do with a website project that I'm working on?
Like how could they possibly share like a singular approach? You know, mine's going to last four months and, and, and my friend's projects are gonna last four years. Like there's different things, there's different, you know, considerations, there's different risks, there's different people to communicate with.
Like, what's that got to do? Like how can there be a singular standard?
Jesse Fewell: That's been actually a source of division, not contention, but maybe silos within the project management community. I am a construction project manager, or I am a, I am a software project manager, or I am a government project manager.
And so you, you create these little specialty silos. They were specific interest groups. They were formally chartered, incorporated organizations connected to the PMI. And now, now they, they've kind of evolved into more like informal communities and conversation groups where we're pinging ideas off of each other.
And we are discovering. Doesn't matter what industry you're in, whether it's four months or four years, whether it's a bridge or if it's a website, we need to align on the, the success criteria. What's the success criteria? How do we measure success? What's the value proposition here? That's universally across any kind of formal investment that you're making with a project.
So, that's what's exciting is that we are beginning now to discover that there are some universal truths that can help, that can help reduce some of those silo, those mental silos we have of saying, I could, you could never learn anything from me and I can never learn anything from you.
Galen Low: And I, I like that flip. And it does remind me, I did an episode, listeners will know, I did an episode with Brett Harned and we were talking about what makes digital project management different. And I think one of the things he said there is, he's like, it's not like we are hiding and like, everyone's got something to learn from us.
We want, it's about knowledge. It's about knowledge sharing and driving a conversation. And like equally, like even coming back to what you said at the beginning, I'm like, yeah, I probably should spend some time in like, you know, if there is a construction project management community, because I've, I've, I bet I've got something to learn from them. You know, even just like going across industry and yes, maybe it's not as rigid, like, oh, all projects, all projects must be run the same.
It's more about, Hey, as we do a certain type of project, we, we learn these things and we build these techniques, but also, you know, check it out. Like maybe it's gonna be useful for you.
Jesse Fewell: I'll give you a concrete example. I was working with one tech team that was in, that was doing, that was creating, uh, a software applications for a maintenance shop to use.
And these, these people, they were maintenancing, like transportation equipment like locomotives and, and whatnot. And so they had these, these kiosks in the maintenance shops and they were deploying new capability every two weeks, check me out, digital. And all those union eyes shop workers filed a grievance, like you're coming at us too hot and heavy with your digital Silicon Valley skinny jean nonsense.
You know, we're blue hat, serious workers. And you, you know, can you at least just do a scope freeze? A feature freeze for three months or our people could get trained up on how this silly tool, tool works and oh, oh. And by the way, all these Silicon Valley people with your KPIs about total hours of screen time and total clicks and engagement.
I wanna, my people spend no more than 60 seconds on this tool so they can go to work. So they've had opposite perspectives. And so it gave me, as a digital project manager, a deeper appreciation of persona analysis, cuz I had never worked with unionized people before. And so that's something that I could have learned a little bit sooner if I had hang, hung out with more construction project managers who are, well, let me tell you that there's a lot of a difference between you people and those people.
So there's always so much to, to learn from going across those silos.
Galen Low: Absolutely. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I wanted to circle back on that thing I said, which is the informal project manager. And I was like, I mean, interpret it how you will, but I think the, uh, the popular interpretation is, people who are leading and managing projects who do not consider themselves to be project managers, whose role might not be project management solely.
And I've seen it happen, you know, and I spent some time in some of the larger consultancies and I, you know, I saw this movement towards, okay, well, if it's a really big, complicated project as high risk, yes, we need a project manager. And maybe we, there's like, you know, that like enterprise project manager, you know, we'll dip into the EPMO for that, but then other projects we're like, oh, we probably, you just lead it.
You know, it's, it seems straight ahead enough. You're the person who is, whatever, the, the industry consultant, and also please manage the project and make sure, you know, the outcome is, is, is solid. And that's kind of been my take on it and I, I see it happening more and more. And to your point, reflecting the state of things, it's, it's happening now.
And whether you are a project manager, thinking that that's a threat or whether you are not a project manager thinking like, what is this BS? I don't wanna have to do this. What do you see for the future there?
Jesse Fewell: So in the, the global trends report that we're referring to, and I'm, I'm hoping that we'll be able to give a link to, to that for as a resource.
43% are saying that in their environment, 43% of project managers are saying that there's no PMO and there's no official methodology. And they're ordinary. That's almost half. Here's another one, a third of all project managers have no certification at all. They're just being asked, can you run this? In fact, almost a third have no formal PM title at all.
I'm just a supervisor. I'm being asked to run this project, or I'm a product analyst and I'm being asked to run this project. And, and so, that's a lot. That's a significant plurality to say that a third of all project managers doesn't neither formal training or formal title. And, and, and what that points to I think is, is as you, you called it earlier, the blurring of lines.
