Project Management

The Continuing Evolution of the PMBOK® Guide

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by Brian Grafsgaard, Standards Member Advisory Group

Whether you are new to the profession or a seasoned veteran, you have probably been aware of not only the growth in the application of project management across industries and organizations, but the rapid pace of change we have seen within the profession, especially over the last few years. On larger initiatives it is not unusual to see a mix of value delivery approaches, from prescriptive, plan-driven approaches to more adaptive approaches.

We as practitioners are often required to integrate these approaches in order to realize the intended outcomes, at the right time, and for the right price. The balancing act of simultaneously managing scope, schedule, and cost has now extended to finding the right balance between approaches, based on the profile of the project(s) and expected outcomes.

For decades now—since its inception as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) in 1987—A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) has served as a reference to effectively manage “most projects most of the time”. The PMBOK® Guide has provided the foundation for the science of project management, enabling us as practitioners to practice the art. The PMBOK® Guide—which was always intended to be adapted to the project and situation at hand—has evolved and adapted over the years to include advances in core processes.

The associated Standard for Project Management provided the underpinning “fundamentals” of project management and how the processes could be applied. The art of project management is, in part, based on the application of these fundamentals and the particular value delivery approach being taken. It could be said that the art is based on the principles of project management that we all carry with us and continue to adapt and apply each day (and continue to learn as well).

This continuous learning has allowed both The Standard for Project Management and the PMBOK® Guide to evolve and adapt to support the growth of project management as a discipline, as well as changes in how project management is applied. Like previous editions of the PMBOK® Guide, the upcoming seventh edition recognizes that the project delivery landscape continues to evolve and adapt and that the pace of change is accelerating. New technologies as well as the need for organizational agility have introduced new project team structures and project/product delivery methods with a stronger focus on outcomes rather than deliverables.

These changes, as well as other factors, have created the opportunity—and even the imperative—to update the resources we rely upon as practitioners of project management. Consequently, several teams of volunteers and PMI staff have formed to define and develop the next generation of The Standard for Project Management and associated PMBOK® Guide.

The seventh edition will be developed with the following questions in mind:

  1. How can The Standard for Project Management evolve to reflect the foundational concepts applicable to all projects, regardless of the type of project or delivery approach selected? The standards team has begun by engaging members around the world to identify the fundamental principles of managing projects that form the essential elements of project management.

  2. How can A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge capture and summarize the knowledge relevant to overseeing the work of the project? The standards team is also focusing on defining the “spheres” or domains that influence overall project performance.

The standards teams, with your help, will continue to explore the answers to these questions as they develop the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide and continue the rich history of providing value to practitioners and their organizations. We hope you will join us for the journey!

Brian Grafsgaard is a member of the Standards Member Advisory Group. He possesses over 20 years of experience leading the development and integration of complex, enterprise-class solutions as a Program and Project Manager in multiple industries.

Stay tuned to the Critical Path blog for updates and opportunities to share your thoughts and reactions around how we are progressing on our Standards journey. Learn more here.

Posted by Laura Schofield on: August 02, 2019 10:29 AM | Permalink

Comments (14)

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Laura, Very excited to see how the 7th Edition will shape up. Do you have an approximate completion date for the project ?

Great! Thank you, for providing these insights.

Looking forward changes, improvement and evolution.
Might be a good place to stress the difference between Methods, Life cycle,...

I'd add a third question to the above two questions: Are we asking the right questions? In what ways are our paradigms of thought about project management limiting our ability to describe its nature, scope, and purpose?

I say this because the PMBOK Guide reflects a certain set of assumptions that may no longer be true, if they were ever true.

For example, the idea of processes reflects a mechanistic set of values (projects and organizations as predictable machines). The above text uses the word arts several times, and it is true that in certain kinds of projects, the approach of an artist is more appropriate than the approach of a process flow mapper.

Another example, is the desire to drink the magic elixir of best practices. There are occasions where best practices might be useful, but there are many more instances where best practices are illegitimate idea and it better to search for good practices, emerging practices, or novel practices.

A third example is the overuse of the word requirements in the document. It seems as if an instruction was given to earlier versions to liberally insert the word requirement in the document. Requirements are truly important to projects and project management, but the PMBOK guide is more confusing than clarifying on the topic.

Hi Kimberly, Laura , In seventh Edition
1.Please consider the difference in approach of Project Management when one is Managing as a Client or as a Contractor-there are practical differences in Knowledge Area .
2. I have been able to document a visible shift in focus in processes based on type of contract (in my case Design and Build versus EPC)

It was implicitly brought out during my recent Webinar : ""Powering up.....""

Thank you for sharing your insight on this.

Amazing read, thanks for sharing

I found many text in the current guide are very relevant to IT Projects that sometimes make me feel this guide is just made for IT Project Manager. In order to applicable to all types of projects, regardless of industries, I think this should be fixed.

Rami, sorry for the delay in answering your question. The team has been working to firm up a good estimate. The intent is to release the PMBOK(R) Guide-Seventh Edition in Q4 2020.

Marvin, Thanks a lot for your feedback. I am very excited to see the new revision - Good Luck with this project and let me know if there is anyway we can contribute to this great effort.

