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3 limitations of PMBOK and how to overcome them

J Jameson
January 19, 2022

Project management has been an integral part of business practices for decades. One method many project managed organisations have adopted is based on the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

The frameworks, practices, and concepts presented in the PMBOK are proven to be effective and are constantly changing with the times. It offers updated practices that take into account the latest technological trends and approaches, such as Agile, in order to be more applicable to operations being done today.

Though PMBOK is a popular approach, it still has drawbacks that project practitioners should be aware of. Here are some common limitations and how to overcome them.

Problem: Generic framework

The most common drawback that many people notice when using the PMBOK method is the fact that the processes and frameworks being offered are generic. This does not mean that they are not effective. However, because they are designed to be applicable to multiple organisations, they tend to come off as too general and not specific enough for certain businesses or industries. This may cause some unforeseen problems during project planning or implementation.

Secondly, the PMBOK method assumes that those using the framework are doing so for a large-scale project. While it is best to use the method for such tasks, small projects are still as important. The principles and frameworks of PMBOK are geared towards simplifying the process of big projects, making it more resource-consuming for smaller-scale tasks.

Solution: Adapt the framework

The first thing PMOs can do to properly utilise the PMBOK method is to follow the important steps in the framework, and adapt it to better fit your project, resources, and mode of operation. In his book Making Things Happen, author Scott Berkun highlights that constraints allow you to change your method and deviate from the norm. This will help create a more tailored process for fit your team.

For example, instead of following the set schedule aspects that the framework prescribes, create new markers for employees to follow that are better suited to the task at hand. This will be able to show true progress in terms of how the project is going.

Problem: PMBOK does not reward creativity

Because PMBOK is generic by design it focuses on efficiency and effectiveness but also assumes that most users will stick to the prescribed process given. This means that if employees were to deviate from the plan, it may cause problems for everyone around them as the framework is best used when it is followed perfectly.

Solution: Build creativity in

Creativity is another important aspect that can help you overcome any limitations that the PMBOK method presents. According to Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of Stanford University’s The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and curator of Creative Acts for Curious People, becoming more innovative is essential for organisations to be able to keep up with the ever-changing landscape and ongoing developments.

While the PMBOK does not reward creativity because of its dominantly rigid structure, you can always find ways to innovate the process to make it more seamless for you and your team.

Problem: PMBOK values efficiency over communication

Communication is important when running an organisation, but it is even more so when implementing a project.
The PMBOK method relies on efficiency and productivity, which may leave less room for communication.

Solution: Actively include communication steps

It is important to actively incorporate the communication aspect when utilising the framework. This can make the flow of work easier and create more opportunities to adapt the method to your operation.

The PMBOK method has proven itself to be effective time and time again. Despite its limitations, it is still one of the best frameworks out there. Use these tips to overcome the challenges you may face when implementing PMBOK on your next project.

Author avatar
J Jameson
J Jameson worked in the corporate world as an accounts manager before following her passion to become a writer. Now she likes to share the knowledge she gained from her old profession through her new one.
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