In fact, in that, that Harvard business review piece that I mentioned, three articles consuming a couple of dozen pages in the magazine, project manager was not mentioned once. The term project manager was not mentioned once in the article that communicated the value of project management, as a global economic catalyst.
So then how do you reconcile that? How can you do project manage-ment without a project manage-r? And that's what the stand, that's what the new PMBOK guide is reflecting now. It's reflecting that this is a team sport and we want this to be accessible and, and usable by regular people. So then where do I, where do I go, Galen?
Let me ask you, how would you, how would you differentiate yourself given your, your knowledge, experiences and credentials? How would you differentiate yourself in, in this kind of a world where non-PMs are being asked to lead projects and project management is the global catalyst, even though a plurality of us have no formal training or title?
Galen Low: I mean, I think it comes back to that elevation thing and, you know, call me an elitist, but I feel like that puts me in a position to be the ambassador of project management as a skillset, and like leading that and championing the right way of doing it. And I've been teetering on this existential question as part of the digital project manager is, you know, should we be saying, Hey, listen, us project managers who might have the title "project manager" and have been doing project management for some time as project managers.
Should we now be saying, Hey, we know stuff, we can train you all to be better at delivering projects because you're probably going to be asked to do that. There's frankly, nothing we can do about it. And if I had to sort of reframe the importance of a, someone whose title is project manager. I don't think you're obsolete.
I think you become the ambassador of project management. And I think if there's a, you know, like you said, there's not as many, in the data, it's like, there's, there's fewer PMOs. There's just people kind of running project. It's not like this like office that has centrality and like rigid ways or formal ways or documented ways of doing things.
But maybe there's an opportunity to not have, you know, the PMO as we see it today. Or, you know, I have seen it in the past, but actually, you know, like you said, a community of practice of delivering projects. Good. You know, like, it's just like, yep, this is my community of practice of delivering projects good.
Um, and I lead it, right? And I bring people together and we share knowledge and we, you know, yeah, we keep tabs on, on the PMBOK because it says, you know, Taylor and, you know, like, focus on delivering value and outcomes and we piece all our knowledge together so that we can keep doing that thing.
That's my hope.
Jesse Fewell: I love that approach. And I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna, I'm gonna follow Galen's advice here and I'm gonna become a, an ambassador for project management, because you're right. What happens is when we start inviting, I'm gonna get, uh, I'm gonna get, like cynical here. We start inviting the riff-raff into our, into our profession.
Then, then anybody could say that they're managing a project, even though they don't have the title, the training, any. Well, that just meant that I now shine brighter. I shine brighter now as someone who has had formal training in what this means, and I've made it my job, as opposed to my assignment. And if there's more and more people that are being assigned project management responsibilities, I can say, oh, well, um, I've actually been to the five conferences and I've got, I've passed two exams.
And I can tell you that this methodology is probably not a good fit for this project. I know you read the book and you were excited to use the V model, but the V model's probably not a good fit for right here. And, because I've tried it a couple times and I, oh, okay, tell me more. And now the project manager becomes less of the tightfisted coordinator of all the activities and you, and you might find yourself being a project management mentor, or a project management coach.
Or a project management, a facilitator of other project managers, which is in many ways what a program manager is, facilitating the alignment and the, facilitating the choices of a project management team. And, and so now that sounds a lot like a program manager, you just gave yourself a promotion. So I, I think, yes.
So the bottom line is that when the pool becomes dirty, the purest shines brighter.
Galen Low: Yeah. And I mean, I think that that's a challenge and you know, and this is me being like, Hey, I'm challenging you project managers to not rely on, on the standard crutches. Same thing happened with photography, if you recall.
You used to have to buy that SLR and spent thousands and thousands of dollars. So if you had money and you were like really technical, then you were the only one who could be a photographer. And then like, now you look at your iPhone and it's taken brilliant photos, but I do see amazing photographers on like YouTube and Insta.
And they're like, here's a tip, like, get this framing, don't frame this way, frame this way, get your subject to do this. And those finer points, those nuanced things, not the like barrier of entry that was just money and not the barrier of entry that was just equipment or the barrier of entry that was just the certification in this case.
It's like now it's gonna be, the challenge is the stuff, the stuff you're made of, the stuff that is stylistically what makes you a great project manager, those are the things that are gonna come out into sharp relief. And you need to hone those and you need to talk about them and you need to be there for the people and show up for the people who are just starting to take photos with their iPhone. You know what I mean?
Jesse Fewell: I got another example for you, ladies and gentlemen. It's your, it's your host, Galen, because the temptation would be, you know, I've got all this knowledge and I gotta make sure that I keep it to myself. Cuz if I don't give anybody, if nobody else has this knowledge, then they'll pay me.
