The Critical Path

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Welcome to The Critical Path--the home for community happenings and events on! This is where you'll find community news, updates, upcoming events, featured member posts and more. We'll also be showcasing hot topics in the project management arena and bringing you interviews with industry experts. The Critical Path is our primary way of getting news out to members, so be sure to check back for updates!

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Marjorie Anderson
Kimberly Whitby
Laura Schofield

Past Contributers:

Carrie Dunn
Danielle Ritter
Kenneth A. Asbury
Craig Dalrymple
Rebecca Braglio
Kristin Jones

Recent Posts

Ask the Expert is Returning to PMI Global Conference in Philadelphia!

Development of the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Underway

NEW Discussion Thread for Government Industry Posted!

Baking Principles

August Community News You Can Use

Viewing Posts by Marjorie Anderson

Development of the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Underway

Categories: PMI, standards

Written by Mike Griffiths

I have just returned from the first face-to-face meeting for volunteers working on the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition development team. This is a personal reflection of the meeting, not an official account of what happened or planned next steps.

We met at the PMI headquarters in Philadelphia. I have visited the office before and was initially disappointed it did not look like Hogwarts or some ancient repository/font of knowledge. Instead it’s a normal, pleasant, but mostly non-descript, three-story building in a tree lined industrial estate.

The development team volunteers came from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Pacific regions. We had a mix of industries including construction, government, IT, materials science, and education. We also had a diverse mix of roles including practitioners, consultants, PMO staff, and academia.


The goal for our three days together was to identify and begin to define the principles and domains that will make up the Seventh Edition. Everyone had been tasked with homework to research and consider in advance what they believed these universal project principles should be and what common domains/elements/aspects are involved in the delivery of results.


While this was our first meeting, it is important to explain that research for the Seventh edition has been underway for over a year. PMI regularly surveys its members and partner organizations to determine how they work and what real-world guidance would be of most use to them. There have been several workshops at PMI conferences worldwide to gather information and ideas about what to include in the next edition of the guide.

The team reviewed other project management guides, standards, and frameworks to determine what principles might be inferred and commonalities across various publications. It is probably fair to say every popular, publicly available project management framework was examined and I was surprised at how just many there were – certainly more than I previously thought existed.


During our time together we distilled, combined and generally whittled down over 100 suggested principles to around a dozen. We likewise suggested, debated and wrestled with domain suggestions. Despite our diversity we were able to land on an initial set of principles and domains for further development. Once refined, these will go out to a similarly diverse Review team of almost 70 people.

What’s Next

If you have read this far you are probably interested enough to want to know what the new principles and domains will be. Those are still in development, but several team members will be sharing their thoughts on specific principle concepts over the next couple of months. What I can share now is that the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide will cover the entire delivery spectrum. It will be relevant for traditional, linear lifecycles and applicable to non-linear, incremental lifecycles such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, agile, and Kanban.

I left Philadelphia excited and a little daunted by the work ahead of us all. Yet inspired by the new direction and confident in the strength of our team. The next edition will be quite different, and I am glad to see it evolve.

The profession of project management is changing quickly. All of PMI’s research and surveys have indicated people have great ideas for changes they would like to see incorporated. I am looking forward to working with the Development team, Review team, and wider project management community to help develop the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide. For updates, discussions and accounts of the journey going forward please check back.

Note: For those planning to attend PMI Global Conference in Philadelphia 5-7 October, I will be assisting with two workshops that will further explore principles of project delivery: PMBOK® Guide – The Next Generation: An Innovation Working Session (Saturday, 5 October) and Project Delivery: Evolution and Revolution (Sunday, 6 October). I hope to see you there.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: September 12, 2019 08:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Baking Principles

Categories: PMI, standards

By Mike Frenette, PMI Standards Member Advisory Group

PMI is about to update The Standard for Project Management in a major way, and a key change is that the standard will become principle based. One might say they are baking principles into standards. So, what does this mean?

Everyone enjoys a tasty, well-baked piece of cake, don’t they? I am no chef, but during my youth, my mother took it upon herself to teach me a few things about baking, such as:

  1. Bring the oven up to heat at the beginning so it will be the right temperature when you are ready to put something in it.
  2. Recipes are for guidance only – what is more important is that everything is the right consistency, which you can only learn from experience.
  3. Once you put something in the oven, avoid opening the oven door so you don’t lose the heat
  4. Avoid banging around or dropping things in the kitchen so your half-baked cake doesn’t fall.

