PMBOK 7 is on its way. What we Know…

PMBOK 7 is on its way... What we Know

Work on PMBOK 7 is on its way, and information is starting to seep out. Of course, there are only a handful of people* who know what is planned and are working on PMBOK 7 at this stage. But some of them have published their thoughts on aspects of the endeavor – mostly on the PMI’s ProjectManagement.com site.

I try to keep the most up-to-date news for my newsletter subscribers. But sometimes, I’ll want to share it more widely. Today, I want to share my information and speculation about the next edition of the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge.

Yes, PMBOK 7 is on its way.

It doesn’t seem so very long ago that I was writing about the changes in the ‘new’ 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide, and its companion Agile Practice Guide. Yet momentum is already building for the next edition: the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition.

* In general, with things like this, I subscribe to the dictum: ‘Those who know don’t say. Those who say don’t know’. Here, I am not claiming any privileged knowledge. I am simply collating publicly shared information from people actively involved in the PMBOK 7 development process.

The Standard for Project Management – 7th Edition

PMI published the exposure draft for the new Standard for Project Management on 15 January, 2020. The current one forms Part 2 of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide.

The new exposure draft is out for comment from 15 January to 14 February 2020. I have seen it but, as a condition of downloading a copy, I had to indicate that I would not share it in any way.

I read the draft after writing the rest of this article. All I feel it is safe to say (PMI’s lawyers can be assertive) is that nothing in it contradicts what I have collated below, from sources in the public domain.

What We Will Cover

I want this article to be as comprehensive as possible. And I’ll be updating it from time to time. Here’s what it covers…

  1. The PMBOK Guide and the PMI’s Process
  2. The Principles and Thinking behind PMBOK 7
  3. What We Know about Publication of PMBOK 7
  4. Related PMI Initiatives
  5. Further details about PMBOK 7
  6. Our Predictions about PMBOK 7
  7. Our Assessment of What We Know about PMBOK 7
  8. Keep Up-to-Date on PMBOK 7 News

The PMBOK Guide and the PMI’s Process

For Those who are Unfamiliar…

Here’s a short introduction to what the PMBOK Guide is.

The Purpose of the Project Management Body of Knowledge

The PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK Guide, has two parts:

  1. A collation of what PMI considers to be the core body of knowledge it expects all professional project managers to know. It is the basis for its principal examinations and qualifications, Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).
  2. The Standard for Project Management
    PMI has affirmed that it will continue its affiliation with the two standards bodies, ISO and ANSI. As with previous PMBOK Guides, PMBOK 7 will contain PMI’s standard for Project Management

PMBOK and PMI Qualifications

Note, thePMBOK Guide is not the syllabus for the PMP examination – that is the Examination Content Outline (ECO). However, the PMBOK Guide does set the outline for much of the knowledge the exam will test.

PMBOK 7 will continue to be a resource for preparing for your PMP exam. But PMI aspires for it to be more relevant and useful than previous editions, for practitioners throughout their careers

For more information on PMP and CAPM qualifications, take a look at:

PMI’s Statement on Standards

PMI will continue its affiliations with:

Here is what PMI has said:

PMI continues to respond to practitioners’ needs for reliable professional tools. As an ANSI ASD (Accredited Standards Developer), many of PMI’s global standards are also ANSI approved. PMI also continues to actively support and participate in ISO (International Organization for Standardization) activities related to the field of project management.

PMBOK Guide and Standards
From the PMI Website, retrieved 23 December, 2019.

History of Updates to the PMBOK Guide

Publication of the PMBOK Guide links to PMI’s maintenance of the ANS (American National Standard) for Project Management. PMI needs to renew this on (I think) a 4-year cycle.

The PMBOK Guide has been updated every 4 years since the first edition in 1996, with the exception of a 5-year gap between the 4th and 5th editions. 4 years on from autumn 2017 is… autumn 2021.

Publication Dates for PMI PMBOK Guide

So, we’re currently predicting that the PMBOK edition will be available either in the last quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022. This means the PMP and CAPM exams are likely to change, to reflect the new PMBOK Guide, by the start of Q3 2022.

PMBOK 7 is on its way. What we Know...

