PMP Certification Mindset and the Training Dilemma
By Ammar W. Mango
PMP training might be the most popular project management training out there. It should not be. Not in this day and age. PMP played a key role. While important and necessary, it is not sufficient. PMP is the Project Management Professional certification by the Project Management Institute, PMI. Hundreds of thousands of project managers have been certified and have the PMP designation next to their name. While this helped the industry, we are today at a cross-road where the PMP training is not enough.
Most organizations are finding out that it takes more than just hard project management skills to succeed in projects. While knowing how to develop a project charter, a schedule, a budget, or a breakdown structure are key, they are not enough to ensure success.
Consistently, surveys from leading organizations worldwide are showing that those who are among the best project managers possess skills beyond those required to calculate a critical path, or earned value. They are leaders. They have a business sense and an understanding of the value sought from the project. They are able to engage stakeholders and empower their teams. They know how to negotiate and use opportunities available to them for the betterment of their projects and their chances for success.
Organizations are looking for project managers who are proactive not reactive. They are not waiting for input from their sponsors on what to do, but to the opposite, they are giving directions to their management and their sponsors and clients on what is needed to make the project a success. They have the virtual power to demand that their employers and clients do the right thing to reap the project benefits.
It seems that organizations do not want project managers anymore and want more of business project managers who can ensure value and benefits from the project, the same way a project manager is responsible for value and benefits not just deliverables. I think this will give rise to the importance of the program manager role, who is responsible to ensure benefits, and be responsible for maybe operations of the handed over deliverables from projects, to ensure delivery and sustaining of value.
I think it is time for the professionals in the industry to start helping business executives understand the role of a program manager beyond what a project manager can do. Also, professionals should start designing leadership and soft skills courses that target project managers specifically and help build their soft skills as leaders from a business perspective not a technical perspective.
There is still room for the technical project manager, but even they will need the soft skills to empower their teams and communicate with stakeholders.
So the need is there for businesses and organizations to recognize the need to build leadership and soft skills, and for the industry to start offering these courses, beyond the generic form, and specifically target the project and program manager needs.
I believe the older generation before the PMP understand the project manager skills needed more than those who became project managers during the PMP era. Pre PMP, there was no defined or structured certification for project management. They had to take care of business and they knew they needed the soft skills to handle the project. Post PMP I think many project managers started relying on the certification assuming it will suffice and replace the need for soft skills. Apparently that did not work, and organizations are still looking for the leader project manager.