Combining the ISO 10006 and PMBOK To Ensure Successful Projects

The International Organization for Standardization released a new standard in the autumn of 2003. Referred to as the, “ISO 10006:2003, Guidelines for Quality Management in Projects”, it is creating the next wave in our understanding of the management of projects and is of benefit to consider when planning projects. This article intends to compare the two guidelines as follows and provide an interpretation for successful planning of projects. It will look at:

  • How does the content of the ISO 10006 guideline compare to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)?
  • What is the importance of both guidelines to the on-going management of projects?
  • What are the implications of these two guidelines on the management of all projects?
  • What are the strategies required to implement the ISO 10006 and how is the ISO 10006 being applied in organizations?

Overview of the ISO 10006:2003 Standard

The IS0 10006 guideline outlines quality management principles and practices as they relate to the management of projects. It provides the guidance on quality issues that impact projects. It is applicable to projects of varying complexity, size and length. The guidelines can be applied to projects managed by an
individual or by a team or for a program (large project comprised of smaller but interrelated projects) or for a portfolio of projects.

Since the ISO 10006 is a guidance document, its intention is not for use in certification or registration purposes. Its overall purpose is to create and maintain quality in projects through a systematic process that ensures:

  • Stated and implied needs of customers are understood and met.
  • Interested stakeholders needs are understood and evaluated.
  • The organization’s quality policy is incorporated into the management of projects.

What is the Project Management Institute (PMI)?

The Project Management Institute, or PMI as it is known, is the world’s leading not-for-profit professional association for project management dedicated to the advancement of the profession of project management.

What is the PMBOK?

PMBOK is PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge. It describes the sum of knowledge generally accepted within the profession of project management. “Generally accepted” means that the knowledge and practices described are applicable to most projects, most of the time, and that there is widespread consensus about their value and usefulness. The overall purpose of the PMBOK is to provide a common lexicon within the project management profession and practice for talking and writing about Project Management.

Comparing the ISO 10006 Standard and the PMBOK

There is much discussion as to whether a project should follow the PMBOK or the ISO 10006 guidelines or both. Through this comparison and interpretation of each of the major sections I will provide some answers to this question.

What is a Project?

The ISO 10006 definition of a project, although correct, is rather wordy. The definition from PMBOK is more concise and to the point. “Temporary,” according to PMBOK, means that there must be a start and finish date to the project. As well, PMBOK includes the definition that “All projects deliver a product, service or other measurable end result.” The ISO 10006 focuses on the process of getting to it.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
What is a Project? -3.5

Unique process consisting of a set of co-ordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including constraints of time, cost and resources.

Section 1.2

A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service.

Characteristics of a Project

In comparing the ISO 10006 Standard, Section 4.1 with PMBOK, Section 1.2, PMBOK provides a more succinct definition. All projects are planned, executed and controlled. Otherwise, how can one know whether or not they’re on track? Furthermore, people perform projects. How else will anything get done? All projects are constrained by limited resources. It is the nature of all projects that they will always want more time and/or money and/or people. The ISO 10006 defines a project as including non-repetitive phases. However, this is not always the case on a project. At times, phases may be repeated. But the end result may be unique. Again, the PMBOK definition here is better suited to defining the project. I am concerned that the ISO 10006 suggests that a project should deliver minimum quality results. Rather, a project should deliver all expected quality deliverables as defined in the scope of the project

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Characteristics of a Project -4.1

  • Unique, non-repetitive phases consisting of processes and activities.
  • Have some degree of risk and uncertainty.
  • Expected to deliver specified (minimum) quality results within pre-determined parameters
  • Have planned start and finish dates, within clearly specified cost and resource constraints
  • May be a long duration and subject to changing internal and external influences over time.
Section 1.2

  • Performed by people.
  • Constrained by limited resources.
  • Planned, executed, and controlled.

What is a Quality Plan?

The definitions that ISO 10006 AND PMBOK provide for identifying quality standards, although stated differently, are similar. All projects must identify the quality policy and standards that are applicable and how the project management team will implement its quality policy. These standards are then put into the project plan with a process that can identify whether or not the team is managing the project in accordance with the quality policy that has been established.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
What is a Quality Plan? -4.2.3

  • Document specifying which procedures and associated resources shall be applied by whom and when, to a specific project, product, process or contract.
Section 8.1

  • Identifies which quality standards are relevant to the project and determines how to satisfy them.
  • Describes how the project management team will implement its quality policy.

Quality Management Principles through the Strategic Process

ISO 10006 provides nine (9) major steps to consider for the strategic process that include: Customer Focus, Leadership, Involvement of People, Process Approach, System approach to Management, Continual Improvement, Factual approach to Decision Making and Mutually beneficial Supplier Relationship.

