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Michael Stanleigh


The ISO 10006 and PMBOK Path to Successful Projects

Compare and contrast these two standards to ensure the successful completion of your quality projects.

Published: Monday, August 9, 2004 - 21:00

ISO 10006:2003, guidelines for quality management projects, was released in the fall of 2003. This standard is creating the next wave in our understanding of project managing processes. But how does ISO 10006 compare to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge? What are the comparisons between these two sets of guidelines? What is their importance to ongoing project management? What are the implications for the management of all projects? What are the strategies required to implement ISO 10006 and how it being applied in organizations?

Overview of ISO 10006:2003
ISO 10006 provides guidance on the quality of project management processes. Because it’s a guidance document, ISO 10006 is to be used for registration purposes. It’s intended to create and maintain process and product quality in projects, therefore requiring a systematic approach that ensures:

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

The new standards provide guidance on quality issues which impact projects. They are very clear about setting strategic objectives and driving results through tactical plans and continued improvements. Project management expertise is critical for any organization struggling with continual improvement compliance issues.

What is PMBOK?
PMBOK describes the sum of knowledge generally accepted within the project management arena. Its overall purpose is to provide a common language for discussing the project management profession.

Comparing the ISO 10006 Standard and PMBOK
There is much discussion as to whether a project should follow PMBOK, ISO 10006 guidelines or both.

What is a project?
ISO: A unique process consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements including constraints of time, cost and resources.

PMBOK: A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

Interpretation: 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 there must be a start and finish date to the project. All projects must have a defined end result. The ISO 10006 definition doesn’t include this end result. Rather, it focuses on the process of getting to it.

Characteristics of a project

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


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

Interpretation: Again, 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? All projects are performed by people. How else will anything get done? All projects are constrained by limited resources. It’s the nature of all projects that they will always want more time, money and/or people. ISO 10006 defines a project as including nonrepetitive phases. However, this isn’t always the case on a project. At times, phases may be repeated, but the end result may be unique. Again, the PMBOK definition is better suited to defining the project. The ISO definition suggests a project should deliver minimum quality results. The PMBOK guide states a project should deliver all expected quality deliverables as defined in the scope of the project.

What is a quality plan?

  • Document specifying which procedures and associated resources shall be applied to a specific project, product, process or contract


  • 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

Interpretation: The definitions, although stated differently, are similar. The quality policy and standards are stated generally and each project must identify which of these are applicable. Then they must incorporate these standards into their project plan. They must know whether they are managing their project according to the quality policy that has been established.

Quality management principles through the strategic process
ISO: Provides nine major steps to consider for the strategic process including customer focus, leadership, involvement of people, process approach, system approach to management, continual improvement, factual approach to decision-making and mutually beneficial supplier relationship.

PMOBK: Provides detail in the project quality management section including project stakeholders, key general management skills, organizational structure, administrative closure and project procurement management.

ISO 10006 emphasizes the need for projects to be strategically aligned. Projects that aren’t somehow linked to a departmental or organizational strategy risk failure. They won’t be perceived as necessary. Senior management have to oversee projects to ensure success. They do this by providing support, approvals, etc. and must understand what they need to do to ensure project success.

Customer focus on projects is crucial for success. The project process is interrelated to other processes within the organization. All work is a process. In deciding which projects should remain and which should be eliminated, sound decision-making processes must be used.

PMBOK includes a section on project quality management. It details the need for projects to include quality standards and to put in place specific activities that will ensure standards are being met. It describes and identifies the various stakeholders, including the customers, who are impacted by the project. It discusses Matrix management, including the need for management to provide project resources to ensure success.

PMBOK guidelines in the quality management area are clear and easy to follow. They ensure the project is managed with quality, following established quality policy and standards for the organization. Both PMBOK and ISO 10006 are clear on the importance of the customer, although PMBOK does a better job describing the need to identify the customer, determine their needs and manage their requirements throughout the project. ISO 10006 discusses the need for continual project improvement, and this is also included in PMBOK as a part of the close-out project evaluation. Neither discusses nor recommends how this knowledge should be captured and how it can be transferred to others.

ISO 10006 describes the need for a mutually beneficial supplier relationship but P


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Michael Stanleigh