Lots of rumors surround the new PMBoK® Guide version 7, set to be released in Q4 2020 electronically and in print form in Q1 2021. Along with a draft review copy, PMI has released guidance (including the graphic below) to show the significant changes in how the new document will be organized. The changes show a complete shift in how PMI is approaching its standards and resulting certification exams.

Kevin Aguanno, Procept's president, has picked up on some of the changes in strategic direction over the past few years and has described a few of them in his lectures and articles. (See his 2016 "Strategic Career Planning for PMs: Position Yourself to be Tomorrow's Leader" on YouTube at https://youtu.be/pKfJR6hK_fc) In reaction to these new announcements from PMI, Aguanno stated "The changes in PMBoK® Guide version 7 (along with the PMP exam changes coming in July 2020) are the culmination of several evolutionary threads within PMI; namely, the growing importance of agile delivery methods as a viable alternative to more deterministic models like waterfall; the growing importance of project managers understanding the project business case and focusing on benefits management, not just creating deliverables; and the role of change management in ensuring those benefits are realized." He continues with "Other project management associations, such as IPMA, have had this more holistic, end-to-end view of project management for years. Now PMI is making efforts to catch up."

While the changes are extensive, at a high level, they group around a few themes:

  • Stronger Support for Agile — The 1996 version of the PMBoK® Guide included a diagram of the Spiral Development Method (an iterative and incremental delivery approach) and a description of how multiple approaches to project delivery were supported, not just the waterfall approach. Over the years, the PMBoK® Guide was updated to include three mentions of agile in the 5th edition (2012) and then, eventually, it incorporated numerous references to agile and a whole appendix on "agile, iterative, adaptive and hybrid" project models in the 6th edition (2017). Also in 2017, PMI published a new standard, the Agile Practice Guide. The new version 7 of the PMBoK® Guide is structured to fundamentally support multiple modes of delivery — including agile — throughout the entire document. Further evidence of this strategic shift can be found in PMI's acquisition of the Disciplined Agile Consortium, with its associated certifications.
  • Removing Process Groups — the "standards" portion of the PMBoK® Guide will change from being organized by the five process groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing) to being organized by fundamental principles. PMI is trying to be less prescriptive in the standard and more open to supporting alternative approaches to project delivery such as agile, iterative, incremental, and hybrid models. Process groups and related inputs-tools-outputs information will be moved to an online resource of PMBoK® Guide support material to be released in spring 2020 called Standards Plus. The new principles in the standard reflect a more sophisticated view of how projects need to be structured in today's fast-paced, complex business environment. Principles include a focus on delivering business value, being adaptive and resilient in the face of change driven by complexity, practicing change management to help get buy-in for the changes introduced by a project, and even considering project sustainability elements.
  • Removing Knowledge Areas — the PMBoK® Guide (non-standards) portion of the document was structured via the ten knowledge areas. In the new version, knowledge areas will be abandoned in favor of what PMI is calling "performance domains", which include factors such as navigating uncertainty and ambiguity plus the need to tailor the approach used to manage each project to the specific characteristics of each project. PMI is saying that project managers should not blindly follow the same approach for all projects, something Aguanno has been promoting for years — see his "Choosing the Right Approach" video on YouTube (https://youtu.be/uKhUuQebrok).

Clearly, this is a massive change in direction for PMI, one that is likely to be disruptive for the near future as subject matter experts adjust to the new paradigm and training providers update their courses. Many existing books, e-learning courses, online videos, etc. will become obsolete overnight, leading to confusion in those trying to learn about project management.  Procept is preparing for the changes, which will impact us in 2020 (as the PMP exam changes) and throughout 2021 and 2022 as we make updates to our 100 PM courses.

PMI Guidance on the structural changes between PMBoK® Guide v6 and v7

Diagram (C) 2020 Project Management Institute