PMI’s Perspective on Project Management: Exploring Attitudes, Evolving Craft, and Power Skills

PMI's Perspective on Project Management: Exploring Attitudes, Evolving Craft, and Power Skills

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the largest Project Management organization in the world. It represents Project Managers, offers them a body of knowledge and a professional home, and develops thinking that informs and advances our profession.

So, its attitude toward Project Management matters – not least because many Project Managers are likely to adopt those ideas uncritically. So, I set out to assess how PMI sees Project Management in 2023.

There are so many ways to answer this question, and the first is to quote from PMI’s own website:

“Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”

This is great if you’re sitting a test or explaining to a non-PM colleague. But it’s hardly a distinctive point of view. Let’s dive in to discover PMI’s position on project management from an insider’s point of view.

PMI’s Perspective on Professionalism

We have to start with PMI’s attitude toward Project Managers. It sees the profession as complex and skilled, demanding that we acquire certification and continually develop ourselves with what PMI calls PDUs – Professional Development Units – that represent 1 hour of learning or contribution to the profession.

PMI underlines this with a code of ethics and professional conduct. It supports the requirement with ample opportunities for networking, learning, mentoring, and sharing ideas.

This is a positive motivator for Project Management professionals to continue their growth and development, holding our profession to a high standard.

"PMI represents Project Managers, offers them a body of knowledge and a professional home, and develops thinking that informs and advances our profession."

The Dark Side of PMI’s Attitude Towards Project Management

I also believe that there is a dark side to how PMI sees Project Management. It takes a rather proprietorial view. It describes itself as “the authority for a growing global community of millions of project professionals.” Notice, they’re not an authority” but rather “the authority.” There are plenty of other representative Project Management bodies in many countries. Unlike PMI, most are affiliated with the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Some, like the UK’s Association of Project Management (APM), share the scope of its ambitions.

As an observer, it feels as though PMI aspires to dominate the profession globally – but from a very US-centric perspective. Unlike many of its ‘competitors’, it has a closed process for developing its thinking, rather than through Special Interest Groups (SIGs) open to all members. It is also highly protective of its brand. Writers, trainers, and educators receive threatening letters from PMI’s legal department at the hint of use of their branding – even when it represents fair use and accompanies content that is highly supportive of a PMI asset or service. I suspect it sees Project Management as a cash cow to be milked to enhance its considerable cash reserves. The prices of its publications are shocking and hard to afford for new Project Managers – especially around the world – whom it aims to represent.

The Craft of Project Management

The biggest strengths of how PMI sees Project Management are as a career, an economic enabler, and a developing craft. And it’s PMI’s attitude to the craft of Project Management that has developed most in recent years.

Historically, PMI has seen Project Management as a highly structured discipline. It has promoted highly structured knowledge and methodologies, in the form of standards and practice guides. It still does, of course, but recent publications have seen a massive evolution, with much excellent new thinking.

The 2021 publication of the 7th Edition of the Standard for Project Management and Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (collectively, the PMBOK Guide, or PMBOK 7) was a huge step. In this, PMI now sees Project Management as a profession guided by widely applicable principles (12, in PMBOK 7).

Its premiere certification, the Project Management Professional (PMP) has likewise seen an excellent overhaul. It now sees People and Business Skills occupying 50% of the examination alongside technical Project Management Skills. Further, those technical skills are now split equally between traditional predictive approaches and more adaptive and hybrid methods.

PMI’s Latest Thinking on How it Sees Project Management

To see how PMI publicly thinks about Project Management, the best place to look is its four most recent “Pulse of the Profession” reports. These annual surveys of the profession (minus a skipped edition in 2022) have transitioned from largely statistical presentations through to 2018.

The 2019 Pulse of the Profession report offered a strong and distinctive point of view. The three subsequent reports have followed in this vein – though none has been as compelling.

PMTQ and The Future of Work

The 2019 Pulse of the Profession report was titled, The Future of Work: Leading the Way with PMTQ.” The idea of Technology Quotient (TQ) had already been around, and PMI failed to define PMTQ properly. Yet the report was full of good insights and ideas.

The closest the report gets to defining PMTQ was to offer its own definition of TQ as “a person’s ability to adapt, manage and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or project at hand.”

The report argues that PMTQ is a necessary response to the changes in our workplaces and to the underperformance of projects in particular. It then offers three characteristics that define a high PMTQ:

  1. Always-on Curiosity. PMI puts a special emphasis on experimentation and the curiosity to try out new approaches, and to assess their outcomes critically.
  2. All-inclusive Leadership. PMs need to manage wildly diverse teams of people and how they interact with technology. This will include people of different ages, skills, seniority, and location. That’s a given. But more than 3 years ahead of ChatGPT’s release to the public, they also suggested that diversity will need to include robots!
  3. A Future-proof Talent Pool. A high PMTQ project leader must constantly create opportunities for their team to develop the next skills they will need. Allowing your team to stand still will serve neither them nor your organization.

I think these are excellent. And I’ll summarize a report I do strongly recommend by noting that the skills gap is increasing between those who feel proficient and comfortable with the digital tools their workplace needs them to use and those who don’t.

