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

NEW Discussion Thread for Financial Services Sector Posted!

The First Step: Understanding the Why

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!

The First Step: Understanding the Why

Categories: PMI, standards

By Vanina Mangano, Standards Member Advisory Group

Back in January 2017, I attended an annual event hosted by PMI for its group of volunteers serving in a leadership capacity. On the very first day of that conference, PMI made an exciting announcement: it was transforming. I remember feeling excitement and curiosity buzzing through the large room of volunteers – no naysayers could be heard, just intent and curious listeners who wondered what changes would follow suit. Even before PMI kicked off its transformational efforts, some critical conversations were taking place behind the scenes that would drive some of the changes unfolding within the Standards community. These conversations would influence the move from process- to principle-based standards. Brian Grafsgaard and Mike Frenette blogged about these changes back in August, and I thought I would follow their posts with some additional commentary and insight regarding why these changes are taking place.

First, did you know that there are various types of standards? Mike already provided a fantastic summary of what a principle-based standard is in his August 28th post. If you missed it, I highly encourage you to read it – not only is it informative, but it was a fun and interesting read! There are three general approaches used to document standards:

  • A principle-based standard is built around a set of principle statements.  Those principle statements capture and summarize accepted objectives for the practice and its core functions.
  • A narrative-based standard derives meaning through storytelling and description.
  • A process-based standard aligns the management discipline and function around a collection of business processes managed to achieve a desired result. 

Skimming through the three definitions above, mapping the PMBOK® Guide–Sixth Edition to the approach used is not that difficult: it follows the process-based approach. Brian noted in an August 2nd blog post that the standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will evolve from a process-based to principle-based standard. The Standard for Program Management first shifted in this direction in its Third Edition and the Standard for Portfolio Management recently followed in its latest Edition. PMI is not unique in going this route; the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has long used this less prescriptive approach.

Those “behind the scenes” conversations I referred to at the start of this post have been occurring among Standards leadership over the past few years, largely driven by practitioner feedback – arguably the biggest driver for the changes.  Specifically, practitioner feedback stressed that the standards must address the full value delivery landscape. The standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will aim to do this very thing – document the stable project management concepts that lead to successful outcomes across the full value delivery landscape. This will be achieved through a set of guiding principles that apply across the value delivery spectrum, including predictive, adaptive, and hybrid delivery approaches.

Shifting this direction doesn’t imply that the elements of the “how” fully go away. In reality, more tools, techniques, and approaches exist than can be incorporated in one book. These resources are better collected and delivered through an online tool, which I hear is also in development. PMI will shed more light on that later this year.

Personally, I’m thrilled at this new direction, and I can see alignment with PMI’s 2017 Strategic Plan that was first introduced in the 2017 January leadership conference. I’ve seen my fair share of practitioners misinterpret how to apply the project management processes, viewing the processes as Waterfall-based, to be applied in a literal and / or sequential fashion (to be fair, the concept of “tailoring” can sometimes be difficult to understand when digesting a process-based approach). Pivoting to a broader set of parameters within which we operate as project management practitioners will enable us to better leverage the knowledge and core practices that have made PMI effective for decades.

I hope the larger community of practitioners feels that their voices have been heard through the coming changes. As Brian noted earlier, the profession is evolving. The set of tools we need to be effective leaders must also evolve and transform.


Vanina Mangano, PMP

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: September 18, 2019 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 (12)

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 (16)

August Community News You Can Use

Here at PMI, we can’t believe that Summer is almost over! The days have flown by, as we prepare for all of the exciting events and endeavors taking place this Fall – and beyond!  We so look forward to further engaging with the community and sharing in all of the excitement.

On the Critical Path, we provide a look at what’s currently happening around the community in your August Community News You Can Use:

Register for PMI® Organizational Agility Conference 2019: This year, the PMI® Organizational Agility Conference will examine Evolving Approaches to Resilient Value Delivery on Thursday, September 12th. This year, the following speakers will be joining us:

  • Josh SeidenSense & Respond: Principles for the Next Century of Work
  • Tony MaughanAdopting New Ways of Working: ANZ's Delivery Transformation
  • Johanna RothmanThe 3 Principles of Organizational Agility
  • Mike GriffithsThe Change Resilient Professional
  • Michel BiedermannLessons Learned in Hybrid Agile/Waterfall Delivery
  • John MedcofReinventing the Playbook: Driving Change in the Canadian Federal Government

The virtual conference will explore the concept of change resilience with professionals who are driving it within their organizations—and those who are living it as part of their own development. Register today!

Discover PMI - Ask Us Anything! Series: The next session will be held on September 19th! Join Ansley Stauffer as she discusses Powering Your Career with PMI: Explore the PMI Job Board to Power You Career. For those who cannot attend the live webinar, the session will be posted on-demand.  

100,000 Volunteer Hours Reached!: In celebration of PMI’s 50th anniversary, Project Managers around the world have risen to the challenge of pledging 100,000 hours to advancing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. PMI announced that the pledge goal (doubled from the original goal) was reached on August 13th. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Global Celebration of Service and demonstrated the many ways in which Project Managers have a positive impact in their communities! Read more here.

Community Central: Join the conversation on our new Discussion Forum, Community Central. This is the place for all community talk – site news, announcements, questions regarding Get started by responding to one of the August Hot Topics!

PMI Standards: PMI is in the midst of a transformation, and as PMI Standards begin to reflect this transformation, we will be engaging with the 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.  Read more about A Systems Approach to Project Management and The Continuing Evolution of the PMBOK® Guide.

Peerspective: A reminder to check out the Peerspective blog to get to know your fellow Project Managers and community members a little better. Learn from each other’s experiences, challenges, achievements, and insights!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a member of the Community Engagement team – we’re happy to help you. As always, stay tuned to the Critical Path for your community news!  

Posted by Laura Schofield on: August 21, 2019 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

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)

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