Methodology vs. Standard in Project Management – Which one is The PMBOK Guide?

Like any profession, Project Management involves a variety of integral standards, processes and practices. The study of Project Management involves learning and understanding both the standards and the methodologies. Many question and debate what the difference is between standards and methodology in regards to the PMBOK Guide. Is it a standard or is it a methodology? In order to provide you with a solid answer, let’s clearly define each of them first:

What is a Standard?

A standard can be defined as a set or collection of rules or guidelines in accordance to best practices regarded within a specific industry. Standards are established, highly regarded and well-known. They have been thoroughly tested and implemented.

What is a Methodology?

A methodology is a set of ideas or processes or procedures followed over and over to provide or deliver a known result, such as completing a specific project. Methodologies outline the path and provide the required steps, design, order and timeframe of tasks to undertake to complete the project. In theory, the benefit and goal of following specified methodologies is that you will improve and maximize overall efficiencies.

Which one is the PMBOK Guide?

With that being said, the PMBOK Guide is clearly considered a standard, not a methodology. because it outlines specific rules and guidelines to follow during the course of undertaking and managing projects. It is in fact an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, and as its full name suggests (Body of Knowledge) it is a collection of best practices from which to provide you with a solid understanding of project management.

So how do we go from a Standard to a Methodology?

First, let’s define what should be included in a Methodology: A Project Management Methodology should include an outline of the core processes or procedures to follow to effectively deliver completed projects. Within these processes, templates, guidelines and case studies should be provided and utilized to assist in guiding the project through its many phases of completion. In addition, it is also critical that they should allow for optional customization to fit into or with existing processes operating within the organization.


Together Standard and Methodology should work in conjunction and mesh together to form a solid project management platform, allowing the organization staff to effectively manage all aspects of their projects and maximize efficiencies in regards to time, costs, quality, risk, etc. Thus, this formula sums up the point just made:

PMBOK Guide (Standard) + Adaptation for your Organization = PM Methodology for your Organization

If your organization has a Project Management Office (PMO), then their objective should NOT be to implement the PMBOK Guide, but to create a Project Management Methodology specific to your organization based on the PMBOK Guide standard.