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Should You Pursue PMP Certification?

Posted by iammarchhare on 19 August 2009

There’s an interesting article at Project Manager Planet titled “PMP Certification: Is It Worth It?

The gist of the article is that it is worth it if you are a practicing project manager.  Beyond that, it gets hazy.  However, if you are seeking employment, it is a checkbox on many employers’ checklists.

However, the lean employment market is causing a flood of PMP applicants and this in turn is diluting the certification’s prestige and meaning. “More and more individuals are taking the PMP exam who are not intending on practicing the principles, which has negative impact on the value of the certification overall,” said R. Thomas Nieukirk, Jr., director of Knowledge Management at CGN & Associates, a global business performance consulting firm with offices in the U.S., China, India, and throughout Europe.

Actually, I find this statement ironic.  Many PMPs do not intend on practicing the principles because many companies neither intend on supporting them or caring about them.  Yes, they will list “PMP” on their requirements, but when you actually talk to them about a position, you are gritting your teeth throughout the entire interview because it is obvious they don’t have a clue.

Some companies refuse to learn from their mistakes.  Projects are setup to fail because the product manager promised the moon in 3 months so they could meet some short term performance objective.  Testing is always shorted.  Resources are always stretched thin because they couldn’t set priorities.  How many projects do you think are successfully completed at companies like this?

Whether large or small, startup or mature, all organizations need to be in a cycle of continuous learning.  Look at the US automotive industry.  One of the companies has now effectively failed twice.  Whatever happened to the giant makeover that was supposed to occur after the 1970s?  Why did they not learn?

Companies that quit learning and quit innovating eventually die.  No government bailout can bring it back from the dead once it gets beyond a certain point.

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Posted in PMP | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I Am Not a Specialist, I Am a Manager

Posted by iammarchhare on 14 August 2009

There is a rank in the Army called “Specialist”.  There used to be about 3 levels: Specialist 4th Class, Specialist 5th Class, Specialist 6th Class (pretty rare), but by the time I entered, they were phasing out all but the “Spec 4” class.  The numbers, if you didn’t catch it, reflected the paygrade, so that’s why they don’t start with “1”.  Therefore, a Spec 4 and a Corporal are both “E-4” paygrade and make roughly the same amount of money (with some variation for years of service, etc.).

In many ways, it parallels the business world.  You go to “boot camp” or “basic training” (high school) to learn general things, then you go on to “advanced individual training” (college) to learn your craft.  However, when you come out, you are still basically a generalist.  Sure, your job title is well defined, but you are only expected to have a general level of proficiency in all tasks.  As you evolve, you learn more about your particular function and become a “specialist” or “Specialist”.

So, why was the Army doing away with most of the Specialist ranks?  For one thing, a “Specialist” is not a noncommissioned officer (NCO).  Therefore, in many enlisted members’ eyes, the Specialist had no real authority (even though that wasn’t strictly true, but the attitude was still prevalent).  However, an even more disturbing factor was that the Specialist concentrated so much on honing their skills for their particular job specialty that they often, intentionally or unintentionally, neglected their leadership skills.

I used to joke that I was a jack of all trades and master of none.  There is a particular truth to that statement, though.  I have a broad range of experience, even within IT.  That means I know only so much about many different areas.  I am not a specialist.

However, that’s not really a bad thing.  I do know a little about a lot of things.  That makes me a better manager.  I can talk to a network guy about IP addresses.  I can talk to the tester about user interface issues.  I can talk to the developer about classes.  I have setup LANs in computer labs and businesses.  I have assisted with testing.  I have done quite a bit of programming.  I no longer am, if indeed I ever was, an expert in any of these.  To be a manager, though, I don’t have to be.  That is why I have the specialists, the subject matter experts, to help advise on technical matters.

I think people have a tendency to pigeon-hole others.  I have a certificate that says I am a “project management professional”.  Does that make me a specialist?  I hope not.  I would argue that there are unique skills for being a project manager, yet any “manager”, if they are to be effective, must be much more of a generalist than a specialist.  In spite of what some people seem to think (and, sadly some are PMPs), it takes no real talent or ability to plug an EVM formula into a spreadsheet and update it weekly.  It’s what you do with that information that’s important.  It’s whether or not the project is successful that’s important, and that may take many different skills and may even be different for every project.

Posted in Management, PMP | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Google’s Example of Being the Best

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 April 2009

What does it mean to be the best?  According to Seth Godin in The Dip, it doesn’t mean being just a little bit ahead of everyone else.  Many of his examples show that market leaders are often 3 times or more ahead of their competition.

Did you know that Google in August 2008 owned 70.77% of the US search market?  On Mashable: The Social Media Guide, Don Reisinger says “Google Understands What Other Search Engines Don’t”.

Market leaders do understand what others do not about their markets, which is why they are the market leaders.

Reisinger goes on to ponder, “Where are the growing startups like Wikia or Quintura?  Why haven’t Microsoft or Yahoo gained any ground on Google in the US?”  While he states a few hypotheses as to why, according to Godin this is normal if a company is going to remain the market leader.

Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are credentialed because they are the best.  They are required to have a mix of education and experience before they can even take the test.  They are the pack leaders.