PMI sees Project Management as needing to close the digital skills gap. For Project Managers to navigate digital disruption and technological advances, PMTQ is a key differentiator that can lead to success…or failure.

Agility and New Technology: Ahead of the Curve

PMI’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession Report was Ahead of the Curve: Forging a Future-Focused Culture.” There are two key themes to this that are absolutely central to how PMI has come to see Project Management in recent years.

The first is that agility is the top factor in organizational success. While PMI was arguably very late to a recognition of the importance of adaptive Project Management and agility as a mindset, there is no doubting its commitment to this now. This is underlined by PMI’s purchase and development of Disciplined Agile and all the thinking and collateral that goes with the framework.

The second theme of the 2020 report followed from 2019 and prefaced what was to come in 2021. It was the need for organizations and Project Managers to embrace new technology but recognize that empathy, communication, and soft skills will remain at a premium. These two poles of people and Technology have long been familiar, but they seem to me to be important lenses through which PMI sees Project Management.

The Gymnastic Enterprise: Beyond Agility

The 2021 Pulse of the Profession report had the simple title, “Beyond Agility’’ that seemed to tell us about its focus – but really didn’t. It introduced PMI’s concept of the “Gymnastic Enterprise” that will apply “any and all possible methods…to solve problems.”

They use new and old ways of working, combining “structure, form, and governance with the ability to flex and pivot.” The report also introduced the concept of Power Skills, PMI’s new jargon for personal and professional skills like people skills. In this report, successful organizations are those that:

  1. Master different ways of working
  2. Elevate Power Skills
  3. Build Business Acumen to create well-rounded employees

PMI clearly sees Project Management as having a big role to play in supporting this – but also that these are keys to good Project Management.

Power Skills: Redefining Project Success

Power Skills became the focus of the 2023 Pulse of the Profession report, “Power Skills: Redefining Project Success.’’ This defines Power Skills as “abilities and behaviors that facilitate working with others and help professionals to succeed in their workplace.” The top four Power Skills that they cite are:

  1. Communication
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Collaborative leadership
  4. Strategic thinking

The headline finding of this report – and how PMI sees Project Management, is that “organizations that place a higher value on power skills tend to perform significantly better on multiple key drivers of success such as benefits realization management (BRM) maturity, organizational agility, and project management maturity”’ Clearly, PMI believes these are the most important (no-core PM) skills that Project Managers need to develop.

The way PMI sees Project Management is not from a simple perspective, but as a kaleidoscope of overlapping and sometimes competing pictures. This is a good thing because it offers us more to think about and discuss.


PMI is a big complex organization. It also has many thoughtful members at all levels. It is, therefore, no surprise that the way PMI sees Project Management is not from a simple perspective, but as a kaleidoscope of overlapping and sometimes competing pictures. This is a good thing because it offers us more to think about and discuss.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

A note from the author: Mike is not and has never been a member or affiliate of PMI.

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Written by MIke Clayton
Dr. Mike Clayton Mike Clayton is a Project Manager. He is founder of and presenter of the successful Project Management YouTube Channel, OnlinePMCourses. Contact Mike by email:
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  1. You hit the nail on the head. I’ve been a professional project manager for almost 30 years, PMP since 2005, and have always wondered about PMI’s closed fortress attitude with other organizations around the world and if that decision is wise long-term. The revisions in PMBOK v.7 were something I did a cartwheel to receive – in my mind, not literally. After working for decades under managers and sponsors who only viewed my purpose as purely administrative – manage the inputs and outputs as if the PMBOK is a cake recipe – I rejoiced. The PMBOK isn’t even my dog-eared resource. It’s equivalent to the Chilton manual for your car. The practice guides are far more practical day to day for me.

    I really struggle with how incredibly difficult it is to USE the PMI materials by design. The protections on the digital materials mean it is super difficult for anyone trying to proselytize and educate their PMO, sponsors, team, or management support structure to build buy-in and championship. “It’s in my book – really – I promise. I can’t share it with you but trust me. – that’s really what PMI says now.” This isn’t classified material from the inner ring of the Pentagon full of state secrets. Seeing it on the screen alone isn’t the only way we need to make the materials real and relevant day to day in our jobs. The entire collaborative culture at work now requires information sharing. Hiding information under a basket is counter-productive and will backfire.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Sonya. I agree about the quality of the Practice Guides – those I have are excellent. But don’t get me started on the pricing! And your point about sharing the materials is on point too – remember the unusability of the print copy of PMBOK 6. To stop copying, they penalized every legitimate buyer! A little generosity from an organization with vast cash reserves would not go amiss.

    However, to your early point about the ‘closed fortress attitude’, as I write I am preparing to attend the APM annual conference tomorrow, in Birmingham in the UK. There, one session has the APM CEO and the PMIEuropean MD sharing a stage. Is this a first? Maybe. It is certainly unusual. If PMI can start to build richer links to other global PM organizations (without trying to dominate the discussion nor suppress their individuality) this could be very good for the profession.

    I will be reporting back on my website or on my YouTube channel.

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