Organizing Project Management Knowledge - Principles, Knowledge Domains, Life Cycles, and Agile versus Traditional Approaches


In the chapter, we discuss the organizing frameworks of project management. Understanding these frameworks is important to develop a deeper understanding of how the various knowledge domains, life cycle phases, processes, practices, and roles interact. These models will also demonstrate the evolving nature of project management both as new concepts are advanced and outdated thinking wanes.

There are many frameworks currently available, and some are more popular than others depending on countries, part of the world, industries, professions, and even companies. For example, companies such as Boeing, industry sectors such as construction, and professions such as cost accounting often develop their unique approach to project management. Furthermore, as project management itself is evolving, concepts from program management, portfolio management, and Agile approaches are also intertwining with project management.

This chapter strives to provide an optimal blend of multiple approaches including the following:

  • 1. Project Management Institute (PMI). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge [PMBOK' Guide).
  • 2. International Standard Organization (ISO) 21500:2012. Guidance on Project Management.
  • 3- Combination of additional frameworks from program and portfolio management including concepts from the Strategic Business Execution framework.[1]

This chapter addresses these fundamental questions:

  • 1. What are the important principles that guide project management?
  • 2. How to organize the body of work in project management?
  • 3- What are knowledge domains and project life cycle and why are they important?
  • 4. What is Agile and how it differs from the traditional project management?
  • 5. How to optimize project management through selecting the best project management approach and tailoring them to best fit your needs?

Project Management Principles

Project management is a specific branch of management formalized in the 1950s and is applied to initiating, preparing, implementing, transitioning, and/ or closing projects, from the beginning to its natural conclusion. As a microcosm of management, project management focuses on the application of these management concepts often in a challenging environment constrained by a combination of purpose and scope, quality, schedule, resource, cost, risk, and environmental factors.

As a relatively new field, project management may appear to be unnecessary. After all, organizations today, especially prior to 1950s, can undertake all types of work, whether they are strategic or tactical, project or operational, purpose-driven or ad hoc without formal project management. But can they perform the work as competitively, efficiently, and effectively as with project management?

In an ever more cutthroat environment for not only businesses but also government agencies trying to do more with less, the successful organization is not only the one that delivers but also the one that delivers with certain advantages such as faster to market, lower cost, better quality, higher customer satisfaction, more functionality, or greater innovation. But project management has been expensive; organizations would need to invest in the development and training of project professionals, establish and utilize systems and tools, and develop and adopt processes. Not all onetime work should be managed as projects. Organizations and professionals adopting project management must weight both the advantages and disadvantages and tailor the application project management in their organization to achieve the optimized outcome.

Therefore, the challenge of project management is not only to deliver the project successfully but also to deliver the results at an optimal balance of cost, time, scope and quality, stakeholder satisfaction, and achieving short- and long-term objectives at an acceptable risk. To guide the optimization of project management, there are eight important principles to consider (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1 Key Project Management Principles





Focus on performance and results

Projects are specific endeavors with one or more explicit purpose and desired outcomes. Project managers are the main drivers toward achieving those goals and objectives. Where possible, leverage lessons learned from past projects to enhance the likelihood of achieving results.




Project professionals, especially project managers, should look ahead when possible and plan the execution of a project. Irrespective of the project management approach, project manager's primary responsibility is to navigate the situation, establish and manage the processes, and drive toward results. Even positive surprises, or opportunities, can be perceived as poor project management if they occur unexpectedly as the project cannot take more advantage of the opportunity.




The challenge of project management is to do more with less. By being as effectively and efficiently as possible, effective projects management should deliver results at lower costs and with greater satisfaction. Project managers should also find the optimized method for implementing projects, such as selecting between the spectrum of approaches from the predictive to the adaptative.

Table 2.1 (Continued) Key Project Management Principles







Project management is an optimization exercise, performing the art of possibility by dealing with competing priorities and needs with factors such as availability of time and resources. Effective project management strives to find the optimal balance between good planning with overthinking and make difficult trade-off decisions, risk taking, speedy execution with thoroughness, focusing on exceptions while maintaining solid control over execution progress and managing change versus adopting change, and trust but verify. Combined with Manage Responsibly, project managers need to adopt the optimal method that works best for the project and the sponsoring organization.




This is especially important on large projects involving many people. Organizations should provide an environment in which individuals can thrive and encourage their project managers to foster trust and independence in which people can contribute.




Communication has always been an important contributor of success. But in the era with a proliferation of technology tools such as social media, there may be a tendency toward too much information versus too little. Project professionals, especially the project managers, should concentrate on the most important messages and make sure they are delivered timely and appropriately.


Think and manage up

Most skilled project managers can manage both up and down one level effectively, but the truly experienced project managers can manage multiple levels up the organization chain. By developing the ability to think from the perspective of senior management, project managers can link their immediate project goals and deliverables with the broad goals and key performance indicators of executives multiple levels above their current standing. This is a sure way to ensure strategic alignment and continual support from the upper management.

Table 2.1 (Continued) Key Project Management Principles







Complex projects, especially projects in a politically tense environment, can be intricate to manage. Project managers should always focus on the facts first and consider them first in their decision-making processes. Other sentiments, can be important, and even if some ultimate decisions are political, project managers should be aware that their decisions are based on extrinsic factors beyond mere facts.

By following these eight principles, project professionals will increase their probability of successfully delivering projects with greater competence, efficiency, and effectiveness. Now with a good understanding of project management, the next section outlines the key knowledge domains.

  • [1] Wu, T. & Chatzipanos, P„ 2018. “Chapter 9: Achieving and Sustaining Execution ExcellenceThrough Strategic Business Execution” in Implementing Project Management: A CompanionGuide to The Standard for Portfolio Management. Project Management Institute, NewtownSquare, PA. pp. 175-186.
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