The new edition of the PMI’s PMBOK Guide, PMBOK 7, is due out on 1 August. Here is our final preview of what we can expect.
I have drawn information from many sources. However the bulk of my most recent information comes from four sources…
This is not a static page, and it will change. But, at the moment, it is full of information and links about PMBOK 7. There are several great documents linked at the foot of the page at time of writing (July 2021), of which the two most useful are:
We have now seen a good chunk of the Standard within PMBOK 7, with the January 2020 Exposure Draft. This will have changed, as Nader Rad has told me the received a huge amount of comment – that included many good points. The document is no longer available, and as I had to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement, I shall not be making my copy available.
If you are LinkedIn user, you can access [at no cost] a short set of videos by Cyndi Snyder Dionisio. Over half a dozen videos and 30 minutes, she’ll tell you about the new PMBOK Guide. Dionisio is one of the co-chairs of the development team. So, she speaks with real authority. So, check out ‘Introducing the PMBOK® Guide—Seventh Edition’.
I did an exclusive interview with PMBOK Guide 7th Edition Core Team member, Nader Rad. Nader was clear that he was talking only in a personal capacity. But his point of view on the principles approach was gold. Watch the video below.
In addition, some of the people working on PMBOK 7 have published their thoughts on aspects of the endeavor. Mostly, this has been on the PMI’s ProjectManagement.com site, under the ‘Critical Path’ thread.
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.
I try to keep the most up-to-date news for my newsletter subscribers. But now it’s time to share one last set of updates more widely. The first edition of this article came out in summer 2019. And in January 2020, I made small updates following the exposure draft. The third edition added information from the exposure draft in May 2020.
The PMI published the Exposure Draft for the new Standard for Project Management on 15 January, 2020. The current Standard forms Part 2 of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide.
The exposure draft was out for comment from 15 January to 14 February 2020. I have a copy but, as a condition of downloading it, I had to indicate that I would not share it in any way. However, it was frustrating that other websites flagrantly ignored that condition and published detail of what you can expect. While all I said, following its release, was:
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.
Well, since lots of people have shared the content of the Exposure Draft, I decided to share some elements of it too. But I kept it simple. I believe that this is fair use, in reporting news to you, my community.
It still 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.
I hope history will be kind to the sixth edition. Its introduction of Agile for the first time felt like a big old kludge. But it did introduce Agile. And some of the smaller changes sorted out definite issues with the fifth edition.
But the reality is that I expect it will be seen as the last of the ‘first series of PMBOK Guides’. PMBOK 7 will be the biggest change by far. Not just an evolution as every edition from the second to the sixth has been. So, in that sense, I guess history will view the sixth edition as a failed attempt to adapt to the new world. Let’s hope that the seventh edition will be seen as a success.
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…
Our interview with Nader Rad – one of the 12 core Team members who developed the PMBOK 7th Edition…
Here’s a short introduction to what the PMBOK Guide is.
The PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK Guide, has two parts:
Note, the PMBOK Guide is not (and has not been) 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. I will say more about the relation between PMBOK 7 and the PMP and CAPM exams below.
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.
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.
PMI had hoped originally to issue PMBOK 7 as early as late 2020, and then early 2021. For a while, booksellers had 1 May 2021 listed. Now PMI has stated publication ‘will be available on 1 August 2021’. We will see – they had a couple of false starts on the new PMP exam, after seemingly definitive announcements.
But, they are project managers, so they always deliver on time!
Of course, maybe they are more agile than predictive these days, so we will see!
So, we were originally predicting that the PMBOK edition will be available either in the last quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022. This would mean the PMP and CAPM exams would be likely to change, to reflect the new PMBOK Guide, by the start of Q3 2022.
PMI currently states the ‘PMBOK Guide – Seventh Edition will be available on 1 August 2021’. They are currently taking pre-orders, as are Amazon.
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:
‘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
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:
Let’s get onto the important stuff… What we know about the thinking behind PMBOK 7 and the principles it will embody.
And I think the place to start is with Agile. The first to fifth editions of the PMBOK Guide were wholly focused on what we now call Predictive Project Management. PMBOK 6 tried to introduce Agile and Hybrid Project Management. But it did so in a way that was rather like trying to bolt the back end of a Range Rover onto the front end of a Ferrari.
The authors of the 7th Edition want to create a truly adaptive approach that incorporates Predictive, Agile, and Hybrid Project Management. And to do so, they have started from scratch. According to Nader Rad, the only things they kept from the 6th edition were a few fundamental definitions! The new guide will contain knowledge and ideas that are relevant regardless of the approach you choose.
The five big changes we will discuss are:
The quote I gave above from co-chair, Mike Griffiths, set the new guide up for a full integration of:
This is strongly supported by the June 2019 PMP ECO. The new PMP examination splits 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.
Nader Rad has written about work on the 7th Edition in two places:
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:
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 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.
There are three general approaches that organizations like PMI can use to document their standards:
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 are statements of:
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
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.
