On the Subject of the PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition



30 January 2022

Ref: The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition (2021), Project Management Institute (PMI®)

Dear Editor,

In 2021, the Project Management Institute (PMI) — the self-proclaimed leading international association setting standards for the project management profession for the past 52 years – embarked on a new ‘holistic systems approach’ to project management.  The substance and bounds of the ‘project management system’ outlined by PMI in their 7th edition Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) described desirable personality traits for project managers, defined a PM-specific lexicon, and introduced a new cast of ‘Principles’ & ‘Domains’ with – IMO — inordinate waffling over conditions and circumstances for their applicability. 

Gone are the systematic ‘what, when and how-to’ steps and specifics of project management processes, tools & techniques (T&T).  Saying on page xi that nothing in the 7th Edition “negates alignment with the process-based approach of past editions” is simply a cop-out!  When looking for guidance, standards, or prepping for an exam, almost no one – except perhaps a few anally-retentive researchers — refers to previous editions of a purported guide or standard.  They go to the latest edition for answers.   The 49 Processes of prior PMBOKs sequentially-elucidated ‘Input, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs’ (ITTOs) may have been difficult to digest; but there is nothing systematic about PMI’s ‘holistic’ approach.  ITTOS have been supplanted by a mish-mash of management-oriented musings!

Even more disturbing; rather than merely delivering project Outputs as heretofore, PMI’s new holistic approach broadens the Project Management Team’s scope of responsibilities to encompass effective delivery of Outcomes. I applaud PMI’s belated recognition of the need for project managers and teams to be cognizant of post-project delivery Outcomes.  However — from my perspective as a management systems specialist, manager and evaluator of numerous projects in diverse sector environments since the 1960’sencumbering project managers and teams with additional responsibility for Outcome achievement is not only misdirected, but completely unrealistic; as Outcome attainment is totally beyond their control. 

Although still only a “Guide” rather than an absolute edict, my concern is that PMBOK’s assignment of that responsibility to project managers and their teams is not simply professional ‘scope creep;’ it’s a major paradigm shift.

Is anyone else concerned?


Ken Smith, PMP

Manila, The Philippines
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

How to cite this work: Smith, K.F. (2021). On the Subject of the PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition, Letter to the Editor, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/pmwj114-Feb2022-Smith-on-the-pmbok-guide-7th-ed-Letter-to-Editor.pdf