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PMBOK® 7 – What has changed?

The new PMBOK® 7 is not a replacement, but an evolution of the PMBOK® 6. Even though there are several significant changes, the PMBOK® 7 still maintains most of the original concepts present in the previous version. 

26 August, 2021

The long-awaited PMBOK® – Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide 7th edition from the PMI® – Project Management Institute has finally been released. 

The latest project management guide was released earlier, in July 2021, for PMI members and later for the global project management community. 

Similar to the previous versions of the PMBOK® Guide, the process of developing this guide involves and relies on multiple stakeholders, such as PMI members, groups of PMO leaders, project managers and project teams (both traditional and agile), trainers, and even many international workshops so as to collect the current best practices in project management.

The new PMBOK® 7 is not a replacement, but an evolution of the PMBOK® 6. Even though there are several significant changes, the PMBOK® 7 still maintains most of the original concepts present in the previous version. 

In January 2021, PMI revised the PMP® certification exam and announced the new PMBOK®7, which focuses primarily on people and processes, with a significant emphasis on the organizational environment. Additionally, the new PMBOK® evolves from a process-oriented, sequential model to a value-oriented model.

There has also been a significant change from the previous version when it comes to some terms related to the project, for instance, the term delivering "outputs" is now achieving project "outcomes"; the latter aims to create benefits and value. The goal is no longer just to deliver the project’s product within the planned scope, time, and cost and with the expected quality, but to deliver the value required from the project, in which the product is only one of the possible components resulting from the project. It is therefore necessary that the plan is correct and in line with the project context, which is achieved by applying a well-defined and appropriate methodology. Aspects such as the coordination of programs, portfolios, and operations are also key when considering a methodology.

Consequently, it is not about applying framework A or B, but about following an approach that fits the overall purpose of the project, which is to deliver value to the stakeholders. 

This new PMBOK® version, just like the previous one, contains two books: 
“The Standard for Project Management” and the “PMBOK® Guide”.

“The Standard for Project Management” contains the ANSI standard that, instead of the five process groups - initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing - of PMBOK 6, now includes 12 principles that guide the entire project management process and should be followed by every project manager. 

The 12 principles are clearly aligned with and reinforce the values expressed in PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty) and help guide our behavior as professionals. They are fundamental principles for any approach to the profession of project manager; they are also divided into management principles and others more directly related to project management – but all of them are human-centered.

These are the 12 principles: 

1 – Be a diligent, respectful, and a caring steward;

2 – Create a collaborative project team environment;  

3 – Effectively engage with stakeholders;

4 – Focus on value; 

5 – Recognize, evaluate, and respond to system interactions;

6 – Demonstrate leadership behaviors;      

7 – Tailor based on context;        

8 – Build quality into processes and deliverables;

9 – Navigate complexity; 

10 – Optimize risk responses;

11 – Embrace adaptability and resilience;

12 – Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state.

The 12 principles clearly define the attitude and approach to the project, and although they are critical, they still need to be complemented by the eight project performance domains identified in the PMBOK®.

These domains are included in the second part of the guide – “PMBOK® Guide”, and they are connected to the ten knowledge areas introduced in PMBOK 6. However, they do not have a completely direct relationship, as the domains are not defined by a predictive or traditional approach, but rather by a group of concepts that apply to any approach. The performance domains are Stakeholder, Team, Development Approach & Life Cycle, Planning, Project Work, Delivery, Measurement, and Uncertainty. 

The PMBOK® now has a whole chapter dedicated to the need for project customization, i.e., Tailoring. 

And as we can see, there is no “one size fits all” solution. 

This requires a clear understating of the project’s context and goals, as well as the organizational context, so as to align and parameterize all project domains that determine success.

To summarize, the new PMBOK®7 serves as a guide for project management best practices and shows the path for the ongoing evolution in this field. Moreover, both evolution and change motivate project managers to concentrate on delivering value and handling the constant volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in projects.

We no longer have a prescriptive model, but one that enables us to navigate the complexity and diversity present in our own contexts.

The paradigm shifts from “Frameworks” to “Whatever Works”.


Article published on Líder, on August 24, 2021