PMBOK #5 standardises its approach to planning

The PMBOK® Guide has always been designed for large projects, and assumes intelligent project teams will scale back the processes appropriately for smaller projects. The 5th Edition keeps this focus and introduces a standard process to ‘plan the planning’ at the start of each knowledge area. This concept has been embedded in earlier editions of the PMBOK, it’s made explicit in the 5th Edition.

Why plan the planning?

As a starting point, on larger projects there will be a significant team of experts involved in developing various aspects of the project plan, on $ multi-billion project frequently more than 100 people so their work needs planning and controlling the same as any other aspect of the project. With a budget of several $ millions and the success of the rest of the project dependent on the quality of the project planning this is important work.

But planning the planning and developing an effective strategy for the accomplishment of the project’s objectives is critically important on every project. If you simply do what you’ve always done there is very little likelihood of improvement. Spend a little time overtly thinking about what needs to be done to first develop the best project plan and then to manage the project effectively can pay huge dividends.

The overriding consideration in developing the plan is Juran’s quality principle of ‘fit for purpose’ you need a plan that is useful and usable that has been developed for the lowest expenditure of time and effort.


To facilitate this, the PMBOK now has process to ‘plan the management’ of: Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communication, Risk, Procurement and Stakeholders. These planning processes develop outputs that are integrated within the overall project management plan and describe how each of the specialist areas will be managed. The management plans include the policies, procedures and documentation required for the planning, developing, managing and controlling of each discipline.

Less well developed are two key aspects that can contribute significantly to project success:

  • Within the ‘PMBOK’ there is a real need to coordinate and integrate different aspects of the planning. Decisions in one area frequently impose constraints on other disciplines and managing these constraints across multiple sub-teams is vital if the objective of a coordinated and integrated project plan is to be achieved. The project core team need to set parameters for the specialists to work within, possibly at a ‘planning kick-off meeting’ and then manage issues as they arise.
  • On a more general level, and applicable to projects of all sizes, there is a need to formulate the project delivery strategy before any realistic planning is possible. Answering the question ‘what’s the best way to achieve our objectives?’ frames the project planning and later the delivery. In software development choosing ‘agile’ over ‘waterfall’ as the delivery strategy changes everything else (for more on managing Agile see: Thoughts on Agile). The project objective of functioning software can be achieved either way, which strategy is best depends on the specific circumstances of the project (See our earlier post on project delivery strategy)

Certainly asking the team to think about what is needed to optimally plan, develop and deliver each knowledge area, will contribute to project success. Maybe the 6th Edition will take the integration of these processes forward.

See our other posts on the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition.

To buy a copy in Australia see:

3 responses to “PMBOK #5 standardises its approach to planning

  1. Linda, the “bathtub” or “optimization curve” you illustrate applies not only to QUALITY but to schedule (time) and costs as well….

    We all know that it takes on average, 266 days to produce a healthy, full term baby. And we know the average is between 37-42 weeks. We also know that any earlier than 37 weeks and the health of the baby deteriorates and that after 42 weeks, both the baby and mother are at risk. So how is this any different for other “projects” besides creating babies?

    There is an OPTIMUM time to do ANYTHING and with that, there is an optimum cost. And if “project sponsors” want to deviate from these optimums, they need to know in advance what the impacts (risks) are to time, cost and quality for violating these optimums.

    This should be one of the fundamental underlying concepts which PMI should be advocating for. One of the reasons so many projects “fail” is because “management” (be they our bosses or clients) do not fully appreciate the impacts, not only on quality but on time and costs for trying to deliver projects “faster-better-cheaper.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

    • The point in discussion is the quality of the Project Plan, the project plan includes the schedule, the cost plan, risk, quality and all of the other components discussed in the PMBOK or any other BoK.

  2. Pingback: PMBOK 5th edition changes « Blog by WittyCharm

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