By now, many of you are probably wondering why I am talking about baking cakes in a forum for project professionals. Let’s think about what it means when we label a statement a principle. 

A principle is usually defined as a statement of:

  • moral or ethical value;
  • agreed conduct; or,
  • an underlying law or assumption

Elements of each of these are present in PMI’s use of the word “principle,” but the third is the dominant concept. Therefore, PMI’s guiding definition of a principle is:  A statement that captures and summarizes a generally accepted objective for the practice of the disciplines and functions of portfolio, program, and project management.

If we look at the cake-baking list above, and try to convert each to a principle, we might come up with something like this:

  1. Match the oven temperature to the type of cake
  2. Tailor the recipe for the desired outcome
  3. Retain oven temperature during baking
  4. Ensure a vibration-free environment

So how does this apply to PMI standards?

When standards are developed, the applicable principles must first be laid out. Just as the rails in a bowling alley for beginners avoids balls rolling into the gutters, principles define the boundaries of the standard. The development of principles up front lets those with a stake in the standard agree to the underlying principles before work begins. For example, some might state a principle as “Never spend a lot of your client’s money”. Others might argue that there are times when it is important to spend “a lot” of money to ensure project success, and so the principle might become “Spend only as much of your client’s money as is necessary to ensure project objectives are met.”

Some PMI standards are already principle-based. For example, the recently released Benefits Realization Management: A Practice Guide lists principles, such as:

  • Net benefits justify the use of invested resources
  • Benefits realization is holistically planned and managed

The Standard for Risk Management principles include:

  • Strive for excellence in the practice of risk management
  • Align risk management with the organizational strategy and governance practices

You probably noticed that some of these principles can apply across several standards. For example, one might argue that you should strive for excellence in any discipline related to managing a project  just as one could say that bringing the oven to the correct temperature probably applies to any recipe that calls for something to be baked in an oven.

So, today we are learning about the principles of baking a cake. Next, maybe it will be the principles of riding a bike – or not.

Your comments are most welcome, but please refrain from complaining about cake failures based on my decades-old, perhaps incorrect, memories of my dear Mom’s cake mentoring.

There – standards principles explained. It was a piece of cake!

Stay tuned to The Critical Path blog for further updates as we continue this journey.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: August 28, 2019 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

A Systems Approach to Project Management

Categories: news, PMI, standards

Written by Randy Iliff, Systems Engineer and fellow Project Manager

Updating the PMBOK® Guide every five years presents a fresh opportunity to ensure that the standard and body of knowledge properly reflect current practice within project delivery.  With the kick-off of the Seventh Edition update this month, the PMBOK® Guide will make a dramatic shift from a process-based view of the project environment to a systems-based view.

What is a systems-based view, and how does that relate to project management you may ask? 

The INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook defines a system as: …an integrated set of elements, subsystems, or assemblies that accomplish a defined objective. There’s a lot more in there about systems of course, but the key is that systems produce outcomes as a function of not only the contribution by individual elements, but also the result of all interactions between all elements.

In Systems Engineering that’s called an emergent property and the concept is one of the most fundamental insights practitioners must master. In people we use terms like personality and soul, and all agree that there is no single cell or molecule you can point to as the origin. Every project manager will attest that despite a host of common elements, individual projects are as unique as fingerprints. You cannot understand why a project succeeds or fails simply by examining the task list - to truly master the effort you must see the entirety of interactions as well as the tasks.

I’ve worked on an enormous range of projects over my career–some simple, others as demanding as standing up launch facilities for the US Space Shuttle and placing a cubic kilometer of instrumentation called “IceCube” under the South Pole. The list of tasks and parts were always different, but the connections between the tasks were surprisingly common. Over time, I realized that the underlying logic was something I could easily build upon and reuse.

Without exception I found the system perspective essential to satisfying the wide range of stakeholders involved. It helped me transform competition between interests into successful compromise. I found that view so helpful that I helped found INCOSE as a way to share the message with others.

The next edition of the PMBOK® Guide presents us with the opportunity to better reflect key interfaces that must be properly enabled in any given application context.  It can take into account the implications of those interfaces for project delivery as well as enhance the understanding of a host of other relationships that inevitably drive project outcomes.

