The Holes in your PMBOK Guide

9 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

Errors and discrepancies in the PMBOK Guide

The PMBOK Guide is the bible for the PMP exam. But is it really perfect? Many project management experts have done research on this subject and highlighted issues, both from practical and academic perspective, with every edition of the Guide. I’m not an expert by any means, and see myself more as an avid student of the subject. In this post, I’m highlighting some of the potential issues in the PMBOK Guide®, 4th Edition (the Guide).

This post is rather unusual in the sense that I’m not providing you the ‘answers’. Instead, I’m posting the questions and seeking answers from you. These questions have been collected over the past 3 years, and many of them were sent to me by PMP and CAPM aspirants from around the globe.

Is PMBOK Guide Perfect?

Challenging a holy book could be regarded as blasphemous. So, I would be cautious so as to not call these points as errors, anomalies or holes (the title was just meant to catch your attention). It is quite possible that I’m not experienced or knowledgeable enough to understand the Guide properly. So instead of saying that the Guide is imperfect or flawed, I would like to say that there are aspects of the Guide that I’m not able to comprehend.

But you may ask, “PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition is just around the corner? So why harp on edition 4 now?”. Honestly, I agree with you. This post is overdue by at least 2 years. I wanted to do it sometime in 2010, but never got around to it until today. But as they say, better late than never. So here I am, posting a list of potential inconsistencies, if I may call them, that I’ve observed in the Guide.

The list is divided into 2 sections - Questions and Issues. The list is neither comprehensive nor in any particular order. In fact, it barely scratches the surface. I highly encourage you to continue to build upon this list. It would be interesting to refer back to this list when the PMBOK Guide®, 5th Edition is released.

NOTE: I’ve created a new discussion for each of the questions listed below, on PM Hangout. Please use the corresponding “Discuss Here” links for further discussion. If you have general comments about this post, you can post them in the Comments section below.


  1. Why are Change Requests an output of Plan Procurements (Planning process)? Usually Change Requests are outputs of Executing or Monitoring and Controlling processes. Plan Procurements is the only Planning process that has Change Requests as an output. Discuss Here Ref: Figure 12-2, Page 317

  2. The Guide defines:
    Validation: The assurance that a product, service, or system meets the needs of the customer and other identified stakeholders. It often involves acceptance and suitability with external customers. Contrast with verification. Verification: The evaluation of whether or not a product, service, or system complies with a regulation, requirement, specification, or imposed condition. It is often an internal process. Contrast with validation. Verify Scope [Process]: The process of formalizing acceptance of the completed project deliverables.

    Verify Scope involves obtaining 'acceptance' of completed project deliverables from the customers. Doesn't it align more with the definition of 'Validation'. If yes, shouldn't Verify Scope be called 'Validate Scope'? Discuss Here Ref: Glossary, Page 452

  3. Work Performance Information (WPI) is an output of Direct and Manage Project Execution (Executing process), and an input to most Monitoring and Controlling processes (like Perform Integrated Change Control, Control Scope, Control Schedule, Control Cost, Report Performance, Monitor and Control Risks, Administer Procurements). But WPI is an input to Perform Quality Assurance (Executing process) and not to Perform Quality Control (Monitoring and Controlling process). Why? Discuss Here Ref: Figure 8-8, Page 202; Figure 8-10, Page 206

  4. Why does Plan Quality not update other components of the Project Management Plan? In other words, why are Project Management Plan Updates not an output of Plan Quality? What if we need to add new activities to the project for Quality management? What if we need additional budget for quality activities? Discuss Here Ref: Figure 8-2, Page 192

  5. Why are Organizational Process Assets (OPAs) and Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEFs) explicitly listed as inputs to some processes and not to others? For example, OPAs are listed as input to Define Activities, but not to Collect Requirements. Discuss Here Ref: Figure 5-2, Page 105; Figure 6-3, Page 133;

  6. Why are Schedule Management Plan and Cost Management Plan not explicitly listed as outputs of any process, but are listed as inputs to various processes (such as Plan Risk Management)? Discuss Here Ref: Figure 11-2, Page 277

  7. Why are Knowledge Areas (instead of Processes) shown as input sources in some Data Flow Diagrams? This is related to the previous point. For example, Figure 11-3 Plan Risk Management Data Flow Diagram shows Project Time Management and Project Cost Management as inputs to Plan Risk Management, with Scope Management Plan and Schedule Management Plan respectively as specific inputs. Discuss Here Ref: Figure 11-3, Page 277

  8. The Guide says:
    Report Performance is the process of collecting and distributing performance information, including status reports, progress measurements, and forecasts.

