Cracking the PMBOK Code 6th Edition

I have had discussions with project managers around the world since the publication of my article Cracking the PMBOK Code 5th Edition in 2016.  Since that time the Project Management Institute (PMI) has published the PMBOK 6th Edition and there are just as many questions surrounding the 6th edition as there were the 5th edition.  I’m up to the challenge.  Let’s crack the code.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), is a collection of principles that both novice and the experienced professionals within the project management community can utilize to form good practices and with time and effort develop them into best practices.

The key to navigating through the changes fostered by the migration from the 5th edition to the 6th is a firm understanding of the 5th edition.  I recommend rereading my original article.

The PMBOK 6th edition continues the use of the framework of 5 Process Groups and 10 Knowledge Areas.  A minor naming adjustment has occurred with the change of the Project Human Resource Management Knowledge Area to the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area.

The number of PMBOK processes has grown from 47 to 49.  Manage Project Knowledge was added to Project Integration Management under the Executing Process Group, Implement Risk Response was added to Project Risk Management under the Executing Process Group, and Control Resources was added to Project Resource Management under the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group.

The Close Procurements process was deleted from Project Procurement Management under the Closing Process Group.  The Estimate Activity Resources process was relocated from Project Schedule Management under the Planning Process Group to Project Resource Management under the Planning Process Group.

Schematically the structure of the PMBOK 6th edition is pretty much the same as the 5th edition. Intrinsically there is much more information embedded within the framework of the processes.  It is clear to me that after reading the new edition that the holder of this certification is expected to have a better understanding of the PMBOK processes and how to properly implement and execute them.

The key to unlocking the power of the PMBOK processes is increasing one’s understanding of the embedded gems found within the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs.  The ITTO’s within ITTO’s.  I’ve defined it as the Inception phenomena.  The number of ITTO’s has grown substantially with the addition of ITTO headers and corresponding sub-ITTO’s.

Successful navigation through the PMBOK 6th edition is going to require a deeper dive.  The practitioner must be able to deep dive and identify the Process Group, Knowledge Area, Process, ITTO header, and Sub-ITTO, to understand the context surrounding each PMP Exam question.

How do we employ the PMBOK 6th edition?  It still begins with orienting oneself with the Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Area Mapping diagram which is found on page 25.

Let’s begin with the Process Groups.  There are five.  Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing.  Process proficiency aids in identifying the key PMBOK process deliverables that enable a project team to transition between Process Groups as well as develop a general understanding of the embedded feedback loops that allow for their updates.

Every PMBOK process generates deliverables for the Project Management Staff.  The component of the project team that creates the project management plan, monitors feedback, controls performance, and closes out the project.

It starts with the Project Charter.  The probability of project success is increased when the project manager assists organizational leadership in creating the Project Charter.  Once the project is greenlighted the project manager is authorized to assemble the first component of the project team, the project management staff, who will immediately assist the project manager in creating the first formal project document, the Stakeholder Register.

Mature organizations understand the value of the project manager taking part in the effort that assesses the need of the project, which is found embedded in the Statement of Work of the formal agreement, as well as the organizational investment, expected return, and means of achieving success in generating the return which are found within the Business Case and Business Management Plan, respectively.

The Project Charter is the document that articulates to the organization that the Project Sponsor understands why the project was selected, what the project will deliver, and what the organization expects to gain from its investment.  This acknowledgment is a public record and visible throughout the organization and announces that the project team is prepared to form and lead the project effort.

The Project Charter’s Milestone Level Schedule identifies high-level technical, cost, risk, and/or schedule performance measurements that senior leadership has deemed critical to project success and if not met indicative of a high probability of failure.  The Project Charter’s Pre-Approved Financial Resources identifies the starting point for project cost planning.

Other notable components of the Project Charter are the project purpose, high-level requirements, overall project risk, approval requirements, exit criteria, key stakeholder list, project managers authority and responsibility, as well as the name, responsibility, and signature of the person authorizing its existence.

The Stakeholder Register is the first formal project document.  It includes the key stakeholder list of key decision makers embedded within the Project Charter, as well as individuals, groups, or organizations whose support is necessary to successfully manage the project.

The creation of the Project Charter and Stakeholder Register completes the work required for the sponsor, project manager, and project management staff to transition from the Initiating Process Group into the Planning Process Group.  There are 24 processes in this Process Group.  10 of the processes in the Planning Process Group are focused on the development of the Project Management Plan and 10 of its 12 sub-plans.