The Update Process for the PMBOK 7th Edition

For PMBOK 7, PMI has assembled a core team of 12 highly experienced practitioners. We’ll list those we’ve been able to identify, below.

They will be chaired by two co-leaders:

  • Cyndi Snyder Dionisio
    Cyndi chaired the PMBOK 6 Core Committee
  • Mike Griffiths
    Mike was involved in the creation of the Agile method, DSDM, and has over 20 years of experience in Agile methods. He’s an Agilist through and through, and it was his article that first alerted me to PMBOK 7 and his ambitions for it.

‘this will not be just an update, instead a radical departure from all previous editions aligned with PMI’s new digital transformation strategy.’

Mike Griffiths’ Blog, ‘Leading Answers
Retrieved on 27 June, 2019

Review Team

PMI put out a call for development and review team members in June 2019. The review team will be a much more extensive group of experienced, but not necessarily eminent, PMI members.

The brief they received for how to apply for the role tells us something of the early thinking about PMBOK 7. Here are two quotes from PMI’s call for volunteers to serve on the  Development and Review teams:

  1. Required experience:
    ‘Knowledge of the full value delivery spectrum (waterfall, hybrid, iterative, adaptive, etc.)’
  2. The second (of two) essay question for selection:
    ‘What are the three principles that apply to all projects (waterfall, hybrid, iterative and adaptive)?’

PMBOK 7 and the July 2019 Examination Content Outline

At the time of first writing this article, we are waiting for the start of the new PMP examination in July 2020. This will follow the June 2019 Examination Content Outline (ECO). We have an extensive article on that transition.

It is the ECO that forms the syllabus for the PMP exam, and not the PMBOK Guide. However, since the ECO has changed substantially and moved away from the structure of the PMBOK 6th Edition, I think we are likely to see PMBOK 7 cater more closely in structure to the ECO and its three domains of:

  • People
  • Process
  • Business Environment
The Structure of the PMP Exam from 1July 2020

The Principles and Thinking behind PMBOK 7

Let’s get onto the important stuff… What we know about the thinking behind PMBOK 7 and the principles it will embody.

The First Indication of PMBOK 7 Thinking: Mike Griffiths

The quote I gave above from co-chair, Mike Griffiths, suggests a core principle will be full integration of:

  • Traditional, predictive project management
  • Agile, adaptive project management
  • Hybrid approaches to project management

This is strongly supported by the June 2019 PMP ECO. This tells us the new examination will split approximately equally between traditional, predictive project management and Agile or hybrid approaches. And predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches will feature in questions across all domains and tasks.

The Second Indication of PMBOK 7 Thinking: Nader Rad

Nader Rad is the instructor on our PMP & CAPM Preparation Course. He has written about work on the 7th Edition in two places:

A Principles-Based PMBOK Guide

In both of these articles, he refers to the shift to a principles-based approach. What does this mean?

The current PMBOK Guide is built around 49 processes in 5 Process Groups. Nader sees this approach as either:

  • Overly prescriptive, when set out in detail, or
  • Too abstract, if covered at a high level

Certainly, detailing the 49 processes, across 10 Knowledge Areas has produced a weighty tome. And, in truth, it fails to cover a lot of knowledge that is vital to a modern project manager. It needs to grow in scope (as the new July 2020 Examination Content Outline will acknowledge). Yet if it does, it will become still more unwieldy.

Nader’s Solution…

Nader is arguing for a radically different approach. Like Mike Griffiths, Nader is an active proponent of Agile principles. So I’ll expect a tighter integration of Agile, Hybrid, and Predictive approaches in the PMBOK 7th Edition.

But that’s not Nader’s focus in his articles. He’s arguing for a structure built around basic principles, rather than process or knowledge areas. And his articles imply that this is the thrust of the Core Team’s work.

PMBOK 7 will be Principles-based

There are three general approaches that organizations like PMI can use to document their standards:

  1. Narrative-based standards use storytelling and description. This is the least rigorous.
  2. Process-based standards document a set of processes that together deliver the desired outcomes. 
  3. Principle-based standards are built around a set of statements of fundamental principles.  They aim to capture and summarize broadly agreed approaches to best practice within core areas.

