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Getting to Know the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition

Even though the PMBOK® Guide – Seventh Edition was released two years ago, there are still many project managers who are wondering how it is structured, and how they can use it. I was the Chair for both the Sixth and Seventh Editions, and I wrote this article to help you navigate the layout of the latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

This article will provide an overview of the sections in the PMBOK Guide, then in a follow up article I’ll share a project I was volunteering for and how I think the Seventh Edition could be used for that project.

The first thing to know about the PMBOK® Guide is that in the publication, there are actually two resources that are bound together, the Standard for Project Management and the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The Standard for Project Management is the document that carries the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) designation. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is what we call the PMBOK® Guide. It provides a framework for applying the Standard.

I’ll start by describing the Standard. There was a big change in the Standard as the content shifted from being focused on Process Groups to project management principles. The principles reflect the full value delivery range of approaches from predictive (waterfall) to adaptive (such as Agile).

There are three sections in the Standard:

  1. An introduction that covers the Purpose of the Standard, Key Terms and Concepts and the Audience for the Standard. The purpose of The Standard for Project Management is to provide a basis for understanding project management and how it enables intended outcomes.
  2. A section on the Value Delivery System acknowledges that projects exist within a larger system. Organizations create value for stakeholders. There are various components in the system used to deliver that value, such as portfolios, programs, projects, products, and operations. Working together, these components comprise a system for delivering value that is aligned with the organization’s strategy.
  3. Project management principles are intended to guide the behavior of people involved in projects. Principle statements reflect good practices for effective management of any project. They provide parameters within which to operate, though there are many ways to remain aligned with the intent of the principles.

There are 12 project management principles that address the following concepts:

Systems ThinkingLeadership
Adaptability and ResilienceChange

Each principle has a label and the principle statement. For example, the principle label for Value is “Focus on Value”. The full principle is “Continually evaluate and adjust project alignment to business objectives and intended benefits and value.” The principle is further elaborated in the text.

You can see in reading the principle on value that the principles are broadly based and the way in which they are applied will vary based on the organization, project, deliverables, project team, stakeholders, and other factors.

A final note about the principles–they are not a code of ethics or conduct, although the principles of project management are aligned with and have touch points with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Now let’s move on to the PMBOK® Guide. Previous editions of the PMBOK® Guide organized content by Knowledge Areas and processes. This edition is a major departure from that approach. There are three sections in the PMBOK® Guide – Seventh Edition: Project Performance Domains, Tailoring, and Models, Methods, and Artifacts.

  1. A project performance domain is a group of related activities that are critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. There are eight Project Performance Domains:
Development Approach and Life CyclePlanning
Project WorkDelivery

As you can see, the decisions and actions in one domain influence and impact other domains. For instance, the selection of a development approach has an impact on the planning and measurement activities. Thus, the domains are interrelated and interdependent.

Each domain identifies observable outcomes that would be present if the activities in the domain are effective. For example, in the Team Performance Domain you would see these three outcomes if the domain was addressed effectively:

  • Shared ownership
  • High performing team
  • Applicable leadership and other interpersonal skills demonstrated by all team members
  1. The next section presents information on tailoring the project management approach, processes, and governance to meet the needs of the project. In the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, content on tailoring was addressed at the front of each Knowledge Area. In the Seventh Edition, it is integrated into all aspects of the Guide, and there is an entire section on tailoring.

Tailoring involves understanding the project context, goals, and operating environment. It typically begins by selecting a development and delivery approach, tailoring it for the organization, tailoring it for the project, and then implementing and improving throughout the project.

  1. The final section covers Models, Methods, and Artifacts. Models provide a way to work through project situations, such as conflict, decisions, motivation, and so forth. You can use this information by looking at the model and then tailoring it to fit your needs.

Methods are the means by which we accomplish work. This section presents information on Data Gathering and Analysis Methods, Estimating Methods. Meeting and Events, and Other. You can use this information as a reference when you need to perform a task on a project. For example, if you need to analyze some data you can identify several different ways, such as a decision tree, regression analysis, sensitivity analysis, and so forth.

Artifacts are templates, documents, outputs, or project deliverables. Artifacts are categorized as Strategy, Logs and Registers, Plans, Hierarchy Charts, Baselines, Visual Data and Information, Reports, Agreements and Contracts, and Other. Each of these categories describes multiple artifacts.

Each of the models, methods, and artifacts has a brief description, but there is not a lengthy discussion about how or when to use it.

I want to conclude this article by dispelling a common myth about the PMBOK® Guide and the PMP. Most people think they are linked, but they are not. The PMP exam is created based on an Exam Content Outline, not the PMBOK® Guide. You can consider the PMBOK® Guide as one of many inputs for preparing for the PMP® exam, but it is not a test-preparation tool.

I hope this article provides you with useful information about how the PMBOK® Guide is structured. If you want to learn more about how you can apply the concepts in the PMBOK® Guide to a project, be on the lookout for a coming article that will walk through a sample scenario.

About the Author

Cynthia Snyder Dionisio is the Practice Lead for IIL’s Project, Program, and Portfolio Management (PPPM) Practice. Cyndi has over 20 years of experience leading international project teams, consulting, developing courses, and facilitating training. She has received several awards, including the PMI Fellow Award in 2018 and PMI’s Distinguished Contribution Award in 2009. Cyndi is passionate about turning chaos in order, engaging with awesome teams, solving problems, and facilitating achievement.

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Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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