Because our projects are always systems – not just a stack of parts or tasks—only a system view offers the richness needed to fully support the PM community and the stakeholders who depend upon us. An interactive workshop at the PMI Global Conference in Philadelphia, 5-7 October 2019, will explore the concept of a systems view of project management and its implications for the underlying principles for managing projects. If you are planning to be at Global Conference, plan to participate in this workshop that will help to inform the development of the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: August 19, 2019 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

PMI Standards is on the Critical Path!!

Categories: PMI, standards

As you are already aware, PMI is in the midst of a transformation and as PMI Standards begin to reflect this transformation, we have decided to engage with our community through the Critical Path blog.  Going forward, you can check in here for updates and opportunities to share your thoughts and reactions around how we are progressing on our journey.  

As a reminder and for context, our transformation is based on the 2017 Strategic Plan. The plan outlines three pillars: strategic focus, customer centricity, and organizational agility. The strategic focus creates the opportunity to serve practitioners in a more substantive and integrated manner. Customer centricity is about gaining a deep understanding of practitioners so we can improve what we offer, how we offer it, and when we offer it to them. Organizational agility is about improving PMI’s ability to identify and respond to emerging opportunities.

Applying the three strategic pillars within PMI standards publications, it became important to separate fundamental concepts from the way in which those concepts are applied.  As a result, the content within these publications falls into three categories, which you will see referenced in future blog postings:

  • Standard, the essential considerations required for effective delivery;
  • The body of knowledge, what is currently known regarding the discipline; and
  • Practice, tools, and techniques for implementation.

Organizations are adopting more project-based approaches to deliver value, and project management professionals require tools to drive that success. These tools include both The Standard for Project Management and the body of knowledge for delivering value through projects.

Recognizing this need, PMI will leverage a collaborative approach with our stakeholders, to adapt both The Standard for Project Management and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to cover the entire value-delivery landscape of project management. At the same time, we are undertaking work to provide practitioners with more robust, more accessible, and highly relevant content designed to apply standards and the body of knowledge situationally in practice, which can be captured and updated best through a web-based platform. These products will reflect the knowledge that projects are executed to deliver value and project teams can use a broad range of methods and approaches to deliver outcomes.

We are excited about the future of PMI Standards and invite you to stay connected with us as we develop these resources. Check back to The Critical Path blog to follow our journey and stay informed about additional opportunities to engage more directly.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: July 15, 2019 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

January Community News You Can Use

Categories: community, congress, news

Happy New Year, everyone!

Can you believe we're already in 2019? While I haven't had any trouble writing it, my brain is still having some trouble making the transition. One thing I decided to do this year was not make resolutions, but set goals for myself with individual start and end dates that have nothing to do with the beginning or end of a new year. I think if you're going to resolve to do something, why wait? That said, what goals have you set for yourself this year? Is there a big project you're looking to kickoff or finish up? Are you looking to enhance your project management skill set? Tell us in the comments below so we can support you! In the meantime, here's your January News You Can Use:

PMI® EMEA Congress: Registration is now open for PMI EMEA Congress! This year's event will be held in Dublin, Ireland 13-15 May 2019 and you can take advantage of early bird rates through 20 February! For more information and to register, visit the information page on We hope to see you there!

50 hours to rebuild a railroad bridge…and the schedule was for 96 hours! A story linked from PM Port tells how a design-build team demolished the old bridge, located in Columbus, Indiana, USA, and slid in a new bridge. Innovative planning and design facilitated the project, as did use of rapid bridge replacement construction techniques. The team overcame challenges such as unexpected ground conditions and the need to raise the bottom of the new bridge above the flood plain. Find interesting articles like this as well as trends news you can use on PM Port, PMI’s news service.

PODCASTS! Now that I have your attention: Did you know that you can listen to podcasts from community experts right here on That's right! You can take advantage of short form content to listen to during your commute or on your lunch break. You can find community podcasts here. And don't forget about Projectifed with PMI! Take a few moments to expand your knowledge and sharpen your skills!

Can a PM be an Agile Coach? That's the question Stelian Roman is asking of his fellow practitioners. There's a robust conversation happening around this topic, so jump into the discussion!

We hope 2019 has started off great for you all and that it's just the beginning of what's to come. As always, if you have any questions regarding this month's news (or any questions in general) feel free to reach out to any of the Community Engagement Specialists. We're here to help!

See you next month!

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: January 07, 2019 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining."

- Jeff Raskin



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