The PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition has arrived. Now What?

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The 7th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide has finally arrived, following much anticipation and trepidation. That was due to the rumors that it would be a significant departure from previous editions. Let me start off by saying that it is a beautifully written document. The material flows nicely and doesn’t seem to leave the reader wondering what he or she just read.
However, after reading it front to back, cover to cover, this reader is left with the impression that it is actually two, separate, independent publications bound in one volume. There is the “Standard for Project Management” and “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (the PMBOK® Guide), each with its own table of content, unique page numbers and index. But that is merely a matter of publication format. The more striking issue is why PMI published this so-called 7th edition as a new edition of the previous versions and why it is called a body of knowledge guide.
The 7th Edition is neither a body of knowledge, as we have come to expect and respect, nor a guide to managing projects. The Standard has changed from organization per the familiar five Process Groups to essentially two sections: A system for value delivery and 12 principles of project management. The PMBOK® Guide has gone completely away from the sensible, logical project management functions, like managing the schedule, scope, cost, risks, quality, etc. to eight “performance domains”, followed by extensive coverage of “tailoring”, which essentially says that you don’t have to adhere to or follow any of the topics and methods in the document; do whatever feels right for your project.
The effect of reorganizing the PMBOK® Guide by performance domains is to provide a completely different lens through which to look at this concept of managing temporary endeavors to produce something. And while the old familiar processes are hinted at, they are no longer covered in a logical manner. All of this is going to present a huge challenge to the trainers of this noble profession. The PMBOK® Guide is likely to not be the basis of testing qualifications for certifications any more. It seems PMI has decided that the essence of how to manage projects will now be covered by a new knowledge stream called “PMIstandards+™”. The latter is a collection of contributions by various authors on a variety of subjects, including the knowledge areas of the prior PMBOK® Guide.
While PMIstandards+ is a significant wealth of information that promises to be essentially endless, it will still provide challenges to the certification candidates as the information is not (yet) organized into logical “must know” categories. It will be challenging to decide which of the articles to study for the PMP® Exam. At this time it appears much like a Facebook page with post after post. Filtering, for example by industry, and search capability are a huge help; but for the moment this part of PMI’s offerings is a document repository. I do suggest you check it out.
The question that is now on everyone’s mind is what will happen to the PMP Exam? That is anyone’s guess. The big challenge is to convince project management practitioners that the new topics in the PMBOK® Guide are the way to manage projects from now on. Good luck. At this moment, the content of the PMP® Exam is still governed by the “Exam Content Outline”, (ECO), a document published in January of 2021. That is based essentially on the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition. It will be interesting to see what happens to the ECO once PMI decides to test certification candidates on the 7th edition.

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