The key to migrating through the Planning Process Group is utilizing the same approach identified in the Initiating Process Group.  Identifying the process deliverables that are necessary for the project team to transition into the Executing Process Group.

The Project Management Plan is the signature deliverable of the Planning Process Group.  This formal document contains 10 sub-plans from 9 of the Planning processes and 2 plans (Configuration and Change) from Organizational Process Assets origins.  The compilation of the sub-plans contain the guidance and direction that the project team will utilize and follow to execute, monitor and control, and close the project.

The creation and approval of the Project Management Plan is a watershed moment in the project’s life cycle.  Its mutually agreed upon status identifies the point in time where stakeholder influence begins to decrease because from that point forward all future changes to the plan are subject to the Perform Integrated Change Control process.

In addition to creating the Project Management Plan in the Planning Process Group, the project management staff commences the tedious work required to filter the Summary Level Scope of the Project Charter into agreed upon requirements (Requirements Documentation and Requirements Traceability Matrix), a detailed product description (Project Scope Statement), and ultimately the breakdown of the work into Work Packages (Work Breakdown Structure and Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary).

Scope management planning is the foundation for all project planning.  To that point, the Work Package, which is the lowest level of decomposition of the Work Breakdown Structure, is the unit that effective Cost, Schedule, Quality, Resources, Communications, Risks, Procurements, Stakeholder Engagement, and Integration planning are built upon.

Effective project management begins with reliable scope management planning.  When the project management staff succeeds at scope management planning the probability of succeeding with the remaining project planning increases significantly.

Conversely every miss in scope management planning, ripples through the remaining processes in the Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing Process Groups.  It’s like building a house on sand.  The old adage garbage in equals garbage out is still true.

The completion of the Scope Baseline, specifically the decomposition of the Work Breakdown Structure to the Work Package Level, triggers the execution of the remaining schedule management planning processes.

Decomposition, progressive elaboration, precedence and dependency determinations, duration estimating techniques are employed to logically define and lay out the activities required to complete the project’s work packages.

In addition to executing the schedule management planning processes the project team conducts simultaneous risk management planning, identifying the time-based reserves that are necessary to mitigate known resource uncertainties and quality management planning to determine the time requirements necessary to ensure that sufficient quality practices are implemented and maintained throughout the project’s life cycle.  The result of this tedious yet necessary work is the creation of a comprehensive Project Schedule and the approved Schedule Baseline.

The completion of the Schedule Baseline triggers the execution of the remaining cost management planning processes.  The project management staff develops estimates for each project activity, while factoring in the cost of quality (prevention and appraisal costs) and the cost of addressing Known and Unknown Risks (Contingency Reserve) in an effort to aggregate all activity costs, their associated contingency reserves, and a management reserve into a comprehensive Cost Baseline and Project Funding Requirements.

At this stage of planning, the creation of the approved and agreed upon Project Management Plan and the formal project documents listed below are the tangible evidence that the project management staff is fully prepared to transition the project into the Executing Process Group.

  • Requirements Documentation & Requirements Traceability Matrix (The root of Scope)
  • Project Scope Statement, Work Breakdown Structure, and Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary = Scope Baseline (The sum of the scope)
  • Activity List & Activity Attributes (The sum of the work and the amplifying information detailing the characteristics of the effort)
  • Milestone List (Key performance measurements)
  • Project Schedule Network Diagrams (The logical flow of the work)
  • Duration Estimates & Basis of Estimates (The predicted time required to complete an activity and the logic behind the prediction)
  • Schedule Baseline, Project Schedule, Schedule Data and Project Calendars (The approved version of the schedule model, the working model of the schedule model, and the document that identifies working days and shifts that are available to complete scheduled activities from the time periods that are not available to complete scheduled activities)
  • Cost Estimates and Basis of Estimates (The predicted cost to complete an activity and the logic behind the prediction)
  • Cost Baseline and Project Funding Requirements (The sum of all estimates plus the Contingency Cost Reserve and the Cost Baseline plus the Management Reserve)
  • Quality Metrics, Quality Reports, and Test and Evaluation Documents (The targets for quality measurements, the status of quality performance, and the documents utilized by QA and QC to ensure quality processes lead to quality outcomes)
  • Team Charter (the rules of acceptable team behavior and the definition of the project team’s core values)
  • Physical Resource Assignments, Resource Requirements, Basis of Estimates, Resource Breakdown Structure (The predicted physical and human resource requirements necessary to complete project activities, the logic behind the prediction, and the complete list of resources by category and type)
  • Risk Register & Risk Report (The list of identified Known Unknown Risks and the detailed that provides situational awareness of the status of the project team’s management of Known Unknown’s and Unknown Unknown Risks)
  • Stakeholder Register (The list of individuals, groups, and organizations that must be communicated with and in whose support is necessary to successfully manage the project)
  • Assumption Log (The list of individual or group beliefs that have not be substantiated by facts)
  • Change Log (The documentation of the status of change request from inception through close-out)
  • Lessons Learned Register (The documentation of project decisions that led to both success and failure)
  • Project Communications (Performance related artifacts required by stakeholders to ensure they have situational awareness of the project status)
  • Schedule Data and Schedule Forecasts (The schedule performance measures that are compared to the Schedule Baseline to assess previous schedule performance and predict future schedule performance)

