Project Management Bodies of Knowledge; Conjectures and Refutations Miles Shepherd and Roger Atkinson Bournemouth University Business School, UK Miles.firstname.lastname@example.org Rogeratkinson@bournemouth.ac.uk Abstract: The traditional view of a profession is that of a discipline with a distinct set of skills and knowledge that define the area of practice and characteristics of the practitioners. This nature and area of practice of a profession is sometimes defined as its body of knowledge or „BoK‟. In the case of project management, as the discipline moves towards professional recognition, this BoK becomes a significant device that serves the needs of many stakeholders in addition to those of the practitioner or academic. The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of research in the development of project management Bodies of Knowledge. As project management emerges from the ghetto of engineering and develops its trajectory towards recognition as a profession, its knowledge area becomes even more significant because it needs to be seen to define a distinct knowledge domain that sets out the limits of the „profession‟. However, the knowledge domain can be said to have shifted so that it is still under constant review and improvement to respond to continual change. New areas of practice have emerged, such as programme management and portfolio management, that are considered to be part of the discipline hence the knowledge area requires refinement. In this paper we show that current versions of project management BoKs are poorly served by underpinning research. We contend that evidence based research should play a part in the construction of BoKs, and that other research approaches should be also seen as relevant and effective. This paper draws on experiences of updating a formal Body of Knowledge, reviews the context of a range of project management bodies of knowledge and identifies a number of issues concerning the nature of project management knowledge and how it can be represented. We conclude that BoKs serve a valid purpose but conflicting priorities affect the development process and undermine their usefulness. From the epistemological issues identified, we add our conjecture that the capacity of bodies of knowledge to represent the broader understanding of the discipline is limited.. The paper concludes with a review of some methodological implications of the interaction of stakeholder interests and BoK development practice. Keywords: profession, body of knowledge, research design, knowledge representation, certification
Many organisations now recognise project management as key to their business operations (see for example Packendorff 1995, Hodgson 2002 or Crawford 2005). As Morris et al  show, a wide range of industry sectors now make use of projects and see the effective delivery of projects as a key driver in their organisational performance. In common with many new areas of knowledge and practice, project management has seen itself as an emerging profession. Partly, this has been due to the unprecedented expansion of the discipline [Morris et al 2006]. It also results from the establishment of societies that foster particular views of the discipline which have set out to demarcate areas of knowledge that they can claim as their own. As Zwerman et al  pointed out; project practitioners see themselves as offering a professional service and hence see a need to have this service recognised. Thus they tend to join societies that legitimate their claims to specialist knowledge and its mastery. In their turn, these societies require documentation that can be used to provide not just recognition of a unique knowledge domain but also to form the underpinning of practitioner recognition [Shenhar 1996]. The major professional societies call these documents their Body of Knowledge (BoK). Traditional professions, such as medicine or the law, have established the boundaries of their...
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