Folks, before everyone runs off and tries to move from a process-based PMBOK to a principles-based PMBOK you need to keep a few facts in the back of your minds:

1) In the 50 years PMI has been in existence, is there ANY credible, published research that indicates that what PMI was advocating has resulted in producing more "successful" projects?

2) Given that humans have been "initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing" construction, (i.e. Pyramids); entertainment (i.e Gladiators and Olympics) and new product development (i.e. the Wheel) for well over 6000 years, doesn't it seem reasonable that during that period we have not only have learned (or should have learned) WHAT to do but HOW TO DO IT?

3) Based on published research by Glenn Butts from NASA, https://is DOT gd/mueBAQ and published work by Prof. Bent Flyvbjerg from Oxford University, https://is DOT gd/I9tFBW we know the REASONS for project failure AND we know what needs to be done to PREVENT those failures, which is to require both CRIMINAL and CIVIL accountability for project SPONSORS, project MANAGERS and project CONTROLLERS (PMO Managers) and other key stakeholders for their misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance in the design and execution of projects.

4) Given that the "Model Code of Ethics" created by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics professionals requires their members to "If, in the course of their work, CEPs become aware of any decision by their employing organization which, if implemented, would constitute misconduct, the professional
shall: https://is DOT gd/WmMRUd Paragraph R1.4
(a) refuse to consent to the decision;
(b) escalate the matter, including to the highest governing body, as appropriate;
(c) if serious issues remain unresolved after exercising a and b, consider resignation; and
(d) report the decision to public officials when required by law."

So given we have 6000 years of experience providing us with the knowledge of WHAT to do and HOW to do it, and we already know the "root cause problems" underlying project failure are caused by human weaknesses, instead of trying to rewrite the PMBOK Guide just to put more money in PMI's already swollen piggybank, why not just rewrite the PMI Code of Ethics to put an end to optimism bias and "strategic misrepresentation" (LYING) on the part of SPONSORS, MANAGERS and other key decision-makers?

Think about it folks. Do you REALLY think that issuing a principles-based document is going to change anything?

Dr. PDG, Jakarta

PS While there is absolutely no proof to back up any claims that project management is a PROFESSION and in fact, there is published research, some of which was funded in part by PMI (Zwerman, Thomas et al) showing that it is not and cannot be a profession, IF we were to hold ourselves both CRIMINALLY and CIVILLY accountable the same as Doctors, Engineers, Teachers and other professionals, it would go a long way towards helping to raise the practice of project management to be MORE of a profession than it is today.

Dr. PDG, Jakarta

Stepping back for a second and applying "common sense" we do not need a 700 page book to define what principles we need to know to produce "successful" PROJECTS: (defined to be on time, within budget, in substantial conformance to the technical specifications without anyone getting killed or injured while complying with all laws and contractual terms and conditions)
1) We need to have a "reasonable" time frame and monetary budget. (9 women cannot create a healthy baby in 1 month)
2) We need to have access to a sufficient pool of competent technical specialists appropriate to the needs of the project;
3) We need to have the formal authority to (as Henry Fayol told us in his 1917 book- "Administration Industrielle et Générale")
3.1) Plan (Prevoyance)
3.2) Organize (Organization)
3.3) Staff (Commandement)
3.4) Direct (Coordination)
3.5) Control (Controle)
The work of the project
4) We need to do SEPARATE Risk and Opportunity Assessments that include both INTERNAl and EXTERNAL risks/opportunities addressing:
4.1) Business Risk/Opportunity (What is the business case?)
4.2) Technical Risks/Opportunities (Can the project technically be done using today's technology or future technology?)
4.3) Procurement Risks/Opportunities (Are the materials, people, equipment available in sufficient quantities?)
4.4) Constructability Risks/Opportunities (What is the OPTIMUM time and budget to complete the project?)
4.5) Safety, Health, Environmental and Contractual Risks/Opportunities. (Execution risks/opportunities)
4.6) Includes both STRATEGIC responses (proactive) and TACTICAL (reactive) responses to both risk and opportunities along with the formal authority to initiate or invoke them.
5) GIVEN the fundamental management principles that no one can be held accountable over that which one has 5.1) No reasonable control and 5.2) Formal Authority to act, the PROJECT MANAGER/PROJECT TEAM should NOT be responsible for the BUSINESS CASE. That should be the responsibility of the project SPONSOR. The project team must be held both CRIMINALLY and CIVILLY accountable for that over which they have reasonable control AND have been given the formal authority to act. (For more on this topic, see Jury Instructions for Professional Negligence cases- https://is DOTgd/DKTU45)
6) We need to have the authority to make prompt payments for work completed, based on the ORIGINAL principles of Earned Value Management as a "pay for performance scheme" as described by Gillette and Dana in their 1909 book "Cost Keeping and Management Engineering: A Treatise for Engineers, Contractors and Superintendents Engaged in the Management of Engineering Construction"

Folks, that is IT... You can probably sum up these principles (which should apply to all projects whether internal or external, done in house or contracted out, from both the OWNER or CONTRACTOR perspective) in 2 or maybe 3 pages.

Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

Looking forward to seeing the changes and wonder how much different methodologies will be addressed.

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