First Impressions on PMBOK Sixth Edition

Posted on: October 3rd, 2017 by Jim 4 Comments

Note – This is not an in-depth discussion of the differences between PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge Fifth Edition and Sixth Edition (released 9/6/17). As indicated, it is a first impression after a read-through.

Summary: If you remove the Agile references in each Knowledge Area, this edition could just as easily be called PMBOK Fifth Edition, Rev. 2. An instructor who is very familiar with PMBOK 5 could study this Edition over a weekend and teach PMBOK 6 quite easily.

If you add in Agile, it is a step in the right direction of acknowledging that approach and advising how it fits in. But the Agile information is best thought of as “what people who run waterfall using PMBOK should know” and that is about it. 

-If we can liken the PMBOK to a building, then I would say that (minus the expansion of Agile information), it is more like a building that has had some of its rooms refurbished rather than having the rooms completely gutted and overhauled.

-As in PMBOK 5, the first three chapters stand as somewhat of a broad overview. I would argue that minus Agile, this introductory section has had the most significant upgrade.

-Just to give a sense of those first three chapters, they include Foundational Elements (of PM). The Environment in Which Projects Operate, and The Role of the Project Manager.

–There is a greater emphasis on Business Value now that there is agreement that the PM role is not just technical but strategic. This also aligns better with Agile which looks at business value with every sprint.

-There is expanded information on the project manager’s role, competencies, and an introduction of the Talent Triangle (technical, strategy, leadership) that PMI introduced a few years back. The Talent Triangle is the basis for maintaining one’s PMP certification as well as being information about areas where the PM should be strong.

-There is a new Project Benefits Management Plan that describes “how and when the benefits of the project will be delivered and describes the mechanisms that should be in place to measure those benefits.”

-Each Knowledge Area has a new section called “Trends and Emerging Practices.”

-The Knowledge Area “Human Resource Management” is now called “Project Resource Management” but is fundamentally the same information.

-Project Procurement Managment now has a more international flavor and Project Stakeholder Management is more about engagement.

-There are now 49 processes, an increase of two from PMBOK Fifth Edition. I list the changes below. Fundamentally there isn’t much change among these except the first one. The Resources Knowledge Area has had some serious renaming:

  • There is a new process called “Manage Project Knowledge.” The (laudable) purpose of this is to make sure that institutional information from previous projects is kept in the form of a Lessons Learned Register.
  • “Perform Quality Assurance” is now called “Manage Quality.”
  • “Control Risk” is now called “Monitor Risk.” There is a new risk process called “Implement Risk Responses.”
  • “Plan Human Resource Management” is now called “Plan Resource Management.”
  • “Estimate Activity Resources,” and “Control Resources” are new. “Acquire Project Team,” is now “Acquire Resources.” “Develop Project Team,” is now “Develop Team.” “Manage Project Team,” is now “Manage Team.”
  • “Implement Risk Responses,” is new.
  • “Plan Stakeholder Management” is now called “Plan Stakeholder Engagement.” “Control Stakeholder Engagement” is now called “Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.”
  • Close Procurements” no longer exists and is now subsumed under “Close Project or Phase.”

-As mentioned, this is fundamentally the same building with some of the room names having been changed.

-More is made in this Edition of what PMI calls “tailoring,” or adapting the needed processes of the book to your project.

-There is expanded discussion of the environment in which projects operate including governance and organizational structures (matrix, projectized, etc.)

-Power models that have always been on the exam have been introduced as well as leadership styles and personality types.

-There is an appendix detailing changes in Tools and Techniques which at first glance don’t appear to me to be significantly different.

-Agile is introduced throughout the book but it is not really a comprehensive overview. Its intent is to demonstrate how Agile might be used in a given Knowledge area, for example, scheduling. So I would like at it as written for someone who is used to waterfall to better understand how Agile fits in.

-So for example in scheduling, it talks about Agile Release Planning which helps determine number of sprints, etc. But it is literally two paragraphs and a graphic and it’s certainly a bigger topic than that.

-But sometimes they just get it wrong. I note on p. 131 the following. “At the beginning of an iteration, the team will work to determine how many of the highest-priority items on the backlog list can be delivered in the next iteration.”

-Which would be totally accurate if they’d just stopped there. But PMI being PMI has to inject the PMBOK into everything. So they go on to say, “Three processes (Collect Requirements, Define Scope and Create WBS) are repeated for each iteration.”

-This is, patently, nonsense. No such processes exist in any variant of Agile. I’ve never even heard of agilists creating a WBS. Some people in Agile have never spent one second in waterfall. If they had said “processes analogous to” they might have been somewhat on the right track. I find it misleading.

-A colleague of mine who has a much longer pedigree in Agile than I do was greatly surprised at how lightly covered Agile is in this Edition, especially vs. how it was promoted.

-PMI has a brand new more comprehensive Agile Practice Guide. PMI members can download a PDF that combines PMBOK and Agile Practice Guide. Both books can be purchased in physical copies either as a bundle or separately.

-And for the record, as I mentioned in a previous post, I called PMI and asked them about the new exam. The only piece of information they will provide is that it will be released late in Q1. As to how fundamentally different it will be or how much Agile there will be, well, not much information forthcoming.

Here’s PMI’s take on the whole thing. It’s a brief video (scroll to bottom of page):

PMBOK Sixth Edition update per PMI



4 Responses

  1. Kathleen Donohue says:

    Helpful list. Very disappointing. I had great hopes for a real re-write.

    Apparently, we’ve reached PM nirvana (evidenced by the total lack of project failures for by anyone proclaiming to be a PMP or having glanced at a PMBOK(r) Guide.)

    I marvel that this document hasn’t been replaced by a wiki, where everyone can engage in best practices that we update and discuss in real time. Now it’s just a lagging indicator that we can use for the basis of the exam.

    • Jim says:

      Hey, Kathleen. How’s it going? Yeah, much of it is reshuffling of ITTO’s, name changes, etc. Certainly if one had ever even run a project using PMBOK, they could do it just as easily using PMBOK 5. Not clear if the belated inclusion of Agile will really matter. That ship has largely sailed.

  2. Deb Cote says:

    Jim – thanks for the quick and easy read for comparison!