This week Kevin O’Leary, an outspoken TV business personality,PMP This week Kevin O’Leary, an outspoken TV business personality stated that he is frequently asked if his MBA, or any diploma in general, is worth the expense. He said that obtaining a post-graduate degree indeed made him smarter, but it did not guarantee success. He pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, both proud college drop-outs, are incredibly successful.
His commentary caused me to return to a question I am frequently asked when delivering project management courses. Is PMP® certification worth it?
I’m part of a number of training programs. One very large program has completely moved away from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) references in its training material. In fact, in a recent meeting, the course designers were mandated to remove all reference to PMI processes and tools/techniques.
An uncomfortable hush was palpable among those of us delivering the courses. We had, after all, all proudly achieved our PMP accreditation many years ago and, indeed, it’s one of the key prerequisites to be part of the national training team. Why would we not leverage the world’s most recognized project management framework in our course content?
The rational the director provided was that today’s post-secondary institutions, including universities that our program is associated with, are making a clear transition to providing skills that can immediately be deployed in the workplace. Training is often provided at the expense of the employer, and they want return on the training dollar investments. He went on to say items such as PMI’s tools and techniques are irrelevant and that, in contrast, program participants need to know things like how to create budgets, how to manage risks and how to build effective schedules.
25 years of PMP
As a professional with over 25 years of project management experience, I pride myself in bringing a practical approach to project management delivery, and am more focused on meeting project goals than I am about creating specific documentation simply to be compliant with a standard.
You would think, therefore, I would fully align with the direction of the director of the project management training program. Further, you would think my answer to the recurring question about the value of PMP certification would be changing. But my answer remains unchanged.
Obtaining the PMP accreditation is difficult. As the saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Putting aside for a moment the evolving PMP exam and radically different seventh edition of the PMBOK Guide, it is extremely challenging to meet the combined requirements to becoming a PMP. Understanding the theory, passing the exam and having the requisite real-world project delivery experience is a daunting task.
I not only recall the amount of effort I expended to successfully complete the PMP exam, but I have coached hundreds of individuals to also be successful. I can speak from a position of experience when I state it is very difficult for most people to absorb the overwhelming amount of theory.
When teaching preparation courses, I jokingly say my students must pour the PMBOK Guide contents into their heads, use that knowledge during the four-hour exam, and then straighten their head back to the normal position. It’s a given that some of what was learned will “fall out,” but much of the world-renowned framework will forever remain embedded in the synapsis of their brain as they continue on a project management career path.
Will they use every process, tool and technique? Obviously not. Have they learned a framework that, if properly applied in the workplace, will most likely lead to improved project success? Unquestionably yes!
As O’Leary stated, the purpose of education and accreditation is to “stuff the toolbox with valuable skills.” The practical project planning and delivery skills developed through professional training should be designed to teach how to be a successful project manager.
Gaining associated accreditation, however, is also important. Imagine all students starting post-graduate studies, but none of them ever graduating. Graduation marks the achievement of a goal. Being awarded a diploma is a demonstration of successfully completing a program and passing all required learning verifications. It separates out those that tried from those that achieved.
The same can be said for individuals who not only develop skills through project management training, but also commit to achieving PMI’s PMP certification. In my opinion, being a PMP provides a clear separation from those that have not achieved it.
As noted above, PMI is evolving the PMP exam. The PMBOK Guide is going through a radical transformation with its seventh edition. This is an excellent demonstration that PMI understands it must evolve. PMI understands that workplace environment and recognizes employers want individuals with practical skills. Employers also want, however, to be able to identify individuals who are prepared to make the effort to separate themselves from the crowd. Achieving PMP certification continues to provide an indicator of project management excellence.