Home / PMO Best Practices / You’re a PMP but are you a Project Management Professional? Part 1

You’re a PMP but are you a Project Management Professional? Part 1

Recently I have had the opportunity to speak to more than 2,000 Project Management Professionals (PMP’s)

During those sessions I conducted non-scientific polls to determine the depth and breadth of the application of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) standards to which this group had been tested for this prestigious professional certification.

Frankly, I was shocked with the results of my simple survey. Fundamentally, I sought two pieces of input:

1. How many of the PMPs were consistently utilising the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) on their projects as described in the PMBOK® Guide?
2. How many were implementing the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) using the WBS Work Packages to determine logic relationships/work flow?

When asked to simply raise their hand if their response to my verbal query was affirmative, the data distribution among the 2,000 plus respondents was as follows:

1. WBS: a total of 31 (less than 2%) PMPs raised their hands
2. PDM: a total of 19 (less than 1%) PMPs raised their hands

About the Work Breakdown Structure
Interpretation: As a profession, we’ve got a problem! We have far too many individuals who have worked hard, attended the best project management training and invested time and money in earning their PMP® credential, but now are admittedly not adhering to the very standards to which they were tested and should be held accountable.

The reason I chose the WBS and PDM as the basis for my informal study was that these two concepts are at the heart of successful project management. Without proper and dedicated attention to developing these two “products” from the myriad tools and techniques available to today’s project management professional for planning and executing a project, the rest of the tools may well be “smoke and mirrors.”

First, let’s examine the potential of the WBS. Most PMPs would admit that one of the biggest challenges facing them in successfully delivering the traditional triple constraint is the lack of clarity of scope definition and/or requirements clarification. The careful use of the WBS concept will reduce or eliminate this problem by providing the framework to decompose the work/deliverables to a size that significantly enhances the clarity and articulation of expectations among all involved parties. This will create the basis for one of the most important components of project management—measurement of status/accomplishment over time. The smaller the work package, the more precisely status can be measured based upon objective indicator milestones with designated completion criteria.

Additionally, the more clarity in the work content/requirements the more effectively a “skill set match” can be achieved. Also, the impacts of skill set mismatch caused by resource capability/availability constraints can be evaluated. The impact on the project’s timing and cost can be calculated using:

Duration Impact
(Effort or Productivity) ÷ Resource Availability
Cost Impact
(Effort or Productivity) x Resource Rate

The benefits of the well-developed WBS are not limited to an individual project. The enterprise project benefits become obvious as individual project data can be “merged” to facilitate project prioritisation. This is based on resource capacity and work load conditions that can be quickly assessed and vital decisions made as to resource assignments based on mission-critical projects criteria. In addition to all of these advantages, there is the significantly improved ability to identify and manage change as it occurs on the project. You can begin to see why the WBS is at the heart of productive use of the project management process.

In my next blog posting I will cover how many of the PMP’s surveyed were implementing the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) using the WBS Work Packages to determine logic relationships/work flow.

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About Lee Lambert

Lee R. Lambert, an instructor with ESI International, is recognized as an international authority on business and project management for all technical disciplines in both private and public sectors.
Mr. Lambert has been an active, contributing member to the Project Management Institute (PMI®) since 1978. He contributed to the launching of the PMI®’s Master’s Degree Accreditation Program and was a founding member of the committee that developed and implemented the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Certification Program. He is recognized as one of PMI®’s international ambassadors and is one of PMI®’s most popular workshop and technical paper presenters at its annual Seminar Symposia. During the past 10 years he has been an active member of the Project Management Journal’s Editorial Review Board. In recognition of more than two decades of ongoing support and significant contribution to the profession of project management, the PMI® Board of Directors awarded Mr. Lambert its Distinguished Contribution Award at the PMI® ‘95 Seminar/Symposium in New Orleans. In addition, Mr. Lambert has earned a master’s certificate in project management from the George Washington University.


  1. Avatar

    These are startling facts. WBS is the foundation of a good project management, its really surprising those who have cleared PMP and supposedly understood PMBOK well- which puts so much focus on WBS – are not using it at all in professional assignments. I think this requires much deeper investigation on why WBS is not being used, albeit I am sure they would all agree with usefulness of WBS.

    It should also be a concern for PMI that its most important and coveted certification holders are not adhering to PMBOK standard. They should do something about this.

  2. Avatar

    Let me play the Devil’s avocate here.

    I am not surprised. I believe on the WBS as the foundation for good projects, however many project managers may use a mindmap or other tools to define the key deliverables and start directly on a MS-Project or spreadsheet to note down the tasks. In a global environment, this is the way to work, sharing screens with distant team members, and using software tools directly to capture their opinions in a structured way. Is this really worse than writing a WBS?

    Not talking about people who might practice good project management and use lessons learned from previous projects, using previous schedules as a starting point and refining them further, adapting to the specific situation. Is this really worse than writing a WBS?

    I won’t even make a comment about PDM. Only time I used this was during PM trainings and the PMP exam.

    I believe these are good tools, and good principles. I always have them in mind when doing my mindmaps and schedules. I simply don’t agree that we should really insist on using them in a pure format.

    Just to close the topic, I am not sure how many people would raise their hands for any question in front of other 2000 people :)

    • Avatar

      JB, I agree with you on both your two points.

      In such a petition I think one should also ask the opposite question to quality assure, people will not raise their hands in such a crowd. I do not think 1970 out of 2000 PMPs would raise their hand on the question, “I did not use WBS in my last project”.

      Also, what is the interpretation of a WBS and a PDM? I would most certainly raise my hand knowing that my MS Project file both contains all my project work packages and the sequence constraints of them.

  3. Avatar
    Lawrence Yuonakuu

    The WBS and PDM are key to all successful projects, whether small or big projects. i entreat that as PMP’s we should used these tools since all the other tools revolved around well developed WBS.

  4. Avatar

    may be the topces wbs and pdm needs more experince and trained

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