8 Project Performance Domains

Project Performance Domains were introduced by PMI in the PMBOK Guide — Seventh Edition.

There are 8 of them.

What exactly are Project Performance Domains? Do you need to know about them for the PMP exam?

We’ll cover those questions and more in this article.

What Are Project Performance Domains?

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide’s Seventh Edition identifies and describes in detail 8 Project Performance Domains.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), these domains form an “integrated system and enable successful completion of a project.”

Each domain is made up of related activities that PMI says are critical for successful project outcomes. The activities within domains overlap throughout the course of the project, as opposed to being performed linearly.

Project Performance Domains are a new concept in the seventh edition of the PMBOK Guide, effectively replacing the 10 Knowledge Areas that were such a key part of the PMBOK — Sixth Edition.

What Aren’t Project Performance Domains?

We’ve identified what the Project Performance Domains are, but it’s worth noting what they are not.

Don’t confuse the 8 Project Performance Domains discussed in the PMBOK Guide with the 3 Domains that make up the PMP exam’s actual content.

PMI detailed 3 Domains on it’s 2021 update of the Exam Content Outline (ECO), and given that they were called “domains,” many folks got them mixed up with the project performance domains.

Don’t make that mistake, or you’ll be caught off guard once you get into the exam.

What Are The 8 Project Performance Domains?

The 8 Project Performance Domains, according to the PMBOK Guide, are:

1. Stakeholders.
2. Team.
3. Development Approach and Life Cycle.
4. Planning.
5. Project Work.
6. Delivery.
7. Measurement.
8. Uncertainty.

While the domains are presented in this order, they are not weighted or intended to be listed hierarchically.

They are also not absolute. The exact activities within each domain may very well differ from project to project, with some activities proving irrelevant in some project situations.

Let’s take a closer look at each domain:

1. Stakeholder Performance Domain

This one is pretty straightforward: The Stakeholder Performance Domain includes all activities related to your project stakeholders.

As you can imagine, the actions that make up this domain are performed throughout the project, from initiation to closing.

Engaging stakeholders is something a project manager must do consistently over the course of a project. That includes everything from the tasks required during initiating and planning, to communicating with stakeholders and providing up dates while the project is underway, to receiving final approval of the project’s deliverables, and requesting feedback once the project is closed.

2. Team Performance Domain

The Team Performance Domain is made up of all the activities and functions associated with the project team — i.e., the individuals who will actually be producing the project deliverable.

Executing the tasks within this domain should result in:

  • Shared ownership of the project and its deliverables.
  • A high-functioning team that performs well.
  • A team that clicks on interpersonal levels and takes on leadership roles where required.

Studying this particular performance domain will help you with the PMP exam, sure, but it will also help significantly in performing real-world project management tasks.

Frankly, the core principles of the Team Performance Domain are often overlooked by young PMs, to the detriment of their projects and their career growth. Take the time to soak in the concepts the PMBOK Guide puts forth on team performance so you can begin building a solid foundation for being an effective leader and project manager.

This domain covers topics such as conflict resolution, motivating others, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and other leadership skills that can set apart highly successful project managers.

Just remember that managing and being a leader to your project teams is like all other aspect of project management — you should tailor your approach to the project and to your team members. One size does not fit all!

3. Development Approach and Life Cycle Performance Domain

The Development Approach and Life Cycle Performance Domain is specific to the decisions you’ll make, as project manager, related to project methodology and cadence of project development and delivery.

Tailoring plays a big role here, as it does in many aspects of project management.

The development approach you choose, for example, should be tailored to the project requirements and to the project team.

This performance domain delves into different types of development approaches — such as predictive, hybrid, and adaptive — as well as some methods for selecting the appropriate one for your projects.

4. Planning Performance Domain

Planning is one of PMI’s original 5 Process Groups, and it is of critical importance to every project.

  • RELATED: Importance of the Planning Process Group in Project Management

  • Study the PMBOK Guide’s pages on this performance domain to gain a solid understanding of all relevant planning tasks and skills you’ll need in project management.

