Every day, there are hundreds of individuals either attending PMP training, or becoming a certified PMP. However, when these individuals try to apply the concepts that they have learnt in the PMP training, they realize that there is a gap between theory and practice. Being a PMP does not help them address these real life issues. So then, where lies the problem?
Most people reconcile themselves to conclude that not everything can be put in the PMBOK, and that is what differentiates experts from other practitioners. Some blame the PMP training faculty who did not teach them the right things, while others say they forgot what they learnt in PMP.
While the above responses may be correct, I believe the issue lies much deeper. It is about the overall approach that is followed for the certification. While this article is not meant to blame any institution or individual, the purpose of the blog is to sensitize readers with the issue and what can be done to overcome it.
Firstly let us start at the beginning. Why do individuals want to become PMP? Most candidates aspire to be a PMP not because they want to learn the systematic approach for project management, but because they believe it will enhance their market value. So then – is it true that PMP Certified individuals get paid higher? The answer is an indirect yes, but it is not so straight forward. Recruiters will tell you that given a choice, everything else being equal, they will hire a PMP over a non PMP. However, this does not mean that individuals will get paid higher simply because they have this tag. They will be, if they can make a difference to their organizations by the application of the PMP concepts. However, if the basic premise is itself flawed (do PMP to get better compensation, not for the processes it brings along), such PMPs are unlikely to demonstrate a difference.
Let us now look at the course content.There is no doubt that PMP is the most popular among related certifications. However, this does not necessarily mean that it has no limitations. The focus of PMP is in its processes, along with the inputs, outputs, tools and techniques. In its attempt to make it robust, it requires aspirants to understand 47 processes, along with the specific inputs and outputs. While it may be in the best of interests to have a thorough documentation, it ends up becoming so verbose that the spirit of the processes is lost in the massive documentation. Ask any successful PM, how many of these 47 processes does he/she implement in the project life cycle – and you will understand the ground reality. Agreed, large projects do need to work in a systematic manner, but what percentage of the population works on large projects?
While on one hand there are complaints about the sheer number of processes to learn about, PMP misses out on 40% of the real world knowledge areas, which make a difference between a successful project and a failed one. Areas such as Customer Relationship, Profitability Management, Perception Management, Innovation Management, Contract Management, Business Continuity Management and Change Management are barely touched upon, whereas in reality these are the ones that the Project Manager spends a lot of his time in. Considering this, it is no suprise why PMs say that PMP does not address the issues that they face in their day to day life.
Next we come to the examination pattern. The first drawback in PMP is the objective method of examination where you select 1 among 4 alternatives. In the real world, life is not going to give you these 4 alternatives. Thus, what PMP tests is your ability to select the best answer to questions; it does not test your ability to appropriately respond to situations. There are limitations in practically evaluating candidates on subjective answers, but the net result is an inaccurate evaluation of the individual’s competencies. Being PMP Certified does not necessarily mean that he/she can solve a project situation in the real world – it may best mean that a PMP Certified individual may be in a better position to interpret various facets of the issue at hand. Secondly, PMP aspirants get more focused on how to pass the PMP rather than becoming a good Project Manager. If they are really good at their work, they don’t need to study for the exam. Conversly, if a good PM (as considered by people around him) cannot clear the PMP Exam, it may reflect negatively on the method of assessment itself!
To sum it up, PMP is more of a hygiene factor when looking at recruiting a Project Manager. If an individual does not have the certification, he/she may lose out on the opportunity, but it does not mean that it lands him/her the opportunity on a platter. I call it “Necessary, but not Sufficient”.
Contributed By:Ashish Paranjpe