I was a member of Review Team 1 for content within the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and had the opportunity to provide feedback on key chapters of both the Standard and the Guide sections of the document in late 2019. The PMBOK® Guide’s content has significantly evolved since then and having had a chance to read through a digital copy of the final published document this week, I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

There’s no question, this edition has generated more controversy and polarization of opinions than any which preceded it. Scores of articles and webinars have been published over the last two years from proponents and detractors of the new principles-based approach.

No one can say that project managers aren’t passionate about their profession!

While a few of the concerns raised came from pure resistance to change, most were objectively focused on issues with either the content within the document or the approach which was taken to solicit feedback from the membership. While there was a public opportunity to provide feedback on the Standard section of the document, only the review team members had the chance to do so for the Guide section. It should be noted that PMI’s qualification process for inclusion in the teams did result in diversity of thought in the feedback provided.

But enough about how we got here – how do I feel about the end result?

I’ve read every edition of the Guide from the Second onwards. As such, there is a natural inclination to compare. But given that the Guide has been fully rewritten with a different philosophy than earlier editions, this is not an “apples to apples” comparison. So while reading it I attempted to adopt the persona of someone who had never picked up a copy of the Guide.

Here are five observations which came to mind after reading the document.

  1. The overall topic of tailoring is an integral part of the document. I liked the tailoring lifecycle as well as the natural way in which tailoring choices were covered throughout the Guide. It would have been better had the team referenced and integrated Disciplined Agile concepts within the Guide as tailoring has been part of that toolkit’s DNA from day one.
  2. While the Models, Methods and Artifacts section is not comprehensive, I do like the focus on the vital few as well as the balance in coverage between predictive, adaptive and hybrid approaches. What could have been improved was the linkage to PMIstandards+™. The Guide does state that the process-centric details of previous editions are available on that online platform, but it would have been better to have had a tight integration between the two such as having unique codes listed on pages of the Guide which could have been used to locate related content in PMIstandards+™.
  3. The acknowledgement that there is a linkage between project and product management and that a product-centric approach might have benefits over a project-centric one was refreshing.
  4. I appreciated the content on motivational theories as well as the appendices which focused on the critical role of the project sponsor and the benefits which a PMO can provide. However, the opportunity to have added a principle which highlighted the critical role a project manager can play in building psychological safety and the importance in doing so was missed.
  5. The principles are valuable and well stated. I liked the mention of the interactions between specific principles, performance domains and between individual performance domains. I did find the Checking Results section of each performance domain to be superficial and hope that it is enhanced in future editions.

Like it or hate it, the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide is a valuable reference. I found it to be more readable than previous editions, but as with all products, there is always room for improvement.

(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com  and on Amazon.ca  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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