PMBOK provides detail in the Project Quality Management section including: Project Stakeholders, Key General Management Skills, Organizational Structure, Administrative Closure and Project Procurement Management.
Management’s Responsibility

The ISO 10006 also includes that senior management have a role to play in overseeing projects to ensure success. They do this by providing support, approvals, etc. Their understanding of what they need to do to ensure project success is important. Unfortunately, the PMBOK does not touch on this important aspect of project management.

The ISO 10006 emphasizes the need for projects to be strategically aligned while the PMBOK does not touch on this important aspect of project management. Projects that aren’t somehow linked to a departmental or organizational strategy risk failure. Shifting organizational priorities will place them at the bottom of the list. Only strategically aligned projects are kept as high priority. In deciding which projects should remain and which should be eliminated, sound decision-making processes are important to have in place.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Application of quality management principles through the strategic process –5.2.1

Planning for the establishment, implementation and maintenance of a quality management system based on the application of the quality management principles is a strategic, direction-setting process.

Project Quality Management -8

Includes processes required to ensure the project will satisfy the needs for which it was
undertaken. It includes all activities of the overall management function that determine the quality policy, objectives, and responsibilities and implements them by means such as quality planning, quality assurance, quality control and quality improvement within the quality system.

Management Commitment
The PMBOK describes the definitions and suggested tools for the management of projects, but does not go to the next level of identifying the importance of management in ensuring a project’s success. In comparison, the ISO 10006 is very strong in this area and provides more guidance than PMBOK. Many projects suffer because of the lack of support of management. Management must act in the role of Project Sponsor and/or as functional managers who commit resources to the project team. They have a clear responsibility that must be defined.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Management Commitment 5.1

Commitment and active involvement of top management of the originating and project organizations are essential for developing and maintaining an effective and efficient quality management system for the project.

No reference to management committment is included.

Customer/Stakeholder Focus
Customer focus on projects is crucial for success according to the ISO 10006. The ISO 10006 Standard mentions that the project process is interrelated to other processes within the organization and recognizes that all work is a process. This aspect of project management is not included in the PMBOK.

The PMBOK is excellent in its inclusion of a section on project quality management that details the need for projects to include quality standards and to put in place, specific activities that will ensure that the standards are being met. PMBOK also describes the various stakeholders, including the customers that must be identified who are impacted by the project. It discusses Matrix Management, including the need for management to provide the resources to a project to ensure its success. And it expands on the procurement process.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Customer Focus -5.2.2

Organizations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.

Project Stakeholders –2.2

Stakeholders are individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution or project completion. Project Stakeholders must be identified, their needs must be determined and they must be managed to ensure a successful project.

Leadership/General Management
PMBOK guidelines in the area of quality management are clear and easy to follow. It tries to ensure that the project is managed in a quality way, following established quality policy and standards for the organization. Both the PMBOK and ISO 10006 are clear on the importance of the customer, although the PMBOK does a better job of describing the need to identify the customer, determine their requirements and manage these requirements throughout the project.
The ISO 10006 includes a discussion on the need for continual improvement on a project and this is also included in the PMBOK as a part of the closeout evaluation of the project. Neither discusses or recommends how this knowledge should be captured and how it can be transferred to others.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Leadership -5.2.3

Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organization. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organization’s objectives.

Key General Management Skills 2.4

General management skills provide the foundation for building project management skills. They are often essential for a project manager. On any given project, skill in any number of general management areas may be required including Leading, Communicating, Negotiating, Problem Solving and Influencing the Organization.

Involvement of People
The ISO 10006 describes the need for a mutually beneficial supplier relationship but the PMBOK is not as clear in this area. The PMBOK mentions the need for good contractual agreements but this isn’t quite the same. A good contract doesn’t always equate to a mutually beneficial supplier relationship. Current approaches to the management of projects emphasize a need for the internal organization’s project plan to be merged with the supplier’s. This ensures that critical inter-dependencies are identified and managed.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Leadership -5.2.3

Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organization. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organization’s objectives.

Key General Management Skills 2.4

General management skills provide the foundation for building project management skills. They are often essential for a project manager. On any given project, skill in any number of general management areas may be required including Leading, Communicating, Negotiating, Problem Solving and Influencing the Organization.

Process & System Approach to Management
ISO 10006 recommends a process and system approach for project planning while PMBOK provides more specific direction with respect to organizational structure and focuses on quality improvements.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Process approach -5.2.5

A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.

Organizational Structure –2.3.3

The structure of the organization often constrains the availability of the resources. In a matrixed organizational structure, the project manager shares responsibility with the functional managers for assigning priorities and for directing the work of individuals assigned to the project.

System approach to management -5.2.6

Identifying, understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system contributes to the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its objectives.

Key General Management Skills -2.4

As explained above, general management is a broad subject dealing with every aspect of managing an on-going enterprise.

