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Analyzing the PMBOK through Theoretical Lenses

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Analyzing the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Through Theoretical Lenses: A Study to Enhance the PMBOK Through the Project Management Theories

Dr. Ahmed Taha Abd Elhameed

Cairo, Egypt

Abstract

 



Project management is accepted as a young discipline from an academic point of view, especially when compared with other areas such as economic and strategic management. Project Management Institute first developed a guidebook in 1996, called A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The guidebook used a systems approach to describe the methods and processes needed to generate the required output within the agreed time, cost, and quality standard. The guidebook, as a practical project management framework, lacks a clear and direct relationship with the schools of thought related to the field. This case study qualitative research used the concepts of five schools of thought (queuing theory, temporary organization theory, leadership theory, resource-based view of the firm theory, and knowledge flow theory) in search of a relationship between the guidebook and the theoretical side of the science. This research identified 32 weak points in the guidebook and recommends solutions to overcome these weak points based on the concepts of the five theoretical schools of thought. These solutions act as a link between the guidebook, as a practical framework, and the five theories, as a theoretical framework. The proposed modifications to the guidebook will enhance the selection of the project manager, the selection of the project team, the power and authority of the project manager, will build a more solid project structure for usage of the learned principles, and will support the organization to better use the project management science to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.

Key words: project management, PMBOK, project management theories, leadership theory, knowledge flow theory, resource based view, temporary organization, queuing theory.

Introduction

Project management is accepted as a young discipline from an academic point of view, especially when compared with other areas such as economic, strategic management and organizational theory (Leybourne, 2007). Projects are different from standard organization processes. In many cases, projects are performed beyond the normal hierarchical lines of authority in the organization, so they require special skills such as leadership, communication, and conflict management (Hanisch & Wald, 2011). One of the most important issues in the project management profession is the development of the solid and explicit theoretical bases for the project management field (Gauthier & Ika, 2012). As a result of the work in the theory development, there are seven schools of thought related to project management field: action in project, neo-institutional, queuing, knowledge flow, temporary organization, leadership, and resource based (Carden & Egan, 2008).

The PMBOK is a standard that provides the required guidelines to successfully manage a single project (Kerzner, 2009) by describing the methods and processes needed to successfully generate the required output within the agreed time, cost, and quality standard (PMI, 2012). Starting from its first edition until current, the PMBOK provides the knowledge considered to be unique to the project management field, not the complete knowledge necessary to successfully manage a project. This causes weak points in the PMBOK as the book considers all the missing knowledge as prerequisites that should exist before and during the project (Morris, 2013).

Although the PMBOK (as a practical project management framework) is rich and helpful, there are many projects that fail to meet their objectives. According to the PMI pulse of profession report (2015), about 40% of projects failed to achieve the targeted objectives. Over the past four years (2012-2015), many of the findings about how well the organizations are delivering their strategic initiative have remained unchanged (PMI, 2015).The problem appears to not be the tools or application, nor the lack of process. The problem seems to be deeper (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007). According to Lalonde, Bourgault, and Findeli (2010) the relation between the theoretical side and the practical side of the project management field can have four types of relationship:

  1. Practice as heuristic, characterized by practice with no associated scientific field.
  2. Practices supported by perspective models focus on project management processes and its logical structure.
  3. Practices supported by descriptive models focus on human side of the project.
  4. Reflective practice and situated theorization challenges the criteria of both the relevance and rigor in project management.

The problem this research sought to address was the lack of a direct and clear relationship (connection) between the PMBOK and five schools of thought related to the project management field: queuing theory, knowledge flow theory, temporary organization theory, leadership theory, and resource based view of the firm theory (RBV) (Carden & Egan, 2008). This research used the concepts of the five schools of thought in searching for a relationship between the PMBOK and these five schools of thought to propose a solution to the weak points in the PMBOK.

This research tried to determine the weak points in the PMBOK and suggests a group of ideas to enhance and improve these weak points based on the concepts of the five schools of thought. These ideas act as the link (connection) between the PMBOK (as a practical framework) and the five schools of thought (as a theoretical framework). For example, the leadership theory focus on the transformational and transactional leadership skills while there is nothing related to these concepts in the PMBOK. Also, the PMBOK does not contain a proper information related to concepts of knowledge flow theory.

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About the Author


Dr. Ahmed Taha Abd Elhameed

Cairo, Egypt

 



Dr. Ahmed Taha
, PhD, PMP, PMI-RMP, ITIL, CBAP, PMOC, PRINCE 2 is project management lecturer and consultant, he has more than 19 years of experience in the field of information technology. He has more than 9 years of experience as a lecturer and consultant in project management, business analysis and risk management.

In April 2017, Ahmed was awarded his PhD in project management from Swiss Management Center University SMC, his dissertation title: ” Analyzing the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Through Theoretical Lenses: A Study to Enhance the PMBOK Through the Project Management Theories”.

In 2005 he was awarded a Diploma in project management from Cambridge University; in 2006 he was awarded PMP certificate,\; in 2009 he was certified ITIL v3 foundation level; in 2010 he certified PMOC from allPMO; in 2010 he certified PMI-RMP from PMI; in 2013 he was awarded CBAP certification from IIBA; and in 2016 he gained PRINCE2 foundation level certification.

In 1996 he graduated from Ain shams university, Faculty of engineering, communication and electronics dept. In 1997 he was awarded a diploma in software development from Information Technology Institute, in May 2000 he had a master degree in network management using artificial intelligent mobile agent to manage TCPIP-based network. In 2008 he received his MBA degree specialized in International Business, from Ecole Supérieure Libre des Sciences Commerciales Appliquéesis (ESLSCA Group), France.

Dr. Ahmed worked as a volunteer with PMI MENA Chapter from 2008 till 2013, he was a board member of PMI MENA Chapter and the Program Director of the Chapter till July 2013; he was the PMIEF Liaison with PMI MENA Chapter from April 2012 till July 2013. He was a speaker in Hand-in-Hand 2012 event organized by PMI MENA Chapter and talked about how to use project management to enhance the performance of the NGOs.

Dr Taha can be contacted at [email protected]