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Episode 478: Project Management Principles 5-8 (Free)

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This episode is the first of three in which Cornelius Fichtner explores the following four project management principles that were introduced by the PMBOK® Guide Seventh Edition:

  • 5. Holistic Thinking - Taking a systems-view approach
  • 6. Leadership - Leading over managing
  • 7. Tailoring - Finding the right fit for each project
  • 8. Quality - Doing it right the first time

The episode is based on our original article "12 Project Management Principles Explained by Experts" and is neither a rehash nor is it a derivative of the PMBOK® Guide. Instead, you can expect to go beyond. Illustrated with quotes from experts and examples from real life not found in the guide, you will learn the concepts behind the principles in terms you need to understand as you prepare for your PMP exam. We even review one sample PMP exam prep question (taken from the PrepCast Simulator) for each of the principles and give you a chance to see if you can spot the correct answer.

You can learn more about the PMP certification and how you can prepare better for it by visiting The PM PrepCast website here:

Need an exam simulator for your review? Try The PrepCast PM Exam Simulator here:

This episode was recorded live and, as usual, we got some insightful questions and comments from the audience!

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam: PMP Exam prep
PMP Exam Simulator

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Video Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode, we look at next 4 of 12 project management principles.

Hello and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner and this Episode 478, which was recorded with a live audience on YouTube and Facebook, and it is part of The PM PrepCast™, which is my Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam prep training course

But, don’t just go away yet only because this is part of a PMP prep course. Yes, you may already be PMP certified or never will be, but even so, these principles are important. Please do take a look.

And lastly, this is a video episode. And if you are not seeing the video, then please do visit Here they are.

Video Presentation

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, everybody! Thank you so much for joining me today. Nice to have everybody back. Today, we are going to look at more principles from that list of 12 that got introduced with the publication of the PMBOK® Guide Seventh Edition.

So yes, this here is Part 2 of 3, in which we want to review those 12 project management principles. Today, we discuss, first of all, holistic thinking, where we are taking a systems-view approach and consider how interconnected everything is within and without our project. Leadership, big topic, because we call ourselves project managers often, but in truth, we need to be leading over managing. When it comes to tailoring, we have to acknowledge that one size does not fit all, so we need to find the right fit for each of our projects. And last, but not least, quality is free if you do it right the first time. More about that later on.

Hello, Qasim. Thank you for joining us again this week. But I want to make one thing clear from the start: This lesson is not a reading, by-product, a derivative, whatever you want to call it, of the PMBOK® Guide. While we follow the 12 principles in the same order, this lesson is based on our own content on our original research: “12 Project Management Principles Explained by Experts” is the article, which is published on our PrepCast website.

In this article, we have taken the 12 principles as a starting point. And then, we go above and beyond to explain them with input from a dozen experts. So yes, we are taking the principles from the PMBOK® Guide as our basecamp, but then we climb the mountain and we go above and beyond with our original explanations, examples, contents, comments, critiques, and even sample questions from our very own exam simulator.

Here is our agenda. We begin with taking a look at the PMBOK® Guide and the fact that PMBOK® Guide is not the PMP Exam. That is important as always especially since we are looking at those 12 principles. And then, we will do review of principles 5-8, take action, and takeaways.

And just like in Part 1 of this, when we talk about those four principles, we have examples and I want you to join me here on Facebook and YouTube and comment on what you see as additional examples that we have maybe missed. And I want you to join me when we look at the sample questions from our exam simulator. Is A, B, C, or D correct? That is going to be your task of figuring that out and giving me your letter in the chat. Alright, wonderful! Thank you so much, Qamar: “You are doing a great job, excellent content as always!!” Much appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Before we get into the first of our four principles, please don’t forget, we offer a complete online suite of PMP exam preparation tools --- the PrepCast training course, here on the left and the PrepCast Simulator on the right. The PrepCast training course gives you the 35 contact hours you need and all the knowledge, skills, tools, techniques, anything you’d want to have for the PMP Exam prep at and the exam simulator on the right gives you the opportunity to try out your knowledge on 2,280 exam sample questions. That number changes regularly because we just, at the time of recording within the last 10 days, we added another 120 to this. So the number goes up and up and up. Alright! It’s at

As promised, first thing we have to talk about is the fact that the PMP Exam is not a test of the PMBOK® Guide. Instead, questions on the PMP Exam are based on the ECO, the Exam Content Outline. This is something that I keep preaching again and again and again. You have probably seen this slide in other presentations that I’ve given on the PMP Exam and the PMBOK® Guide in particular. It’s always important to come back to this and make that absolutely clear for those who have not yet understood this properly.

