The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition Moves PM in a Business Value, Strategy Alignment, and Adaptive Direction
In April 2016, we highlighted several of the changes to the Standard for Project Management from the PMBOK Guide 6th edition. In February of this year, the Project Management Institute (PMI) provided a pre-release Draft of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition to registered education providers (REPs) so that training materials can be updated to align with the new PMBOK® Guide, expected to be officially released in the 3rd quarter of this year.
Also, on December 14, 2016 the new Program Management Improvement Accountability Act was passed into law.
Two major objectives outlined in the law relate directly to changes in the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition:
- Governmentwide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management
- Widely accepted standards for program and project management planning and delivery
The scope of the update includes several objectives, but overall the update is primarily focused on ensuring consistency among the various PMI standards and practice guides. The PMBOK 6th edition standardizes the 49 processes, and provides clarity by refining and standardizing the language and terminology throughout the processes and related PMI standards.
The overall feel of the new PMBOK® Guide is one that elevates the content to more of a business-oriented philosophy and raises several elements to a holistic, truly integrated approach.
Many of the changes include an increased importance of Agile Principles, Adding Business Value, Strategic Alignment, and Tailoring. These are based on several contributing factors, such as the amount of governance/oversight required, management and stakeholder, and organizational and environmental factors.
Another major change is the increased importance of understanding Overall Project Risk, and not just the more narrowly focused individual activity risk. These changes should help organizations execute better portfolio and program management and help ensure that projects decisions are viewed not only from a tactical/operational perspective, but from a strategic one as well.
Here’s our brief overview of key changes:
The initial sections – 1, 2, and 3 – have significant changes. However, the Guide continues to lay basic foundational understanding of the overall project environment, roles and responsibilities, and how projects fit within their related programs and portfolios.
Three major changes to the initial sections include:
- A high-level discussion of development lifecycles and the importance of the project team to determine the best lifecycle based on internal and external factors.
- Expanding the elements of project characteristics to include the notion that projects drive change and projects enable business value creation. These two themes are reinforced throughout the Guide via continuing references to the Business Case and a Project Management Benefits Plan.
- Discussion on the role of the PM as a separate section emphasizes that PMs need to clearly understand their levels of influence and competencies, giving special attention to the competency talent triangle, project management skills, and leadership skills. The role of the PM is also reinforced through all the knowledge areas.
Whether PMI did it intentionally or by accident, I found the latest edition to be a little more directive with respect to guidance on when processes are executed, when documents should be completed and by whom, and more guidance on what should be included in various plans and project documents. For example, all processes included statements such as, “This process is performed once or at predetermined points in the project,” and “This process is performed throughout the project.” This change helps PMs understand and plan for, at a high level, the degree to which a process is involved.
Another area where more guidance is given than in previous editions is for each PM Process that uses Expert Judgment as a Tool or Technique, the 6th edition lists knowledge areas and topics in which Experts should have specialized education, knowledge, skills, experience, or training.
Two major formatting changes occurred affecting the knowledge area introductory materials and the tools and techniques. The introductions of all knowledge areas are now standardized to address the same four principle elements that put context around the processes. The grouping of tools and techniques into six basic areas will help project managers better understand the context related to the PMBOK® Guide content.
1. Standardized Knowledge Area Front End Material
- Key Concepts associated with a specific area that provides an overall introduction regarding the purpose, key benefits, and a general overview of what the knowledge area is about.
- Trends and Emerging Practices that are considered good practice and are occurring but not necessarily practiced on most projects
- Tailoring Considerations provides information that the project manager should consider when adapting the project characteristics to meeting the unique needs of the stakeholders, organization, and environment. This section is significant enough to warrant its own appendix – Appendix X5 – as an aid on how to tailor processes.
- Considerations for Agile/Adaptive Approaches identifies some of the nuances of applying agile/adaptive approaches to tailoring a specific knowledge area with respect to the project environment and development lifecycle. Appendix X3 provides a good overview of how the Process Groups interact with adaptive and highly adaptive lifecycles.
2. Tools and Techniques Grouped by Their Purpose and Intent
- Data Gathering includes the nine data gathering tools that are commonly used to collect data and information
- Data Analysis includes the 27 methods used to organize, assess, and evaluate data and information
- Data Representation includes 15 graphical and presentation tools and techniques used to convey data and information to stakeholders
- Decision Making includes two tools and techniques used to select a specific course of action from among different alternatives
- Communication Skills includes two tools and techniques used to transfer information between stakeholders
- Interpersonal and Team Skills includes the 17 interpersonal and team skills the project manager needs to effectively lead the project team and interact with stakeholders. This group was listed as a separate appendix – Appendix X3, Interpersonal Skills, in PMBOK® Guide 5th edition.
What does all this mean to you as a Project Manager?
The ongoing emphasis on Business Value, Strategic Alignment, and Adaptation to the dynamic project environment and stakeholder needs makes these changes a significant improvement and step in the right direction toward elevating the PMBOK® Guide to a truly application-oriented tool.
Whether you work for a for-profit commercial enterprise, a not-for-profit organization, or government agency, project planning, implementation, and management is your responsibility. This PMBOK® Guide 6th edition provides tools to help you deliver successful projects.
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