What does tailoring refer to in the new PMBOK Guide? PGR5

Well, it has been roughly two weeks since the new PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition is out and the online community is flooded with posts on this topic. Some posts go through extensive details even comparing page count on a chapter by chapter basis.

As someone who has been using the PMBOK Guide, since the first consolidated edition in 1996, and who have learned project management pre-PMBOK Guide, we have a few posts on the subject as well.

Today’s post, the 5th in the series, is about tailoring. What does tailoring refer to in the new guide? Read on:

Tailoring and PMBOK Guide

First, we are happy to see tailoring addressed in the guide. This is one of the changes that we like in the 6th edition. Prior editions have touched on the subject but not addressed clearly or extensively like the current edition.

I have to declare, that I have not read the whole guide yet, although I have read the Standard (Part 2) and a couple of the sections on tailoring in Part 1.

Tailoring, what I read so far, is limited and not the way it is in CAMMP™. CAMMP™ is the Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™, which SUKAD developed in 2007 and currently updated to the third edition, subject of an upcoming book; Project Management beyond Waterfall and Agile.

Tailoring, per the PMBOK Guide, is the project manager and project management team tailoring the work of managing a given project. The way tailoring is described, is that it gives an impression that the project manager has a lot of power, more so than the organizational processes. Again, giving too much power to individuals rather than process, or OPMS (Organizational Project Management System).

I know this is not the intent but it is how it is understood by numerous people we engaged in discussions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the project manager doing some tailoring but it has to be limited in relation to OPMS tailoring[5].

What we would have liked to see is a discussion on tailoring in relation to standardized processes, methods, etc. as part of OPMS. Then the guide could talk about specific tailoring done by the project manager.

Tailoring and CAMMP™

I am a believer in the SYSTEM; SYSTEM as in the organizational project management system. This is why we developed CAMMP and the Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity (this will be another topic). What we have been working on in the last decade or more is how to help organizations accept project management as a core function, which including the development of OPMS and standardized systems, processes, methods, etc.

Therefore, CAMMP is about tailoring the system and developing standardized tailored methods that are directed toward the various types and classes of projects. We are not sure if you noticed, the name of the methodological approach evolve on the concept of tailoring: customizable and adaptable. In other words, most of the tailoring should be done in the OPMS or what the PMBOK Guide calls OPA.

What we are saying here is that most of the tailoring should be done in the OPMS or what the PMBOK Guide calls OPA. This is critical to have a standardized system.

Then, when it comes to managing a given project, there might be a need for more tailoring; what I prefer to call “tweaking” or minor tailoring, which would be in the hand of the team.

However, if a project manager thinks there is major tailoring required, then the team must go back to the owner of the OPMS with recommendations and justifications. It is not up to the PM to alter or deviate from the standard methods without serious justifications.

Unfortunately, in the absence of OPMS (OPA), project managers end up having to define the method they want to use, the Project Life Cycle, and other processes.

Closing Comments

I am all for empowerment but this matter goes beyond empowerment.

In low Project Management Maturity organizations, this is a recipe for challenged or even failed projects. Giving the project manager so much power OVER the process and system, it is like giving every employee the power to decide their working hours, salary, or expense guidelines.

Tailoring in CAMMP versus PMBOK Guide

What do you think?