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PMBOK Guide 6th Edition: A Deep Dive into the Changes

Dec. 02, 2016
Tim McClintock

pmbok-deep-dive-changesAre you prepping for the PMP exam? What should you know about the impending new edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) before scheduling your examination?

Approximately every four to five years, the Project Management Institute (PMI®) updates the PMBOK® Guide. Currently in its fifth edition, the guide is recognized as an American National Standard by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). In March of this year, PMI released the exposure draft of the sixth edition for review and commentary. I’m going to provide an overview of the exposure draft and how it will impact the PMP® exam.

According to PMI, we can expect the draft release of the sixth edition in the first quarter of 2017 and the final release in the third quarter of 2017. The draft release will mainly be used by training organizations to allow us time to update our course materials. The PMP and CAPM® examinations are currently scheduled to change over from version five to version six in Q1 of 2018.

Embraces Agile in a Significant Way

In the sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide, each knowledge area will contain a new section entitled “Approaches for Agile, Iterative and Adaptive Environments.” These sections will describe how the associated knowledge area will integrate, be affected by, and benefit from the adaptive approach Agile utilizes. Additional Agile-related details will also be included in a related appendix.

Other additions to the content of the PMBOK® Guide include:

  • More detailed information on the PMI Talent Triangle and the skills that are essential to being successful in today’s market.

  • Greater emphasis will be given to strategic and business knowledge. Related project management business documents will also be given greater attention and discussion.

Structural Changes

With the sixth edition, PMI has made a significant adjustment to the structure of the PMBOK® Guide in that it will be organized by process group and not by knowledge area. This is good news for those who will be studying to become PMPs as well as practicing project managers. The knowledge areas of project management will now be presented in the PMBOK® Guide in the manner they are actually tested on the exam and as they are accomplished in real world practice.

In the current edition of the PMBOK® Guide, the first three chapters serve as introductory material and general information about the five process groups and ten knowledge areas. In the sixth edition, these first three chapters will be combined into two chapters, and chapter three will contain information regarding "The Role of the Project Manager." In this chapter, the varying aspects of the project manager's role will be associated with their corresponding areas of the PMI Talent Triangle.

A new area of emphasis will be given to differentiating between the processes which are “ongoing” (meaning those that execute on a continual basis) versus those which are “non-ongoing” (those which execute on a singular basis). Additional emphasis will also be given to the concept of “Project Scope” versus “Product Scope.” The area of "Earned Value Management” will see the addition of “Earned Schedule Management.”

Attention will be given to distinguish between “communications” and the communication that exist between people. Communication between people will be referred to as “communication” (singular), and the exchange of email, text, and other related documents will be referred to as “communications” (plural).

Knowledge Area of Risk Management

Regarding the Knowledge Area of Risk Management, PMI has developed a new strategy, “Escalate Responses.” This describes a situation in which the project manager escalates a risk to the appropriate party, and by doing so, the risk is no longer their responsibility. Upon escalation, the project manager has the option of:

1) Removing the risk from the risk register of the project, or

2) Maintaining it in the risk register with a new classification of “Escalated/Assigned To.”

A new “Lessons Learned Register” has been added. Instead of conducting a lessons learned meeting at the end of the project, project managers will be encouraged to update the register on a frequent basis such as at the completion of major or significant phases, milestones, and events instead of only at the end of the project.

Processes and Knowledge Areas

PMI’s project framework will still contain five process groups and 10 knowledge areas but will embrace 49 processes, expanded from the current 47. Additionally, two of the current Knowledge Areas have been renamed:

  • “Project Time Management” has been renamed “Project Schedule Management.”

  • “Project Human Resource Management” has been renamed “Project Resource Management.”


The process “Close Procurements” has been deleted. Its functionality has been consolidated into the “Close Project or Phase” process. Three new processes will be added:

  • From the Executing Process Group, (section 4) are process 4.2, “Manage Project Knowledge” and process 4.8, “Implement Risk Responses.”

  • From the Monitoring and Controlling process group (section 5), is process 5.8 “Control Resources.”

Some of the names of current processes will also change.

  • “Perform Quality Assurance” will change to “Manage Quality.”

  • “Plan Human Resource Management” will change to “Plan Resource Management.”

  • “Acquire Project Team” will change to “Acquire Resources.”

  • “Control Communications” will change to “Monitor Communications.”

  • “Control Risks” to “Monitor Risks.”

  • “Plan Stakeholder Management” will change to “Plan Stakeholder Engagement.”

  • “Control Stakeholder Engagement” will change to “Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.”

The inputs and outputs in the ITTO table will be somewhat simplified. The Tools and Techniques will additionally be grouped into common headings:

  • “Project Management Plan Components”

  • “Project Documents”

The various components of the project management plan that are currently listed as inputs to a process and/or those that become updated as outputs from a process will no longer be listed individually as inputs or outputs. Instead, the more generic “Project Management Plan” will be the input and “Project Management Plan Updates” will be the related output. Underneath the list of inputs and outputs will be a list of potential project management plan components. The components in a particular list will be dependent upon the needs of the project.

Several new appendices will also be added. These include:

  • Summary of Key Concepts

  • Summary of Tailoring Considerations

  • Summary of Tools and Techniques

  • Adaptive and Iterative Approaches

When to Schedule Your Exam

If you are taking your exam before January 1, 2018, you should continue to study from and prepare for your examination using the Fifth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide along with the examination content outline PMI makes available. If you are taking your exam after January 1, 2018, you should plan to study from and prepare for your examination using the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

Looking for tips on how to prep for PMP exam? We have you covered there too!

About the Author
Tim McClintock is a speaker, business consultant and certified project management professional (PMP®) who specializes in both strategic business planning and development as well as tactical management practices across several sectors including corporate clients, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations. His articles and white papers have appeared in publications such as Business Week, Tech Republic, and The Modern Analyst. He has worked with clients such as Cisco, Intel, Deloitte & Touche, Booz Allen Hamilton, Verizon, Citigroup, Lockheed Martin, Exxon Mobil, MetLife, Sabre, the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Security Administration (NSA), Department of Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, General Dynamics, National Institutes of Health (NIH), MITRE Corporation, and the United States Military.