PMBOK 6 and all previous editions have clearly taken a process-based approach. But the Seventh Edition will create a Principle-based standard. So, what is a ‘principle’ in this context?

Principles

Principles are statements of:

  • Standards of moral and ethical conduct
  • Widely agreed assumptions or truths
  • Fundamental laws or rules

Whilst they will mostly be subjective matters of judgment, useful principles will be those that gain wide – near-universal – acceptance among a relevant community of practitioners.

PMI has adopted, as its guiding definition of a principle: 

A statement that captures and summarizes a generally accepted objective for the practice of the disciplines and functions of portfolio, program, and project management.

Mike Frenette, PMI Standards Member Advisory Group
from an article: Baking Principles at ProjectManagement.com
Retrieved 16 december, 2019

Sound Familiar? PRINCE2 has 7 Principles

The idea of project principles guiding how we work is embedded in the Axelos methodology, PRINCE2. This has 7 Principles, 7 Processes, and 7 Themes.

PRINCE2 Methodology

I shan’t comment on how the 7 PRINCE2 Principles align with what we know of the emerging principles that may feature in PMBOK 7 (below). But I shall list them out here, for reference. It is notable that at least one member of the Core Team, Nader Rad, is a PRINCE2 trainer.

There are seven Principles in PRINCE2 2017. Together, they give you a powerful framework for good practice. Indeed, they are all mandatory parts of a PRINCE2 project:

  1. Continued Business Justification – not just a business case at the start, but maintaining it under constant review.
  2. Learn from Experience – continually drawing lessons learned, as you go.
  3. Defined Roles and Responsibilities – and a clear organizational structure for your team.
  4. Manage by Stages – these form a framework within which the seven processes operate.
  5. Manage by Exception – setting defined project tolerances and authorities to act when the project exceeds them.
  6. Focus on Products – clear definition and strong attention to meeting quality specifications.
  7. Tailor to suit the Project Environment – factors include size, complexity, importance, capability, and risk.

If you want more information about PRINCE2, do take a look at our article, ‘PRINCE2 Certification: Everything You Need to Know’.

What are some of the Principles that will go into PMBOK 7?

A series of articles at ProjectManager.com gives us some insight into the principles that the core team is working on, at the start of 2020. Here, I’ve summarized each, and added a link for you to review the full articles.

Stakeholder Engagement

Anyone with any connection to the changes we create is a stakeholder. We must identify who our stakeholders are, understand them, and engage with them.

Maricarmen Suarez considers stakeholder engagement a pivotal principle. Practitioners need to engage and serve stakeholders proactively.

See: Stakeholder Engagement

Navigating Complexity

Project Management practitioners is a strategic discipline. And, in a rapidly shifting, VUCA world, project leaders must navigate the complexity and ambiguity, while actively managing risk.

Federico Vargas Uzaga suggests that navigating complexity is, to some degree, a fundamental requirement of all projects. It is, therefore, a core principle of project management.

See: Navigating Complexity in Project Management

Value

Delivering value must be at the heart of every choice we make and process we follow.

To do this, Nader K. Rad, suggest two principles:

  1. Continually evaluate project alignment to business objectives and intended value
  2. Utilize capabilities and learning throughout the life cycle to change, recover, and advance

See: Adaptation and Value Creation for All Projects: An Exploration of Principles

Agility: Adaptation and Response

You need to keep your project fully aligned with your customer’s vision, needs, and expectations. Your job is to deliver the outcomes your client commissions and create value for your customers and employer.

‘To do this’, says Nick Clemens‘you need to recognize, evaluate, and respond to the dynamic circumstances within and surrounding the project delivery systems as the systems interact and react with each other.’

See: Change is a Given. How we Respond is the Issue.

Tailoring

There is no single. perfect project process. We need to be able to design a delivery approach based on the context and needs of the project and its stakeholders. And we must select an approach that will maximize value, control costs, and optimize the pace of delivery.

Klaus Nielsen suggests that there might be a principle or two in there.

See: To Tailor or Not to Tailor: A Foregone Conclusion?

Communication

‘Projects are led by people, done by people, and made for people’ says Maria Isabel Specht.

So, project leaders need to view their projects as nets. This allows them to coordinate efforts and understand impacts across the project. This way, they become more effective project leaders.