I shall comment on how the 7 PRINCE2 Principles align with the principles that may feature in PMBOK 7 below. But first, let’s 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:
If you want more information about PRINCE2, do take a look at our article, ‘PRINCE2 Certification: Everything You Need to Know’.
A series of articles at ProjectManager.com gave us our first insights into the principles that the core team was working on. Then, the Exposure Draft gave us the full list:
There is definitely some overlap between the 12 principles that PMI will define in the Standard for Project Management and those in PRINCE2. That is to be expected – they are both well-considered guides to Project Management.
But there are also some distinct differences that highlight an underlying characteristic on PMI’s new approach. The attempt to support agile, traditional, and hybrid approaches on an even footing means that some of the principles of PRINCE2 have no ready equivalent in the PMI’s set.
We can, however, see broad equivalences between:
On the other hand, PMI rejects ‘Focus on Products’ for its ‘Focus on value’. In truth, PMBOK 7 will have far greater concern for outcomes than for deliverables or outputs. I welcome this, and discuss it in more detail below, in the section: The Value Delivery System: The Most Welcome Change in PMBOK 7.
And the emphasis on agile is clearly the reason why ‘Manage by Stages’ has no ready equivalent. Agile and hybrid projects replace the whole ‘stages paradigm’.
Finally, we have ‘Manage by Exceptions’. I think the authors simply don’t see this as an important enough principle. Instead, I suspect they see it as a management choice that PRINCE2 makes but that others may not. This is reasonable. I certainly don’t see it as a fundamental principle of Project Management.
Here, I’ve summarized each, and added a link for you to review the full articles.
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.
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.
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:
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.’
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.
‘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.
Another big change we will see will be the abandonment of the 10 Knowledge Areas that have been the basis for the PMI’s body of knowledge from the outset. Although, it was only at the fifth edition that PMI split Communications Management to create the tenth KA: Stakeholder Management.
Now we will see 8 Performance Domains:
The definition of a Performance Domain from The PMI’s Standard for Program Management is, to me, far from helpful. It is a linguistic bowl of noodles:
Program Management Performance Domains are complementary groupings of related areas of activity or function that uniquely characterize and differentiate the activities found in one performance domain from the others within the full scope of program management work.
Happily, the team seems to have simplified it For PMBOK 7:
project performance domains are…The PMBOK® Guide: Seven Facts About the Pending Seventh Edition
‘defined as a group of related activities that are critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes.’
I think of Performance Domains as the broad areas we focus on. They must, necessarily, overlap. This is because projects are complex and we need to integrate their parts. But each represents a substantial element of our work that we will focus on.
But, in the end, it’s just another way of reducing the complexity of a real into discrete chunks. Now, instead of 10 + 5 chunks, we will have 8. To some extent, they must always be arbitrary.
Cynthia Dionisio, Co-leader PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team, published a short article, setting out her answer to the question, ‘What are Performance Domains, and Why Should I Care?’
First, the much-reviled Project Integration Management will be gone. Or, rather, morphed into the fifth, seventh, and ninth principles:
5. Recognize and respond to systems’ interactions
7. Tailor the delivery approach based on context
9. Address complexity using knowledge, experience, and learning
Although most PMP and CAPM aspirants found Project Integration confusing, experienced Project Managers fully understand how important the idea is. I think we are going to see a far more mature discussion of this idea in PMBOK 7.
Everything changes. Pretty much all of the knowledge areas will be gone. None of these have a direct write-across:
But we can recognize some of the old process groups in this list:
So, for me, this is the biggest change. It is a fundamental change to the way PMI wants us to think of what we do.
For some insight into the Development Team’s thinking about its selection of Performance Domains, we can look at ProjectManagement.com:
As far as the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition goes, I cannot tell you. I’m going to guess though, that there will be little in it that directly references those ten areas of knowledge. Instead, you will need to go to PMI’s new resource…
Standards Plus is an online Knowledge Base. PMI has recently put the site live. And it already has a good collection of high-quality knowledge. I think they intend for this to become the primary knowledge resource for Project managers – at all stages of your learning.
It’s strengths look like they will be:
As a learning resource, its weakness look like being its unstructured nature. But it would not surprise me if PMI will add learning paths, once a substantial portion of its content is available.
I think that this is where all the still-relevant content from PBOK 6 will live, if it doesn’t find a home on PMBOK 7. Among other things, you should be able to find all the ITTOs and much of the Knowledge Area content in here. The open question is, ‘how easy will it be to find what you need?’
Frankly, I am yet to be persuaded. I’m not sure I like them. But I need to see them in context before I can make a reasoned judgment.
Tailoring is the deliberate adaptation of your whole Project Management approach to the situation. At last, PMI will give us some clear guidance – that was missing from PMBOK 6.
In choosing an approach, Project managers must be mindful of the:
PMI already offers a very helpful extract, in the form of a simple explanatory diagram, which I recommend you download.
