Relevance lost! A critical review of project management standardisation

Markus Hällgren (Umeå School of Business and Economics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Andreas Nilsson (Umeå School of Business and Economics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Tomas Blomquist (Umeå School of Business and Economics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden)
Anders Söderholm (Mid‐Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Publication date: 15 June 2012



The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the consequences of the diffusion of generic project management knowledge.


This paper is conceptual in its nature, using short examples of four different areas (education, research, certification and practice) to show the diffusion of project management knowledge throughout these areas.


In this paper the authors argue that relevance may be lost at two levels. The first loss occurs when the practice of project management is transferred, through generalisation and standardisation, into what is generally known as “Best Practice”. The second occurs when “Best Practice” is transferred back to where it is applied (education, research, certification and practice).

Research limitations/implications

The risk of losing relevance has consequences for what one bases one's assumptions of the nature of projects upon. If the assumptions are based on standardized knowledge, without critically assessing its correctness, the likelihood of producing less relevant research is higher.

Practical implications

With the risk of losing relevance the authors argue that anyone involved in the areas of education, research, certification and practice needs to be cautious of how they perceive and work with the standards. There is a risk that the knowledge becomes even less relevant and students and practitioners are therefore less prepared for reality.


This paper is part of the literature critiquing the standardization of project management knowledge but it is distinct in terms of how the diffusion processes are perceived and utilized in a project setting.



Hällgren, M., Nilsson, A., Blomquist, T. and Söderholm, A. (2012), "Relevance lost! A critical review of project management standardisation", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 457-485.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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