See: The Communication Net: Navigating Project Teams with an Active Listening Approach

What We Know about Publication of PMBOK 7

It is quite possible that, when we see the final PMBOK 7, it may not look like previous editions. I’ll talk below about my speculations about its size. But here, I want to stick to what we know, from PMI’s statements.

PMI is increasingly focusing on how it uses digital technology and this transformation will encompass the PMBOK 7th edition.

PMI is aware that its knowledge products (of which PMBOK 7 will be the flagship) need to be available in an accessible format for quick reference in the real world. This means digital production. I’d speculate on a ‘digital-first’ design.

They also want PMBOK 7 to be of use to practitioners as much as a learning resource for PMP aspirants. So, it will include additional content that they will add to help practitioners apply the standards in day-to-day.

So, we can expect something exciting…

An interactive, digital experience that allows you to take the standard and additional content on-the-go for ease of use.

PMBOK® Guide and Standards, on the PMI website
Retrieved 16 december, 2019

It really does seem to me that PMI is trying to build an integrated offereing. It is increasingly taking Agile and Digital approaches to its way of doing buisiness. And, in the choice of PMBOK 7 development team members, is taking Agile seriously.

Disciplined Agile

And this seems to connect to PMI’s recent (summer 2019) acquisition of Disciplined Agile (DA). The DA website now displays PMI’s branding.

The DA toolkit is a comprehensive agile body of knowledge in its own right. It’s far more complete and coherent than PMI’s Agile Practice Guide.

The DA toolkit guides individuals, teams, and enterprises in selecting and customizing an appropriate ‘way of working’. it can draw upon any method or framework, such as predictive, Scrum, or SAFe.

Key principles of DA include:

  • Customer centricity
  • Pragmatism rather than purity
  • A range of agile and lean options
  • Application of context-based practices
  • Optimizing flow across the entire enterprise

Further details about PMBOK 7

Some may consider this as trivia. Others may be interested. This section is a catch-all for further information that PMI has publisehed

Translated Editions of PMBOK 7

PMI looking for translators for the PMBOK 7th Edition. As a minimum, you can expect it to appear in:

  • Hindi
  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Portuguese (Brazilian)
  • Russian
  • Spanish

PMBOK 7 Development Team Members

The development team members we know about are:

  • Cynthia Snyder Dionisio, Co-leader
  • Mike Griffiths, Co-leader
  • Federico Vargas Uzaga
  • Maria Isabel Specht
  • Maricarmen Suarez
  • Nick Clemens
  • Klaus Nielsen
  • Nader K. Rad,
  • Jean-Luc Favrot
  • Dr. Gail Ferreira

Core Team Member: Nader Rad

One of the Core Team members is Nader Rad, who delivers our PMP and CAPM Exam Preparation Course. I wish Nader well in his work.

You can get the first 30% of the PMP and CAPM Preparation Course without even signing up with an email. Find out how from our website. Click the button.

Review Team Member: Markus Klopko (Klein)

Markus Klopko has been selected to join the wider development team. He is the lead developer of our Project Manager’s PMP Exam Prep Guide. Markus and I are planning to update the guide in good time for the change to the PMP Examination on 1 July 2020. And he will no doubt be in a great position to make further updates as soon as the PMI publishes the PMBOK 7 Guide.

Our Predictions about PMBOK 7

Systems and Principles

I expect that the PMBOK 7th Edition Guide will take a systems approach, with information arranged around performance domains. These will probably mirror the domains in the new ECO, in the same way that those domains mirror the three sides of PMI’s Talent Triangle.

These domains will interact together, while each domain will individually add to the delivery of outcomes

A Smaller PMBOK Guide for PMBOK 7

I expect a smaller Body of Knowledge, supplemented by a larger and more comprehensive list of recommended reading. This is purely speculative, but let’s look at some facts.

