To PMP or not to PMP That is the question

My first exposure to the PMP® (Project Management Professional) certification was several years ago when I was dealing with a stakeholder over at National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Though I had worked in technical consulting before, I hadn't worked strictly as a PM until this point.  I remember seeing this stakeholder had this "PMP" at the end of her name and I also recall how she was horrible to deal with.  She was demanding, rude, and exhibited no control over what she did.  In retrospect, she didn't follow the PMBoK at all.  My boss at the time made things very clear to me.  He said talk to her a lot.  She liked to feel important and in charge.  I didn't have formal PM training at the time so I treated her like I would any customer.  I was polite and engaged her, listening to not just her needs but her wants.  Wow did she had a lot of wants.

Oh did I say I wanted that button in blue?  That's not the blue I wanted.  Be specific?  Bluer then that.  Make it bluer than that but not too blue.  No, I won't sign a change request.  Just do it.

I tried to understand her motivations.  But let's face it, sometime people are just miserable and mean and you have just let it go.  Because she had a PMP credential, she was suddenly justified in her actions.  I compare this with the age old question, "What do you call the people who graduate last in their medical-school class?  That answer is "Doctor".

This person clearly was hiding behind her credential.  As far as I was concerned, she gamed the system.  She passed the test but didn't learn the lessons.  That's not how I operate.  But, I saw the trend.  The PMP was getting the hype from stakeholders and hiring managers.  It suggests a PMP is a prerequisite to being able to manage a project.

My motivation was different from this "paper" PMP and many others I've met since.  I wanted to be a great project manager.  I wanted to create things and solve problems.  I wanted to be both disciplined and personal.  So, I studied and studied, with the hope of becoming a PMP and I did it.  For those out there who think they can go get the certification and be great project managers, think again.  That's like saying all great cooks are great chefs.  They aren't!  Great cooks can follow directions.  Great chefs can create something remarkable out of whatever they are given.  Just because you've been to culinary school doesn't make you a great chef.  If you don't have that creativity and passion, it's just not going to happen.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not so arrogant that I think I am a great project manager.  I am merely a student of project management who wishes to refine his craft and teach others to do it as well.  If you think getting the PMP is what you'll need to be taken seriously, do what you have to do.  I don't write the rule book.  I just try to play the game the best I can.  If I can help others out there, I will.

This post was inspired by Geoff Crane and the comment he made here on The Critical Path.

(Image by