What’s new in the PMBoK 7th edition?

The world is changing and all rules & principles of project management are changing too, so the PMI try to stay aligned with the world trends by providing new updates to its materials

This article provides a brief insight about the work still progressing on the PMBoK 7th edition that was estimated to be ready for publication in 2021.

The concepts discussed in this article are still underway, which means they can change in the few months but the vision and the direction may probably stay the same.

What’s new about the standard?

When we talk about the PMBoK guide we talk about 2 separate documents, in the PMBoK guide we have the Standard for Project Management and the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

The standard is the 6th edition was based on business processes that can be documented and tailored in the aim of improving and maximizing efficiency and minimizing risks. Those processes help assessing performance and they have a prescriptive nature in some ways.

In the 7th edition, standards are moving to the principle-based approach and becoming less prescriptive. The previous editions were based more on a predictive approach, but the new edition focuses more on full value delivery landscape.

Standards in the 7th edition are considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison (or as an approved mode) and the developpement for the standards are following the ANSI Essential requirements that consists on : Openness — Transparency — Due process and Consensus.

The standard will contain 3 sections that are:

  • Introduction: that describes the purpose of the standards, defines the key terms and concepts and identifies the standard’s audience.
  • A System for Value Delivery: this section talks about how organizations can create value, describes how governance supports a system for value delivery, identifies internal and external factors that influence projects and the delivery value and identifies ways that portfolios, programs, projects and products relate.
  • Project Management Principles: this section talks about how principales can guide our behavior and thinking to stay aligned with our project’s vision and goals.

Unlike the 6th edition, The new PMBoK Guide will start with the standard section instead of the Guide to the Body of Knowledge and the following image summarizes the main transformations between the both editions.

Why is PMI is moving to a principle-based standard?

PMI Principales have to be stable, since they reflect the foundation for practices. Practices can change and evolve over time and according to the project environment but the principles on which they were founded should remain the same.

A lot of research was made before moving into this new perspective, and those researchers concluded that the old standards were dry, hard to read , too difficult to une in real life, focused too much on predictive work and became out of date.

unlike the approach which is based on principle that provides a level of abstraction that can incorporate multiple perspectives or approaches, set a parameter within which to operate and acknowledge that there are many ways to remain aligned.

Moving to principle-based standards help recognize significant variation among projects, programs and portfolios and among the approaches for managing them.

The new vision consists of the creation of a new stable standard and keeping the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge more flexible.

What is a principle-based standard?

Standards can be classified in 3 categories: Process-based standards, Narrative-based standards and Principle-based. but before going so far we should understand what a principle is and what is not.

Principals represent a fundamental truth, a norm, a rule or a value that guides the behavior or help for evaluation. but principals never tell how things should be done, they are not prescriptive and they can not be considered as policies or as checklist objectives.

Principals are actionable, culture neutral, can be realized in different ways, provide clear boundaries and can be applied across the value delivery landscape.Let’s take an example of principal for more understanding:

Engage stakeholders proactively and to the degree to contribute to project success and customer satisfaction.

This statement doesn’t tell how we should do the work to aim this goal, but it provides a rule or a behaviour that should be achieved whatever is the methodology because principals only incore behaviours and action but never prescribe them.

Standards were process-based in the previous editions of the PMBoK Guide, they focused more on how things should be done which created a problem when we tried to tailor them. but the principle based standards focus more about what should be done no matter how it would be.

How were the principles identified?

Principles are the result of multiple researches based on a variety of resources like guides and standards (ex: Prince2, IPMA… etc) plus some research based on market studies and team experiences.

Those standards had to stay aligned with the PMI Standards development process and respect ANSI essential requirements.

Those principles were first collected as statements and then organized into affinity diagrams to determine which are the right way to express them. This work was done by a highly diverse team and revised many times before providing the final version.

Here is an example of the proposed project management principle labels:

  • Be a diligent, respectful, and caring stewards.
  • Create a collaborative project team environment
  • Effectively engage with stakeholders
  • Focus on value
  • Recognize, evaluate and respond to system interactions
  • Demonstrate leadership behaviours
  • Tailor based on context
  • Build quality into processes and deliverables
  • Navigate complexity
  • Optimize risk responses
  • Embrace adaptability and resilience
  • Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state

As we said previously the work on the elements discussed is still in progress and the work on the PMBoK is estimated to finish by the end of 2020, meanwhile what we should keep in mind is that the 7th edition will be more founded on principles than processes.




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