They'll pay me for what I know. Except, I can just Google all of that. That's what's changed in the last two decades over the course of a few of these PMBOK editions or the, the project management world. I can just Google how to run a project and there are content creators out there ready to fill their minds with nonsense.
Um, Galen, he's like, you know what, I'm going to give all this knowledge away with this podcast, ladies and gentlemen. Because I know that I am an infinite wellspring of awesome and an infinite wellspring of value that I can provide, just because I give knowledge doesn't mean it doesn't take a dime away from what I can give to the, to, to executives, companies, organizations in my profession.
So, this is my way of tipping the hat to you, Galen for giving away the knowledge that normal people would say is your differentiator. You need to protect and hide.
Galen Low: We pay Jesse for that plug. No, but I think that's the, I think.
Jesse Fewell: Economy's about, right?
Galen Low: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. The thing should not be to guard knowledge. The thing should be to share knowledge and elevate yourself and challenge yourself to not just stay still because you have all this knowledge that you're hoarding, but to actually continue to grow as you share that knowledge. And you know, like you said about Mike, whose name I got wrong earlier. Sorry, Mike.
I said, Mike Griffin.
Jesse Fewell: Yeah. Griffin. It's Griffiths.
Galen Low: Mike Griffiths, who, you know, manage and who knows. Maybe you'll face him one day, but like, that's a great example of saying, Hey yeah, listen, you do it. I'm gonna keep, you know, going around the, the, the track. And I'll be a couple laughs ahead of you and you just follow behind me, but I'm not gonna stop moving.
I'm gonna keep going. And if you want to come, come along, you know, and follow behind me. Absolutely. Let's do it. And I think that's a better perspective on how you can develop this, this craft, this project management skillset, this project management community, and not just try to be selfish about it, hoard and try and keep secrets thinking that that's gonna give you job security.
It's, it's probably not.
Jesse Fewell: Yeah, that's good stuff man. Love it.
Galen Low: Hey, ah, one last final question. So having said all this talking about the informal project management, who should read the PMBOK now?
Jesse Fewell: Well, okay. So the first answer is obvious. If you are a career project manager, you've been doing this for a while and you've already been through at least one other version of the PMBOK guide.
Maybe you even took that PMP test, or a couple of others. This is what you do. You're absolutely well served by reading this thing. First of all, you might, this might be the first time that you've drawn line of sight between being a project manager and being a project leader. This might be the first time that you've been able to actually take a look at a, a deeper conversation about what it means to be the center of gravity on a particular initiative. I, uh, and so number one, that's the first people that should read it.
And then number two, I would invite people to read it. This actually, there was one project manager at a local PMI chapter asked me this question and he said, he said, I, I'm a little bit overwhelmed by what do I share with people.
Because I've got a whole bunch of crazy stakeholders and should I be showing them this thing? Should I be, should I show them the, how the sausage is made? Should I show them how this is? And to which point I said, probably not. Probably only if they ask. So the second group of people I think should, that should check this out is people who are thirsty for what it is that makes that project over there so successful.
What is it that makes Galen so successful as a project manager? I'm curious what that is. I might wanna read this, this 7th edition to find out a little bit more about it. I also would recommend it for leaders who wanna build a project management competency, like you mentioned that that community of practice.
So if you're the one who's hosting and facilitating it, reading this might give you a sense of the lay of the land so that you can select what's the next monthly topic that we wanna talk on. Or who's the next guest speaker we might wanna invite. So those are a couple of examples, but I, just because it's now human readable, and just because it's targeted for all projects all the time doesn't mean that this is necessarily the, a required reading for everybody.
It's really, it, it's something that we, we wanna offer people who opt in, if you're opting into the world of projects, for whatever reason, because it's your profession, gotta do it, because you're curious. Or because you wanna build a, something around it. Those would be the three personas that come to my mind.
Galen Low: Absolutely love that. And I don't know if we touched on earlier, but 5th edition - 600 pages. 6th edition - 800 pages. 7th edition?
Jesse Fewell: Less.
Galen Low: Less. It was a breeze to read. It was a breeze to read.
Jesse Fewell: Yeah. It's like a couple hundred.
Galen Low: Awesome. So for anyone who's been like, Nope, that ain't for me. And even if it was, I'm not reading that much. It's not as much. And it's pretty well copy written, and it's got a lot of great ideas in there that are applicable to all projects, not just some projects. So I think that's really cool.
Jesse, this has been super interesting, really enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your insights. I think a lot of people are gonna get a lot out of it. I think there was some things we can covered there that are really gonna make people think, so. Thank you again. I really appreciate it.
Jesse Fewell: I hope so. Uh, if, if you listened all the way through, thank you, thank you. And I hope that we gave you at least a nugget or two that can help you move forward with more confidence.
Galen Low: There you go. Thanks again, Jesse.
Jesse Fewell: Anytime.
Galen Low: So, what do you think?
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