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To PMP, or Not PMP – That is the Question

, Friday, November 20th, 2009

For as long as I can remember, our PM team has debated internally the value of the PMP certification for project managers. For many big corporations and the government, it is a key qualification for project managers. As a comparatively small company, this is not a prerequisite for our PMs. In fact, we generally prefer our PMs to have evolved into the position organically over time.

Why you ask?

From my experience, good project management is more a function of personality type and experience than a taught skill set. Sure, there are tactics and techniques that can be learned from a classroom and in books – but those are not what make a project manager successful. A good project manager has those skills, but more importantly, is detail oriented; able to keep a handle on a nearly unlimited set of discrete tasks; can manage diverse groups of people, ranging from internal teams to clients to vendors; and have the intestinal fortitude to tackle tough issues immediately head on.

None of that can be taught. It is a product of going through the meat grinder and having a personality that fits the job. My bias is routed in experience with other organizations’ PMP certified project managers – PMs who routinely struggle to make all of the pieces work together while simultaneously massaging the egos and personalities of the various parties involved to make them work in unison. Don’t get me wrong – I see value in the knowledge required for the PMP certification. I just think it is a toolset that needs to be employed by someone with a specific set of skills – otherwise it is ineffective.

2 Responses to “To PMP, or Not PMP – That is the Question”

  1. PM Hut Says:

    Some people can actually get PMP certified even with no real experience, on the other hand, some seasoned Project Managers can easily fail the PMP because it’s more of a theory exam. The PMP is a good option for junior Project Managers trying to increase their value, but is of little value for more experienced ones. The whole point of Project Management is getting the project done, and just getting certified is certainly not the magic key (check the PMP Is not a Panacea).

    There are so many companies out there insisting that candidates for Project Management jobs should be PMP certified, which, IMO, is not a very smart thing. Project Managers are Project Managers by experience, and the more projects one manages, the better Project Manager s/he is. It is not about the PMP.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Nicely said Andy. I’m not sure I would go so far to say we have a bias “against” PMP certifcations, but it is certainly true that if the person hasn’t already worked in an industry or an organization where the PMP was ‘required’, i might wonder if the person has the skills or just wants me to think they do by having a certification.

    I agree with PMHut (is that like Jabba the Hut?!) that it could be useful for junior PMs looking to learn the ropes and have a framework for ramping up quickly. Likewise, i would value more highly a PMP certification for a Technical lead for example where the cross training in PM thinking is value-added to their role.