The transition of the project into the Executing Process Group triggers the onboarding of the second and typically larger component of the project team, the project staff.  The project staff is responsible for executing the Project Management Plan that the project management staff created.  This can be a cause of conflict but is easily mitigated by including members of the project staff in the drafting of the Project Management Plan.

The importance of resource management in execution is reflected in the fact that 4 of the 10 processes within the Executing Process Group are related to their acquisition, procurement, development, and management.

The acquisition of resources is accomplished through internal assignment and external procurement.  The development of the project management team is critical to project success.  Project managers find themselves increasingly managing teams with colocated and virtual elements. In that vein the effective use of technology is necessary to meet the needs of the collective team.

The project manager’s proper application of interpersonal and team skills in the specific areas of responsible conflict management, negotiation, and team building typically correlates to higher performance, higher morale, less conflict, and less attrition.

The project manager that understands the importance of rewards and recognition does both throughout the project life cycle.  Training is used to add to, improve, and sustain employee competencies.

The project team and the individual team members are evaluated routinely against the Project Management Plan and the individual employment metrics for their role.   The team and individual employee metrics are used to develop Team Performance Assessments which permit the project manager to make appropriate performance management decisions by placing emphasis on improving the performance of team members, thereby improving the performance of the project team and project as a whole.

The project manager must ensure that the project team has the essentials it needs to succeed, that they understand the expectations for their performance and conduct, that they are routinely made aware of their performance as it relates to the plan, and most importantly that the development goal for the project team is to reach the performing stage in Tuckman’s Ladder.  A self-directed work force.

The study of organizational behaviorists such as Maslow, Vroom, Tuckman, Herzberg, McClelland, French/Raven, and McGregor are practical and necessary to understand principles of power, team development, conflict management, and motivation.

It is important to note that the concept of prevention is gaining momentum as a strategy for successful conflict management.  The forward-thinking project manager anticipates potential sources of conflict and works to establish the protocols, project culture, problem solving mechanisms, and reporting structures to ensure that all members of the team are treated fairly and respectfully.

Before the project manager can effectively leads the project team into the Executing Process Group it is imperative that he or she have a firm understanding of flow.  The three areas of flow are information, deliverable, and change requests.

In information flow, performance related data, is generated and captured as performance measurements.  This information is called Work Performance Data (WPD) and is an output of the main Executing Process, Direct and Manage Project Work.  The WPD is routed as an input to ten sub-control processes of the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group.

Within these 10 sub-control processes the WPD is compared to the planned scope, schedule, cost, quality, communications, risk, procurements, and stakeholder engagement baselines and plans.  The output of these processes is a text-based analysis of the variance from the planned value or expectation, explanation of the variance, identification of the variance as an anomaly or indicator of predictable performance that is either acceptable or unacceptable.  This analysis is called Work Performance Information (WPI).

The WPI from the 10 sub-control processes are inputs into the Monitor and Control Project Work process which is the first of the two major control processes of the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group.

The output of reviewing the collective analysis from each sub-control process is included in an integrated report which includes performance measurements, the variance from the plan, documented decisions that addressed the variance, the submission of necessary change requests, the assessment of performance related risk, and forecasts of future performance.  This report is called the Work Performance Report (WPR) and it is distributed to the following processes for situational awareness and subsequent action and feedback.

  • Perform Integrated Change Control
  • Manage Team
  • Manage Communications
  • Monitor Risks

The next area of flow is Deliverable Flow.  It too has its origin in the Direct and Manage Project Work Process.  The Deliverable is the major output of this process.  The Deliverable is routed to the Control Quality process where it is inspected by internal QC.  A QC pass moves the Deliverable into a Verified Deliverable status.

