An Analysis of Knowledge Management in PMBOK® Guide


Stanisław Gasik, PhD

Vistula University,

Warsaw, Poland


PMBOK® Guide, as the very title of this book says, contains the basic, canonical knowledge pertaining to project management. This document may be analyzed from many points of view. The most important is its usefulness for the project management community – practitioners as well as methodologists. But PMBOK ® Guide’s approach to knowledge is also worth analyzing, all the more as the time for developing the new edition of PMBOK® Guide is getting closer. This paper is devoted exclusively to the subject of knowledge management in PMBOK® Guide.

In the first chapter I analyze the very concept of knowledge in PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition – how it is defined. After that I analyze PMBOK® Guide project management activities. And I conclude with suggestions about the approach to knowledge management in future editions of PMBOK® Guide.

What is knowledge?

There is no explicit definition of the concept of knowledge in PMBOK® Guide. This is probably the biggest shortcoming of PMBOK® Guide in this area, the cause of most of the other mistakes, errors and inconsistencies. You cannot apply any concept correctly when you do not know what it is. In some places in PMBOK® Guide (like section 3.8 Project Information; see below) you may get the impression that their authors were afraid of defining knowledge precisely. But there are some statements which suggest the meaning that this concept has there.

Knowledge is not related to project information

There are sections that are new to PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition: 3.8 Project Information and X1.5 describing the well known DIKW (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom) hierarchy in the project environment. PMBOK® Guide defines what work performance data and work performance information are, but instead of defining the third level of this hierarchy – knowledge – it suddenly defines “work performance reports”. So probably just these reports contain knowledge. Yes, the description of work performance reports (“information (…) intended to generate decisions or raise issues, actions or awareness”) reminds one of some definitions of knowledge, such as that knowledge is “the application and productive use of information” (Davis, Botkin, 1994). But we must note that, according to PMBOK® Guide, the third level of DIKW, originally intended for knowledge, has only “physical or electronic representation”. So there may be no knowledge residing in human brains, according to PMBOK® Guide (!). Another obvious weakness of this modification of the DIKW hierarchy is neglect of the fact that knowledge needed for project execution does not have to be created in a particular project. There are plenty of sources of external knowledge: written, stored in repositories, brought into projects by their team members, without which execution of any project would be simply impossible.


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About the Author 

pmwj24-jul2014-Gasik-AUTHOR IMAGEStanislaw Gasik, PhD, PMPflag-poland

Warsaw, Poland

Dr. Stanisław Gasik, PMP is an adjunct professor at Vistula University in Warsaw, Poland. He holds M. Sc. in mathematics and Ph. D. in organization sciences (with specialty on project management), both from University of Warsaw. Stanisław has over 20 years of experience in project management, consulting, teaching and implementing PM organizational solutions. He has lectured at global PMI and IPMA congresses and other conferences. He was a significant contributor to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide and PMI Standard for Program Management and contributed to other PMI standards. His professional and research interests include public projects, portfolio management, project management maturity, and project knowledge management. He may be contacted at [email protected].