PMBOK 7 will introduce a section that lists common models, methods, and artifacts available to project practitioners. It will give a brief description of each model, method, or artifact. And it will map them to one or more of the project performance domains where the authors suggest it might be most applicable or useful.
Models, Methods and Artefacts Explainer
The examples are mine.
This is something of an expansion of the ITTOs of earlier PMBOK Guides. But it will take the idea far further, contextualising them to:
As a result, this is a very welcome upgrade. ITTOs, will remain available through the PMIstandards+ website. And the Models will also include the Process Groups from former PMBOK Guides.
At long last, PMI will be talking about value and benefits in the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
At long last, PMI will be talking about governance in the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
These are two HUGE wins, in my opinion. We saw a big indicator of the team’s thinking in the Exposure Draft. And, though it seems it has changed in detail, the PMI’s downloadable explainer guide to the Value Delivery System in PMBOK 7 looks consistent. This is another excellent download, which I strongly recommend to you.
In essence, it links (through a series of feedback loops):
I cannot say how welcome this is to me… Even though it does mean that I will need to update my Benefits Management course as soon as the new PMBOK 7 is published!
The first thing to say is that nothing will change in the short term. So you should continue with your plans. And PMBOK6, which is important for both the PMP and CAPM exams, will continue to be available at least until the end of the year.
And do not think for one moment that the new version of the PMBOK guide will in any way undermine the value (or validity) of your existing qualification.
Let’s take PMP and CAPM one at a time.
The PMBOK Guide is not and has not been the syllabus for the PMP exam. That is the Examination Content Outline. To find out more about the 2021 PMP exam, take a look at our article, 2021 PMP Exam: For Candidates – All the Facts You Need to Know.
PMBOK 6 will remain a key reference for the PMP exam. And, when the PMI revises the PMP exam (probably publishing the new syllabus in 2023), they will then use PMBOK 7 as source of knowledge in developing the syllabus.
Currently, the CAPM exam is based on PMBOK 6. It is not clear when the PMI will update the CAPM exam. when it does, however, it will doubtless consider the 7th edition as a principal source.
take a look at:
PMI promises us that PMBOK 7 will be available from 1 August 2021.
You’ll be able to get a copy from PMI, Amazon, and all good booksellers. PMI will offer free digital copies to members. And members will also be able to get a discount on a print copy. The full price will be a shocking US$99.
It is quite likely that, when we see the final PMBOK 7, it will 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. Standards Plus looks like the leading edge of that transformation.
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, I think Standards Plus is what PMI promised when it said we should expect…
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
PMI will also make translated versions of the PMBOK 7th Edition available on 1 August. You can expect it to appear in:
PMI is no longer committing to Hindi and Japanese editions, as they were in 2020. While many users in India have excellent English, there are a huge number of Hindi speakers. I find this surprising.
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.
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:
Some may consider this as trivia. Others may be interested. This section is a catch-all for further information that PMI has publisehed
The development team members we know about are:
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.
With the 7th edition, we will see a smaller Project Management Body of Knowledge. Possibly, PMI will supplement it with a larger and more comprehensive list of recommended reading. This is purely speculative, but let’s look at some facts.
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.
I have only three letters to use here (please excuse my crudity)…
I think the phrases we need to bear in mind are ‘price-gouging’, ‘taking advantage’, ‘profiteering’, ‘meanness of spirit’. Even at 50%, this is a lot of money for many people who are not fully employed in a high paying (and let’s be frank) developed-world job. I’m not happy about that.
And, if you print it on your dashed-awful gray security paper… I may well EXPLODE!!!!
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 in 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. I suspect not, but we must keep an eye out for signs.
We will see a huge shift moving from PMBOK 6 to 7. The big changes are likely to be:
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.
The eight Performance Domains are not related to the three Domains of the 2019 Examination Content Outline. I cannot help feeling that this is not a good thing. The term domain matches – its usage does not.
I hope PMI will clear this up in the next iteration of the PMP examination Content Outline.
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.
Predictably, there will have been differing views on what principles should come to the fore and how to express them. And we don’t yet now what feedback PMI received on its exposure draft.
But I am broadly optimistic. I like the idea of a principles-based approach… in principle. But of course, it comes down to:
It’s still early days. Did I say that already?
Everything can have changed since the exposure draft. And, with the principle of agility, it would be surprising if we do not see some big changes!
But I think we will see the radical shift we are promised. Why is this important? because this is not the first time PMI consider radical change.
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 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.
With the Exposure Draft, it seems we gained some certainty. But remember… it was an Exposure DRAFT!
There are three ways that you can stay up-to-date on public information about how PMBOK 7 is developing:
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.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 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.
PMBOK 7: 7th Edition of the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – with Nader Rad
Project Closure: How to Miss Nothing when You Shut-down Your Project
How the Stage Gate Process Will Make You a Better Project Manager
Risk Response Strategies: Full & Revised Roundup
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