Why Creating Value Comes Before Creating a Great Product: Lessons from PMBOK® Guide 7th edition

Ricardo Viana Vargas
4 min readAug 25, 2021

Imagine that someone assigned you as a team leader to deliver an outcome, let’s say, build a new computer. How can you align with your customer’s vision, needs, and expectations to deliver this outcome successfully? Your job is to deliver the outcomes your client requested and create value for your customers, your organization, and yourself.

It is not an easy task.

No matter the delivery approach you use, projects are the key driver to deliver value in any organization. If we go back to the example of the computer, enormous uncertainty is built in this effort. We do not know all the constraints, and we cannot produce this as a “closed box” or in isolation of the larger ecosystem.

Change is given, but how do we respond to it?

Unfortunately, there is no way we can have a fixed approach to deliver any kind of project. It does not matter if you use predictive, adaptative, etc. There is no predefined solution that can solve all the challenges.

This new approach to see and handle projects is the central theme of the newly released PMBOK® Guide 7th edition by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Project Management is a strategic discipline. And, in a rapidly-shifting world, project leaders must navigate the complexity and ambiguity while actively managing risk.

Delivering value must be at the heart of every choice we make and the process we follow. And this is the heart of the new edition.

Are we building the right product or building the product, right?

Let me share my experience at the Brightline Initiative, where we aimed to bridge the gap between how CXOs think about strategy and its execution. We needed to think about long and hard benefits or the value we are creating.

This is a mindset beyond understanding how many bricks we need or how many trucks of cement we should procure.

We need to think about people and how they can put in place a strategic direction in global organizations. What are the challenges and the gaps? Why is there so much waste created when we think about running businesses? And guess what, all these requirements are changing every single minute!

What we want at the end is to make something that delivers value to that society and context. It went beyond thinking about the time, cost, and quality triangle that we have traditionally used.

I am not saying that time, cost, and quality are not relevant. I am just saying that they are not enough!

Changes in the PMBOK® Guide 6th edition over the 7th one

Principles replace processes

We saw that the previous editions of PMBOK Guide all produced a refinement of the same process-based approach. In this version, PMI decided to think about Principles that can be applied irrespective of whatever process or method you apply for managing projects.

The PMBOK® Guide 7th edition does not eliminate the concepts of the 6th edition, so you can use all the 49 processes as your delivery method because they are fully compatible with the new 7th edition.

So it is like an umbrella that you can use over Scrum, Kanban, Disciplined Agile, or whatever you decide to use as a delivery method. It doesn’t matter if you are using the Spotify model, agile methods, or a predictive or waterfall method. All the principles that will overarch your decisions while managing the project. Some key principles are

1) Stewardship: the act of caring and taking care of others. This principle is the aspect where we think and talk about the right thing to do. In our computer example, this may mean figuring out how the new computer will respect the privacy and security of the users.

2) Collaboration: building a culture where accountability is created, where team members respect each other, the process, and the outcomes. Taking our example, making a computer is a complex undertaking that needs humans to collaborate among themselves and with machines.

3) Stakeholders: It is often perceived that project managers are in the basement and the executives are on the top floor, who just throw something in the basement to be delivered. At the same time, your client just wants the product. It becomes your job to ensure that the stakeholders are engaged and working proactively to support the project outcomes.

Performance Domains replace Knowledge Areas

How do we use these principles in practice? PMBOK® Guide 7th edition talks about performance domains. The performance domains are things you must act on to fulfill the principles you are aiming to achieve. They are all executed simultaneously.

The eight performance domains are stakeholder, Team, Development Approach and Life Cycle, Planning, Project Work, Delivery, Measurement, Uncertainty.

Tailoring your approach, being Adaptable and Navigating complexity

So here are the main things you can take back from the revisions in PMBOK® Guide, and I find them extremely useful.

The key thing to understand is the connections among a whole ecosystem inside and outside your organization. Maybe one piece outside can directly affect your work in the project. You are not functioning in an isolated system.

The ability to embrace adaptability and resilience is the primary muscle to build. If you can adapt, it doesn’t matter how the process will look in the future, I am sure you will be capable of adapting yourself and your outcomes.

Be driven by principles, add value to achieve the right outcomes, and success will be yours!



Ricardo Viana Vargas

Passionate about transforming ideas into action ◆Principal — Macrosolutions ◆ Board Member ◆ Author ◆ Venture Capitalist #projectmanagement #transformation