  1. PMBOK has been growing steadily, edition by edition. he first edition had just 176 pages; the sixth: 756. If this trend sustainable.
  2. Integrating Agile suggests even greater growth. The 2017 Agile Practice Guide is another 167 pages. That’s 923 total!
  3. The July 2019 PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO) expands the focus on ‘non-Technical’ skills and knowledge that have never been covered in depth (nor well, in my opinion) in the PMBOK Guide. And that hasn’t been its purpose. Adding these in could add another 100, 200, 300… pages.
  4. PMI has promised further recommended reading to supplement the new ECO. At the time of writing (December 2019), this has not appeared yet.
  5. Here’s a leap: take a look at my review of the new 7th Edition of the Association for Project Management Body of Knowledge, the APMBoK. That document takes a very different approach and has only 234 pages. It’s a framework document, with loads of references to other sources. I’d be surprised if the co-leads haven’t bought and reviewed this book

I can’t escape the conclusion that the alternative to radically increasing the size of the PMBOK Guide is to shrink it by taking a new approach. And the approach of the APMBoK, of adding references, seems the only solution.

PMTQ in PMBOK 7

We must avoid the temptation of looking for everything and the kitchen sink in the new PMBOK 7th Edition. And I hope that the development Team will avoid the temptation to load it up in this way. But, PMI’s primary new thinking in 2019 was its Pulse of the Profession paper. This diverged massively n style from previous survey reports.

That must mean something. At the very least, we can assume that PMI takes its concept of Project Management Technology Quotient (PMTQ) very seriously. Take a look at PMI’s paper on the future of Project Management: PMTQ. I gave it a thorough review.

Does this mean it will appear in PMBOK 7? I don’t know. We must keep an eye out for signs.

Our Assessment of What We Know about PMBOK 7

All the mood music suggests the changes will form a huge shift moving from PMBOK 6 to 7. The big changes are likely to be:

  1. New Domains that echo the ECO’s domains, rather than the current 10 Knowledge Areas
  2. An approach based on Principles
  3. Full integration of and balance between predictive and adaptive approaches

I welcome all of these changes. If we also get a shorter, smarter, more grown-up PMBOK Guide as a result, that will be a fabulous outcome. I’d love to see it jump ahead of the APM’s Body of Knowledge (APMBoK) and become a still better and more valuable tool.

Two Cautions

Some of the 12 Core Development Team members have written about their perspectives on aspects of what is likely to be a ‘radical departure’ from earlier PMBOK Guides.

Caution 1

Predictably, there will be differing views on what principles will come to the fore and how to express them. There is a lot of work to do.

But I am broadly optimistic. I like the idea of a principles-based approach… in principle. But of course, it comes down to:

  • what principles they select, and
  • how PMBOK 7 articulates their application

As you’d expect, no-one has yet gone into any detail publicly. And it is early days. We aren’t expecting the publication of PMBOK 7 until late 2021 at the soonest.

But some insight into the kind of principles Nader Rad will promote, as his starting point, are available. He has a lightweight web site called ‘NUPP’: Nearly Universal Principles of Projects. That sets out Nader’s 6 Principles (in 16 languages to date). Do take a look.

Caution 2

It’s early days. Did I say that already?

Everything can change – and may well do so. Here in the UK, Geoff Reiss has long been one of the most highly regarded Project Management professionals and thought leaders.

Take a look at this answer he gave to a question on Quora about participating in the creation of a new edition of the PMBOK Guide.

In short, the team created a radically new draft, of which they were proud. And PMI nixed it and reverted to a more familiar format for the new edition. This is my summation.

I’d hope that PMI has learned a lesson and discussed the scope for change with the two co-chairs. And likewise, I’d hope the two co-chairs are aware of this risk and have discussed it with PMI.

Keep Up-to-Date on PMBOK 7 News

There are three ways that you can stay up-to-date on public information about how PMBOK 7 is developing:

  1. We’ll update this article from time-to-time, as we learn substantive new information. So bookmark it and return.
  2. I’ll put any small snippets I glean into my free weekly newsletters, as soon as I get that information
  3. I gained a lot of the most valuable information for this article from a blog on the PMI’s community site, ProjectManagement.com. So, take a look at The Critical Path. It is where PMI puts its own community news and updates.

Stop Press: Latest Updates

Since preparing this article…

What are Your Thoughts about or Insights into PMBOK 7?

Please do use the comments below to let us know what you know, and to share your thoughts on what’s here. I’ll respond to every comment.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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