    Make sure you have this one down before you take the PMP exam, as it will likely come up quite a bit.

    Among the takeaways from this performance domain are:

    • Planning is not only performed at the beginning of a project. The tasks in the Planning Performance Domain also include the ongoing — and oftentimes evolving — organization and coordination required to successfully deliver on a project’s goals.
    • Spend sufficient time on planning to whatever extent the project requires. Some projects just might simply require less actual planning than others; just make sure you’ve accounted for all that you need to within this performance domain.
    • Get signoff from the project sponsor and stakeholders! Your plans may very well be useless if they are not approved and understood by all those who have a stake in the project’s outcome.
    • Plan for change. That is, make sure you’ve established and received signoff for a process that allows you to change and update plans along the way. Projects do evolve; you can plan on it!

    5. Project Work Performance Domain

    The Project Work Performance Domain is concerned with the actual project work that will be performed and everything associated with the performance of that work.

    In this domain, you will be establishing appropriate project processes, managing any physical resources or procurements needed (think vendors, third-party resources, equipment), communicating with stakeholders in an appropriate and effective way, and generally aiming for effective performance on the project.

    Depending on the field in which you manage projects, you may not actually be handling procurements and managing physical resources, but we can almost guarantee that those needs will arise at some point in your career.

    And if nothing else, they will arise on the PMP exam!

    Among the key functions identified in this performance domain is the need for ongoing evaluation of project processes. Again, tailoring is important here — don’t just automatically rinse and repeat when it comes to project processes. Review processes with your team periodically throughout your project, and especially during each project post-mortem or retrospective meeting, and discuss any adjustments that might be needed.

    Larger projects will likely have more processes to evaluate, but everything from production methods to vendor and funding reviews.

    6. Delivery Performance Domain

    The Delivery Performance Domain is all about delivering exactly what the project was intended to produce.

    Making sure the project delivers on the required scope and quality is a key element of this performance domain. If the project doesn’t actually result in the business objectives and outcomes it was undertaken to produce, then the project cannot be a success.

    In order for that to happen, you, as project manager, must ensure everyone on the project team understands the project’s requirements and their role in delivering on those requirements.

    This domain touches on topics such as scope creep, gold-plating, and signoff of project deliverables. Make sure you’re familiar with all of it.

    7. Measurement Performance Domain

    The Measurement Performance Domain includes everything you’ll need to do to assess project performance, as well as any actions you might need to take to maintain an acceptable level of performance.

    If you’re performing the tasks within this domain properly, you will:

    • Possess a thorough understanding of project status at any given time.
    • Collect and remain familiar with any data needed to help make decisions throughout the project.
    • Act swiftly and appropriately when necessary to maintain project performance.
    • Use data to make informed decisions that help your project achieve its goals.

    This domain gets into varying measurement tools and metrics, delving into KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), schedule performance, cost variance and performance, and business value.

    The Measurement Performance Domain is also where you’ll dig into the essential forecasting methods that will help you produce useful and accurate estimates, as well as presenting that information.

    There’s no sugar-coating it: this domain gets into the weeds with formulas and metrics. And you definitely should get familiar with it all.

    8. Uncertainty Performance Domain

    The Uncertainty Performance Domain zeroes in on risk.

    Specifically, this domain addresses tasks a project manager can perform and key on in attempt to be proactive about uncertainty in a project.

    This includes seeking out and attempting to identify risks, creating contingency plans and risk responses, and looking out for opportunities that may arise.

    Risk management remains an important part of project management and the PMBOK Guide.

  • RELATED: 9 Risk Management Tips for Project Managers

  • Project Performance Domains and the PMP Exam

    By now, you already know that you absolutely need to be familiar with the Project Performance Domains before taking the PMP exam.

    The tasks and functions within each performance domain make up a significant portion of the PMBOK Guide — Seventh Edition. More than 100 pages, in fact!

    That alone should tell you all you need to know about the importance of those domains for the exam.

    In many ways, these performance domains are where you should spend the bulk of your study time for the exam, as the topics discussed in each section comprise a large percentage of what you’ll encounter on the exam.