The changing (Dutch) body of project management knowledge

by on 20 juni 2014  •  In Column

‘The profession should concentrate on the substance. The modeling task can be delegated to specialists.’

The above quote is from an article published in 1995 written by Herman Walta, a project manager who was proposing a ‘Dutch project management body of knowledge policy.’ The PMI Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge was a year away from publication and Walta was promoting the idea of a ‘construction PMBoK’ as a possible national priority.

In describing the PMBoK, he used a methodological pyramid to illustrate how normative (or prescriptive) knowledge can be layered from its foundation through to its ultimate use. He focused on the specific application of PMBoK in the Dutch construction industry much like, he described, the German PMBoK (at the time) as similarly focusing on information technology and engineering.

Figure 1: Methodological pyramid (Adapted by Pasian from Walta, IJPM, 1995)

Move forward almost 20 years, and one can see a new contribution to the professional body of knowledge being offered from the Dutch perspective. This contribution is based on the importance of understanding and managing the human factors of project management, some specifics of which are revealed in the National Workshop Series. Using Walta’s same pyramid, one can see that our work is contributing to the foundation of the practice…but how so?

At this most basic layer, one can find descriptions of fundamental concepts, definitions, explanations of the knowledge domain(s) and relationships amongst them all. The DNRG network of academics and practitioners have identified the following factors as of particular importance: trust, collaboration, creativity, motivation, leadership, well-being, personal development, and attitude.

Conceptually, each of these factors revolve around the idea that the fundamental elements that influence human interactions are of critical importance. The challenge becomes managing those relationships using often-abstract information in such a way to realize project goals and success. Clear definitions are harder to come by but, once formed, have an enormous value in their potential application. Examining the scope of the knowledge domain is becoming more and more interesting as practitioners show researchers that the ‘truths’ of project management can and should be investigated into many management sciences beyond the strict (and young) field of PM.

Theory will emerge, methods and tools will be created but, ultimately, it is the use of the ‘human factor knowledge’ that is most important. And while no one can predict all of the ways in which this will occur, we can be pleased that the provision of the Dutch perspective is building the foundation.

Beverly Pasian

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