Continual improvement -5.2.7

Continual improvement of the organization’s overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organization.

Administrative Closure –10.4
Includes processes for closing projects, retaining lessons learned and archiving documentation.
Factual approach to decision making -5.2.8

Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information.

Key General Management Skills -2.4

Includes need for project managers to have good problem solving skills.

Mutually beneficial supplier relationship -5.2.9

An organization and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value.

Project Procurement Management –12

Includes the processes required to acquire services from outside the organization.

Management Reviews/Communication
The ISO 10006 describes the process of regular reporting to management about the project and the project’s ability to meet its quality management plan. In comparison, the PMBOK contains information about the need to establish a quality management plan, but does not include any specific information regarding the process of communicating this to management. However, PMBOK discusses the need to communicate to all stakeholders, including management, about the project’s progress. One could surmise that this would include the ability of the project to meet its quality standards. Overall, the ISO 10006 is clearer on the need of management to be involved in the quality of the project.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Management Reviews –5.3.1

The project organization’s management should review the project’s quality management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency.

Communications Planning –10.1

Determining the information and communication needs of the stakeholders; who needs what information, when will they need it and how it will be given to them.

Progress Evaluations –5.3.2

These should cover all the project’s processes and provide an opportunity to assess the achievement of the project objectives. This will provide significant information on the project’s performance.

Resource Management – Resource-Related Processes
The ISO 10006 outlines the process for identifying and acquiring resources for the project. It includes a description of how to review the resource requirements. The PMBOK is similar but emphasizes the contract itself, rather than the process of acquiring and managing the resources.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Resource-related processes -6.1

These are the processes to plan and control resources, which help to identify any potential problems. Resources are defined as equipment, facilities, finance, information, materials, personnel, services, etc.

Project Procurement Management –12

Includes the processes required to acquire goods and services from outside the organization and the managing of the relationship with the seller.

Personnel-Related Processes
Both the ISO 10006 and PMBOK describe the need for a clear project organizational structure and include points that focus on the need to acquire, train and manage the project’s staff resources. As well, both guidelines discuss the need to be clear on the competencies of personnel and address the requirement for developing the team. Overall, each guideline identifies that the project manager must enhance the ability of stakeholders to contribute as well as the ability of the team to function.

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Personnel-related processes -6.2

The quality and success of a project will depend on the participating personnel. The personnel related processes include:

  • The establishment of the project organizational structure.
  • The allocation of personnel.
  • Team development.
Organizational Structure –2.3.3

This includes functional and projectized structures.
Staff Acquisition –9.2
Getting the human resources needed, assigned to and working on the project.
Team Development –9.3

Enhancing the ability of the team to function, ensuring the project’s success.

Product Realization
Comparing ISO 10006 with PMBOK, I would say that the ISO 10006 is more process oriented in its description of the processes required for a project to be successfully managed so that it meets all of the needs of the original objectives and the stakeholder requirements. ISO 10006 identifies seven project management process groupings necessary to produce the project’s product. These relate to the project process they include in Element 4.1.4, which are: planning, organizing, monitoring, controlling, reporting and taking corrective actions on a continual basis. However, the ISO 10006 project management process groupings do not appear to follow in a logical sequence. While each process needs to be done at various times during the course of managing the project from beginning to end, it is not clear as to the sequence in which the steps are to be taken.

The ISO 10006 guideline’s description within each project management process group is excellent. However, where each one of these project management process groupings should be included, that is; in what process within the project itself, is identified within some of the groupings, but not all of them. For example, ISO 10006 states that Risk Identification should be performed at the initiation of the project, although Initiation isn’t mentioned in the project process. In the Communication grouping, it states that there should be a communication plan, but no mention is made as to where within the project process this communication plan should be included.

In my view, each project management process grouping should have a task list or a work breakdown structure (WBS) incorporated into one master project plan. This is not articulated very clearly in either the ISO 10006 or the PMBOK.
The PMBOK has broken down the process of managing a project into five (5) processes: Initiating, Planning, Controlling, Executing and Closing. To locate what has to be done within each process is difficult. The five processes are not organized in the PMBOK in a process-oriented manner. While the actual description of each element within each process is clear as to the tools, templates and techniques to use and the definitions to follow, no clear process on how to do these is mentioned. That is, PMBOK does not clarify, what is the process of assessing risk, managing change, and so on.

In both the ISO 10006 and the PMBOK it is difficult to know what should be done for a project that is small versus one that is large. Do you do everything for both? How does one make this decision?