However, you cannot stop there.  Once you are among the best, you must differentiate yourself as the best of the best.

Posted in Economy, PMP, Skills | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Webinar: PMBOK Guide 4th Edition Changes

Posted by iammarchhare on 15 April 2009

I don’t remember where I found the link, but PMCentersUSA and ConsultUSA are putting on free joint webinars on “What’s New in the PMBOK® Guide Fourth Edition“.  The next webinar is 12 May, but sign up now to ensure you aren’t shut out!

Disclaimer: I have no connection with either PMCentersUSA or ConsultUSA other than attending the webinar, and everything here is my opinion and not necessarily theirs unless stated otherwise.

Last week, I posted an article pondering whether or not it was worth it to purchase the new PMBOK.  While the cost isn’t that high, these days a person needs to think about building up emergency funds and paying down debt, after all.  Even if you have a full-time job, you really are a contractor in today’s economy.  You are hired “at will”, and PMs can be easy targets for layoffs.  People are lucky to do 20 years at one place, let alone get a gold watch out of the deal.  However, there is good news.  If you are a member of Project Management Institute (PMI), you can access the PMBOK online now.  If this was available for the 3rd edition, it wasn’t obvious to me, but this is a welcome discovery!

The answer?  A guarded “Yes”.  I say “guarded” because the conclusion of the matter of “What has changed?” is “Not much”.  People studying for the exam could probably attend this webinar on top of what they would otherwise study and get by.  Just for passing the exam, then, it might not be worth it.  However, enough has changed that I believe I can now justify purchasing it for the day-to-day reference it provides.

So, what has changed?  I’m going to state a few highlights of the webinar, but if you want details, I encourage you to attend it.  You get the slide presentation for reference after attendance as well, so even if you miss something, you have the slides to refer back to.  I’m not going to regurgitate the entire webinar, and obviously it wouldn’t be proper for me to distribute their slides without permission.

The organization of the PMBOK has not changed.  The sections and chapters are arranged as they were in the 3rd edition.  The main changes were put into effect to enhance consistency and clarity.

Specifically, they fixed the inconsistencies for naming processes by changing them all to verb-noun type of names.  The process descriptions were rewritten to be consistent throughout the various chapters of the PMBOK.

PMI also attempted to clarify project phases.  They not only added wording to to distinguish them from project management process groups, but also took the diagram found on p 19 of a single phased project and edited it for a multi-phased project published on p 21.

One criticism I have of the changes is that one of the “clarity” items was a change to the data flow diagrams.  There are now little bullets along the flow lines, and it just looks confusingly cluttered.

Corrective action, preventative action, defect repair and requested changes are now grouped under “change requests”.  This is a welcome change, IMO.

There are some difference in process organization.  Instead of 44, there now are 42.  2 were added, 2 were deleted, and 6 were reorganized into 4.

There is now an Appendix G on People Skills.  You know, the soft skills I’ve been harping on.  And no, I don’t recall being told that this was a change in the PMBOK previously, so I pat myself on the back.

I do have a nit about it, though.  It lists “leadership”, “motivation” and “influencing” as separate skills.  I have a military background, and for me the definition of leadership is the ability to influence others to do thus-and-such.  Furthermore, a leader has to motivate people to pursue the same goals.  Why these are separate is puzzling to me, but maybe I should wait until I get my own copy to pass judgement.

PMI is doing a phased rollout for the exams.  Changes to the PMP exam occur 30 June.  The CAPM changes 31 July.  The rest are 31 August.

PMI takes the stance that the PMBOK is only one source for the exam and for project management in general.  They believe that the change in the exam will not be a jolt to the system.  We will see, of course, as some of you may recall that the last change was somewhat painful.

All in all, I think it might be worth it for those who are not members of PMI to purchase the newer edition sooner rather than later.  However, if you are not a member, you really should reconsider that decision overall.  There are free webinars and other online materials available to members, and members usually get discounts at seminars and other events.

Posted in PM Basics, PMBOK, PMP | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Webinar: PMBOK Guide 4th Edition Changes

PMBOK 4, Anyone?

Posted by iammarchhare on 7 April 2009

Well, I have had to live frugally lately, and, looking at some of the economic statistics, I’m certainly not alone.  So, I have to think hard about purchases a lot more than I used to.  This includes even membership in the Project Management Institute (PMI).  Frankly, I hesitated, but then I went ahead and did it.

So, has anyone who is already PMP certified purchased the new PMBOK?  I have heard PMI expanded the ethics section and changed the triple constraint so its no longer a triangle.  Any other worthwhile changes?

Normally, I wouldn’t even ask; I would just run over to pmi.org and buy it and see for myself.  However, I’m interested in what you have to say about it.  So, project managers, let’s discuss:

  1. Have you bought the new PMBOK?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. If you did, was it worth it?  Why or why not?

If you are PMP certified, then let us know your reasoning.  If you are not a PMP, would you have bought it if it didn’t mean a change in the test?

Mind you, I’m not interested in criticizing anyone’s decision, but let others hear your thoughts.

Posted in PMBOK, PMI, PMP | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »