Why is the Guide to the PMBOK on the Best-Seller List?

A good friend of mine recently alerted me to the fact that the PMI publication, “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” made it to the BusinessWeek best-seller list (see BusinessWeek Best-Sellers list for December 5, 2005). Yes, you read that correctly, the best-seller list. Of course, while most project stories would seem like great fiction, the PMBOK is a work of non-fiction. But how could the Guide to the PMBOK become a “best-seller”?

I have an idea on why this has happened. I think it relates to the skyrocketing number of project managers seeking professional certification. I mentioned the high rate of certification in a previous post about the competitiveness of the project management field. I would like to revisit the idea here as it makes my case for the fact that Project Managers need to be doing what they can to sharpen their skills and improve their performance.

Let’s face it folks, while the PMBOK has improved significantly with the latest edition, it remains a difficult book to read. It is really more of a reference than a book. The only reason that people are out there buying it is because:  1) they want to do a better job as project managers 2) they need it for certification and 3) there aren’t many books out there that cover the topic that are better written. I say not many books because books like Kathy Schwalbe’s (Information Technology Project Management) contain much of the same information as the PMBOK and are much more readable.

That so many PMs are buying the PMBOK says that you and I need to be thinking about staying competitive.  Knowledge and awareness of the necessary PM skills found in the PMBOK is one way. Seeking out opportunities that will provide relevant experience is another way.  And sharpening our people skills through emotional intelligence is an excellent way as well.