So, how does this work? Let me explain this by showing you how PMI develops their exam questions. Now, this is a very high-level view. This is a bird’s eye view of this is happening. We’re not going to go down into the detail. But, it starts with a volunteer who works for PMI, or who volunteers for PMI rather, deciding on a topic. I want to create a PMP Exam sample question on a particular topic. So, they open up the Exam Content Outline and pick that topic from within, and then they develop a question based on that topic. Note, they don’t open the PMBOK® Guide. They don’t open any of the reference books yet. No, they start with the Exam Content Outline and say: “These are all the tasks. These are all the enablers. These are the domains that I, as a question item developer as PMI calls them, an item developer, this is what I need to start with. This is my starting point, the Exam Content Outline. Then based on that, a question is developed with four answers and the developer then decides and says: ‘Yeah, B is correct.’

Now, comes the important bit. At this point, the developer has to go into the 10 reference books. They are at the bottom right and define which of these 10 reference books confirms that B is correct. That is a very important step. So, the developer has to find one out of those 10 reference books and say: ‘Here we go, this is the correct answer, and the reason is because one of our 10 reference books says so.’ This then goes through a quality review, and then a quality review or once again goes into those 10 reference books and says: ‘Oh yeah, I have found a second reference book that confirms that B is indeed the correct answer.’

Now, important thing to note here: The PMBOK® Guide is just one out of these 10. So it’s quite possible that a question that is on the PMP Exam is not referenced to the PMBOK® Guide. Very likely, for example if it’s an Agile question, then it’s probably the Agile Practice Guide and one of the other Agile books on the reference list. So, very important to understand this and accept this: The PMBOK® Guide is just one of 10 reference books for the PMP Exam. And yeah, it’s quite possible that you come across questions that don’t reference the PMBOK® Guide at all, both on the real PMP Exam and both in our exam simulator because we follow exactly this approach here. That much said, let’s jump into our four principles of today, which come obviously from the PMBOK® Guide.

So, we have these four principles and number five is holistic thinking. This is where we are taking a systems-view approach because our projects are complex. They integrate into the world. They integrate within themselves. If you tweak something here, somewhere else something might actually break. So, what is this all about?

This principle does remind us that the projects we work are usually embedded in a much larger system. And that, what we do may affect everything around our project, as well as everything within the project, right. Nothing is isolated and everything is connected.

We need to look at and understand the system as a whole. If you change something in the system today that you think is a good idea, maybe down the road, you’ll have users come back to you who don’t understand that particular change that you have made and suddenly your support need after it has been launched goes up drastically, right, as a simple example there. That is systems thinking. So, you do something or you think about your system today, it is the ability to think of the entire system, the individual parts, behavior of the system and the relationships overtime. So you are able to see both the trees and the forests, the trees and the forest at the same time. And that’s an important thing, right. You see the individual trees. You know, usually as the project management, project leader, we understand our projects intricately, so we know all the various trees. But at the same time, we’re able to step back. We’re able to look at this holistically, understand how all of this fits, and how it fits into the world surrounding us.

The benefit of utilizing systems thinking is that it provides us a holistic view of the system, which can help us understand the dynamics within the system and without the system.

As always, we have reached out to an expert, and this expert is Shane Drumm from And he turned it on his head, and he said: “The opposite of system thinking is approaching a problem from a single point of view, by looking at the individual parts instead of the whole.” So, imagine if you did only that. If you looked only at the individual bits and pieces, the trees, and you don’t try to understand how these fit together and how the whole thing fits in, that is going to leave you, probably, with a big mess there.

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

PDUs: Ways of Working, PDUs: Power Skills, Project Management Principles

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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