A PMI Dog Pile

A PMI Dog Pile

Upon reading a piece featured on PM Hut, Certifications Don’t Make Project Managers, I was compelled to comment…twice.  So, what’s the short story? I’ve been reading more and more articles from people who seem to be down right hostile toward the Project Management Institute (PMI). Richard Morreale, the author of the article, wrote

The Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Association of Project Management Group (APMG) are two of the biggest reasons that projects fail.

Dr. PDG added

In short, IMPO, PMI and to a lesser degree, APM and APMG have become nothing more than the AMWAY or Mary Kay Cosmetics of the project management world

Here’s the long story.  I enjoyed the article, to include the comments from the likes of Robert Kelly, PMP and Dennis Stevens (fellows I admire).  I’ll admit, I’ve been getting a little incensed recently after hearing stories of people who appeared to have gamed the system and got certification with no real education or experience other than a PMP boot camp.  But, most of this is hearsay.  I have been approached by people, asking for my help, who want the certification for no other reason than to bolster a résumé.  I do believe these cases are extremes and hopefully isolated incidents.

Based on your motivations and character, the outcomes of getting your certification can be completely different.  I got my certification because, at the time, I thought it was the only way I would be taken seriously.  I was dealing with a stakeholder who was being completely unreasonable.  She had a PMP and ignored everything outlined in the PMBOK.  Clearly, she had her own agenda.  Mine was a quest for knowledge in my profession and to hone my skills as a project manager.  This quest has exposed me to several different approaches, to include Scrum and Kanban.  I think I am a better project manager than I was several years ago because I am receptive to new ideas and approaches and don’t necessarily walk around preaching one as PM dogma.

So, where am I going with this?  I think if your mind is open to it, you can learn a lot from preparing for the PMP exam.  I also think you can learn a lot from taking a level 400 class in Project Management at a University.  But, you have to be motivated by the desire to learn and satisfy your customer’s wants and needs.  Don’t think a certification will get you that dream job or make you a PM expert.  It will come back and bite you.  Sometimes being a PM means working on a project with specific knowledge area focus.  But sometimes you will be exposed to full lifecyle management, dealing with every process group.  Either way, it’s not all textbook.

I think Dennis Stevens put it very well in his comment:

a PMP is like a recent college grad, a medical resident, or a 16-year old who just got their license. They have some situational awareness from having participated in projects, have been educated in the fundamentals and share a common language. But they are not prepared to be CEO of a business, an emergency room surgeon, or a cross country truck driver.

Some will argue that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Just the same, PMI and APMG don’t cause projects to fail.  Sometimes it’s the PM, sometime it’s the customer, and sometimes it’s something that wasn’t on your risk register and should have.  The noble thing to do is to try to fix the problem.  Mentor an associate PM.  Give a talk on your area of expertise.  Tell people how you failed on a project so they don’t make the same mistake.  I think if we all put forth a little more effort, in helping each other become better project managers and leaders, the results could be transformative.

 

10 Replies to “A PMI Dog Pile”

  1. I like Dennis Stevens quote when it comes to capturing the PMP certification. I was thinking the same of completing an MBA. An MBA gives you tools and methods to think strategically, systematically and organizationally, but it doesn’t guarantee your will be a strong manager or leader just because you have a fancy piece of paper from a fancy school.

    1. Touché!
      All of these certifications, accreditation, degrees should be proof that you have been given formal instruction. But what to do with the information, is still up to the individual. Maybe some people really only want that fancy paper on their wall. Then again, some really hope to learn something. I just looked at the language University of Maryland uses to describe some of their project management courses. They use language like introduction, exploration, and exposition. . The catalog says nothing about mastery or bestowing expertise.

  2. I like Dennis Stevens quote when it comes to capturing the PMP certification. I was thinking the same of completing an MBA. An MBA gives you tools and methods to think strategically, systematically and organizationally, but it doesn’t guarantee your will be a strong manager or leader just because you have a fancy piece of paper from a fancy school.

    1. Touché!
      All of these certifications, accreditation, degrees should be proof that you have been given formal instruction. But what to do with the information, is still up to the individual. Maybe some people really only want that fancy paper on their wall. Then again, some really hope to learn something. I just looked at the language University of Maryland uses to describe some of their project management courses. They use language like introduction, exploration, and exposition. . The catalog says nothing about mastery or bestowing expertise.

    1. Craig, the argument I’ve been hearing is PMI is not requiring certification holders to have 5 years of direct project management experience. You just need to map your experience to deliverables and to specific process groups. I personally know half a dozen PMPs who never lead projects. They were just involved in the projects. PMI is very flexible in what they accept on the application. That’s why I don’t take issue with calling someone a (project management) professional. But without seeing how they handle themselves and project after they get the certification, I may be hesitant to call them experts. People should not assume someone is an expert, merely on the ability to pass an exam.

    1. Craig, the argument I’ve been hearing is PMI is not requiring certification holders to have 5 years of direct project management experience. You just need to map your experience to deliverables and to specific process groups. I personally know half a dozen PMPs who never lead projects. They were just involved in the projects. PMI is very flexible in what they accept on the application. That’s why I don’t take issue with calling someone a (project management) professional. But without seeing how they handle themselves and project after they get the certification, I may be hesitant to call them experts. People should not assume someone is an expert, merely on the ability to pass an exam.

  3. Derek, as always you are on point with this topic. I was in the same boat as you…years of experience but came across a stakeholder that wouldn’t listen because I didn’t have my PMP. He said “Robert, you are the weakest PM we have here and I want you to get your PMP”. I said “Well, thank you!” After they paid I went through the class and passed the exam in 55 minutes (they give you 4 or something) I had coffee with that manager who was all of a sudden my best friend and said “Mr. Boss, I wanted to talk to you about being the weakest PM. The other 3 PMs have been with IBM/Lenovo for over 10 years, have their PMP certifications, and all have their MBA’s from a top 5 business school. They are phenominal on paper! All I have is an associates degree and a resume of success. With all of their formal education and years of internal organizational knowledge, why is it I am the only PM who launched 2 new global services that are generating revenue for the company? All of their projects have been squashed or have been delayed longer than the actual schedule.” Sorry to brag a bit, but I think it serves the point and not just my ego. 🙂 My colleagues would get an interview in a heartbeat at some of the best firms in the world, but that employer might be surprised at the results. Organizations have a hard time understanding the value of Project Management and what its true role should be in the org. The ability to identify a strong project manager is even more foreign to them…the PMP is all they can leverage to help sort the resumes.

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