    If Report Performance information is the process of "distributing" performance information, then what is the purpose of Distribute Information process? It is noteworthy that Performance Reports, which are an output of Report Performance, are an input to Distribute Information. Discuss Here Ref: Section 10.5, Page 266

  9. Why are Manage Project Team and Manage Stakeholder Expectations Executing processes and not Monitoring and Controlling processes? Discuss Here Ref: Section 3.5.5, Page 58; Section 3.5.7, Page 59

  10. Why are Manage Project Team and Manage Stakeholder Expectations Executing processes and not Monitoring and Controlling processes? Discuss Here Ref: Section 3.5.5, Page 58; Section 3.5.7, Page 59

  11. PMBOK Guide, 4th Edition mentions a term called "Baseline Schedule". It is listed on page 182 and 341. It is also mentioned as an item in the index. So, what is a Baseline Schedule? What is the difference between Baseline Schedule and Schedule Baseline? Discuss Here (Added on May 23, 2012) Ref: Section 12.3.3, Page 341


  1. Assumption Log is listed as a project document in Appendix A, but is not mentioned anywhere else in the Guide. Ref: Table A1, Page 350

  2. Contract is not listed as an output of Conduct Procurements (Figure 12-4), but depicted as an output from this process and an input to Administer Procurements in Figure 12-5 Conduct Procurements Data Flow Diagram. The output of Conduct Procurements is mentioned as Procurement Contract Award. Ref: Figure 12-4 and 12-5, Page 329

  3. The naming of inputs and outputs seems inconsistent (or rather confusing) in some cases. While they are "not" illogical, it makes it hard to understand the flow of input and outputs. For example:
    • Change Request Status Updates (an output of Perform Integrated Change Control) become Approved Change Requests when they flow into Perform Quality Control. Ref: Figure 4-11, Page 96; Figure 8-11, Page 207

    • Similarly, Procurement Contract Award becomes Contract (as mentioned in the previous point). Ref: Figure 12-4 and 12-5, Page 329
  4. The process group diagrams (such as Figure 3-8 Planning Process Group) show bidirectional data flow among processes. But the individual process data flow diagrams (such as Figure 6-4 Define Activities Data Flow Diagram) show unidirectional data flow. Ref: Figure 3-8, Page 47; Figure 6-4, Page 133

  5. Project Management Plan Updates from Plan Risk Responses (11.5) are not shown as an input to Develop Project Management Plan in Figure 4-5 Develop Project Management Plan. This is a BIG miss as Plan Risk Responses can result in significant changes in the Project Management Plan. Ref: Figure 4-5, Page 79

  6. Issue Log is an input to Manage Stakeholder Expectations and a tool/technique for Manage Project Team. This is confusing because this is the only case where an input/output is also a tool/technique. Ref: Figure 9-1, Page 217; Figure 9-11, Page 236

  7. Contradiction - On page 190, Six Sigma is listed as one of the non-proprietary methodologies, but on page 199, it is listed as a proprietary methodology. (Added on Nov 11, 2012) Ref: Page 190 and 199

Image credit: Flickr / stuartpilbrow

Leave a Comment



Missing Avatar

I agree with you that there are several missing links in PMBOK4. Many of your questions/ issues are relevant and I believe PMI is addressing them in PMBOK5.

I just would like to put my view on some of them.

Question 3: WPI is an input to Perform QA and not to Perform QC? I believe this is the right approach. Depending on the WPI, you could make changes to your procedures/ manuals which is part of QA. QC is purely measurement of finished products and any input from WPI is not going to help. But, outputs from QC should go to QA for further improvement.

Issue 3: We send a Change request to Perform Integrated Change Control and the result is either it is approved or rejected. So, the output is Change Request Status Updates. We cannot have the output as "Approved Change Requests" because we may also have "Rejected Change Requests". But, to all other processes, like execution or quality control, the input should be only "approved change requests". I think this is logical.

Missing Avatar

Hello Harwinder,

Well, I'm not sure to post my comment in the appropriate section of the blog, even if we can find connections… Feel free to move my post if needed.

Because the PMBOK is not perfect (this is the feeling I had while preparing the PMP exam), the value of external sources is even more important. You're blog has been for me a great assistant where I could find explanations not seen anywhere else.

I have passed the PMP certification, in Paris, last month and I just wanted to say "thanks" for all the work you have been doing through this site. For sure, I will stay tuned.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Manick,

Thanks for your response. I appreciate it, and I'll appreciate it even more if you post it on the forum so that it's easier to debate each point in a separate thread.

Can you repost your comments on the forum? I'll also move my comments to the forum after yours.

On Question 3: I'm not entirely convinced. Work Performance Information (WPI) is the "raw" performance data and Work Performance Measurements (WPM) are the processed data. If QC was "purely measurement" (as you put it), then why would it be called Quality "Control"? Even if I buy the logic that "QC is purely measurement", then what sense does it make to have WPMs as inputs to QC? I would think that WPM should be an output of QC and an input to QA. QA is an umbrella for continuous process improvement, and such improvements are brought about baed upon WPMs (not WPI - raw data).

Let's take it up further on the forum.

On Issue 3: I agree with you that the first part is quite logical, and that's why I said in the post that it's "not" illogical. My concern was that if look at the data flow diagram for PICC process, it shows Change Request Status Updates as an output of that process and as an input to PQC. There's no mention of "Approved Change Requests" on that diagram. You have to look at the PQC Data Flow diagram to get the complete picture. So I'm suggesting that there's a need to make it more obvious. But I could be nit-picking here.

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

Best regards.

Harwinder Singh Avatar

Hello Christian,

This is a very good observation. I agree with you 100% that this is confusing. I'll update the above blog post and add this point.

In fact, this was brought to my notice several months ago by a BrainBOK subscriber. I had to make special change in the BrainBOK ITTO explorer to handle this exception. However, I forgot to capture it in the above blog post.

Thank you for highlighting this.

Best regards.