The Verified Deliverable is transported to the client site where it is received and processed through the Validate Scope Process.  In this process, the client’s QC inspects the Verified Deliverable and upon passing the QC inspection the Verified Deliverable shifts into an Accepted Deliverable status.

As the project team completes its project delivery schedule and the final Verified Deliverable is inspected and accepted by the client QC, and all deliveries have been reconciled, a status of Transitioned Deliverables has been obtained, and this is the main output of the Close Project or Phase process.

The last area of flow to consider is the flow of Change Requests.  A formal change request can result from 24 of the 49 PMBOK processes.  The Change Request is an input to the Perform Integrated Change Control Process.  It is the second major control process of the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group.

In this process, the change control entity assesses the merits of the change request as well as the impact assessment and identification of viable alternatives of the project manager and recommends or rejects the proposed change request and forwards for final client and sponsor approval.

The Approved Change Request is routed to its area of concern for appropriate action as in input to the Direct and Manage Project Work process.

To verify that an approved activity related Change Request has been implemented correctly, it is processed as an input into the Control Quality process.  In this process, the internal QC inspects the implementation to validate the effectiveness of the Approved Change Request.

It is paramount that the project manager fully understands his or her responsibility in change management.  It is three-fold.  One, identify the impact of the proposed change, two, prevent unnecessary change, and three, present any known and relevant alternative to the proposed change request to the change control entity.  All change related scenarios whether real or hypothetical must be addressed in this manner.

It is also important to note that preventing unnecessary change does not mean preventing a change request from going forward for consideration.  Project managers are not dictators.  Project managers prevent unnecessary change by the effective use of their project management expertise, industry knowledge, and when necessary through the application of expert judgment to present a logical analysis of why the change is not necessary.

With a foundation rooted in the proper understanding of flow the processes within the Executing Process Group are much easier to digest.

  • Direct and Manage Project Work (Managing the effort that produces project’s product, service, or result)
  • Manage Project Knowledge (Ensuring the tacit and illicit knowledge created when doing project work is captured, studied, applied, and archived)
  • Manage Quality (Ensuring that the project is complying to organizational quality standards, overseeing the Control Quality process, evaluating the business processes that produce the deliverable for continuous improvement, and performing root cause analysis to address non-conforming or defective parts)
  • Acquire Resources (the acquisition of internal resources)
  • Develop Team (Defining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the project team and developing a plan to address them)
  • Manage Team (Managing the emotions, competencies, behavior, in an effort to inspire the team to perform at an elevated level)
  • Manage Communications (Ensuing the right information is created, distributed, collected, and archived for retrieval)
  • Implement Risk Responses (Employing risk responses, contingency plans, and work arounds when a Known Unknown or Unknown Unknown Risk triggers)
  • Conduct Procurements (The process of identifying vendors and awarding contracts with an emphasis on establishing long term sustainable relationships)
  • Manage Stakeholder Engagement (Meeting the needs and expectations of stakeholders by addressing their issues and fostering an environment of inclusion and trust)

The project team will spend the balance of the project life cycle operating within the Executing and Monitoring and Controlling feedback loop.  The ability to grasp flow makes it easier to grasp the transitions between the Execution and Monitoring and Controlling Process Groups.

As mentioned earlier in the flow of deliverables the receipt, acceptance, and confirmation that all deliverables have been delivered to and accepted by the client is the appropriate signal that the project team is operating within the Close Project or Phase process of the Closing Process Group.

The following project manager skills are on display in the Closing Project or Phase process:

  • Archiving practices and statutes
  • Compliance (statute/organization)
  • Contract closure requirements
  • Close-out procedures
  • Feedback techniques
  • Performance measurement techniques (KPI and key success factors)
  • Project review techniques
  • Transition planning techniques

In a nutshell, the project team confirms the completion of the delivery schedule, verifies all payments have been received, requests a close-out meeting with the client, and receives formal written notice that all terms and conditions have been met.

Internally the project manager ensures that all final awards and recognitions are complete, performance assessments completed, lessons learned finalized, formal project documents archived and resources are released.

If you have arrived at the end of this document my hope is that you have a better understanding of how to apply the PMBOK 6th edition for both exam purposes and the successful management of your project.

Stacy Lamar King – The PMP Whisperer

One thought on “Cracking the PMBOK Code 6th Edition

  1. Really great breakdown of the project management flow as it relates to the 6th edition. Great reading and thanks for the simplification.


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