ISO 10006 states… PMBOK states…
Seven project management process groupings necessary to produce the project’s product:

1) Interdependency-related processes – 7..2
2) Scope-related processes – 7.3
3) Time-related processes – 7.4
4) Cost-related processes – 7.5
5) Communication-related processes – 7.6
6) Risk-related processes –7.7
7)Purchasing-related processes -7.8

Project management processes (3.2) can be organized into five groups of one or more processes:

1) Initiating processes -3.3.1
2) Planning processes –3.3.2
3) Executing processes –3.3.3
4) Controlling processes -3.3.4
5) Closing processes -3.3.5

Measurement Analysis & Improvement
Both the ISO 10006 and the PMBOK clearly identify the need for projects to have a process of closure, evaluation and lessons learned documentation. Furthermore, they each state that a system should be established to retrieve these lessons learned so that knowledge from one project to another can be obtained and transferred. But how the knowledge is actually transferred, is missing from both.

Importance of the ISO 10006 Standard to the On-going Management of Projects

The ISO 10006 provides project process guidance.
A project, like all work, is a process. The process of managing a project is a repeatable process although the content of each project is unique. Many projects suffer because they have no clear process on how they will be managed from beginning to end.

The ISO 10006 provides guidance on a process to close and evaluate a project in order to retain the knowledge gained for future project managers and project teams.
Lessons Learned and Knowledge Retention help to create project templates that are re-usable tools. The ISO 10006 provides guidance on a process to close and evaluate a project in order to retain the knowledge gained for future project managers and project teams. This ensures project templates become re-usable tools.

The ISO 10006 provides the guidelines to ensure that all projects are managed by following sound quality management principles.
That is, ISO 10006 recognize that projects are managed as a process…not as a set of unrelated tasks to be done. All projects can be audited by following these guidelines. Projects that follow this guideline have a higher likelihood of success because they will have quality standards established and followed. These quality standards will be clearly documented.

Implications of the ISO 10006 Standard and PMBOK on the Management of all Projects

The PMBOK and ISO 10006 Standard present a set of knowledge and guidelines relating to the management of projects. However, projects could never be successfully managed by following these guidelines alone.

Neither standard identifies the process of managing a project from beginning to end in a logical sequence. (That is, what is the first thing to do, second thing to do, etc.). They both identify the global processes, but not the steps necessary within each one and do not include what is the process of successfully managing a project from beginning to end. Nor do they identify how to use the guidelines for a small versus a large project.

The stages within the management of a project are clearly identified both in the PMBOK – the 5 processes of Initiating, Planning, Controlling, Executing and Closing and in the ISO 10006 – planning, organizing, monitoring, controlling, reporting and on-going corrective actions.

It is the ISO 10006 that explains how to do other processes within each stage. For example, ISO 10006 explains how to do a risk assessment or manage a change request, etc. However, it is not always clear about where each of these processes fit into the overall process of managing the project. That is, at which stage they are to be done.

The best guide to the management of all projects is to apply a combination of the ISO 10006 standards and the PMBOK guidelines. When auditing a project, the ISO 10006 provides clearer guidelines to follow to ensure adherence to quality standards. However, auditing a project using the PMBOK is a challenge. A project may use many of the elements of the PMBOK but may still not be clear on their process of ensuring quality and therefore success.

Strategies For Successful Projects

The management of all projects requires knowledge contained in both the PMBOK and ISO 10006. There is duplication between them but also differences. In combination, they support an important body of knowledge. The best overall strategy to implement the ISO 10006 is:

  • Review and understand the PMBOK.
  • Review and understand the ISO 10006.
  • Develop a clear process or methodology for the management of projects from beginning to end. Recognize that this is a framework only. Projects vary in size and scope and this process must be adaptable to these various needs.
  • Develop a process for key elements within the project. That is, a risk management process, change management process, communication process, stakeholder management process, etc.
  • Develop quality standards. These quality standards identify what will be done from the beginning to the end of the project to ensure that all of the original deliverables are met, the stakeholder requirements are met, and the project resources are well-managed, thereby ensuring the end result of the project meets all expectations.
  • Incorporate all of these processes into one master project plan so that it is always evident whether or not everything that needs to be done, according to the established quality standards, is done.
  • Audit your projects to ensure they are being managed as a quality project. Use the ISO 10006 guidelines for this.
  • Ensure that all projects have a clear closeout and evaluation process and that the lessons learned are captured.
  • Transfer the knowledge from the lessons learned to new projects.

How is the ISO 10006 Standard being applied in organizations?

Business Improvement Architects uses the ISO 10006 Guidelines to audit projects in order to ensure compliance to these guidelines. For example, we will review all project documentation to ensure that the processes of:

  • Managing each project is clear and well documented.
  • Creating and maintaining the team is documented.
  • Managing change on the project is apparent and documented.
  • Managing risk is continuous, is documented and followed.
  • Reviewing task completion is documented and followed.
  • Reviewing the budget is documented and followed.
  • Closing and evaluating the project is documented and followed.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

For more information about this article you may contact Michael Stanleigh at