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Why You Should Shut Up About Your PMP
By Joe Caprara

Strap in folks, this one may be a doozie for some of you.

Ok, some disclaimers up front. First off, I have my PMP, and have had it since 2011. Second off, I think the Project Management Institute does great work. They are doing a hell of a job bringing standards and rigor to an area that much of the business world views as something that just comes naturally.

With that out of the way, I implore you – shut up about your PMP!

I’ve worked in technology, natural resources, utilities, government, telecoms, and more and one thing I’ve consistently come across is that there is a certain group of project managers out there that believe that having earned a PMP magically elevates the value of their opinions and the breadth of their abilities over others. It’s not all, but it’s a loud minority and I believe it’s hurting the game for others.

So I’ve put together a few thoughts about this below and welcome any feedback, agreements, arguments, etc.

Game on!

Your PMP is a ticket to the game, not a ticket to the club seats.

PMI does a great job integrating real world experience with training and a final test, but none of these concepts are what elevate an average project manager to the rank of Jedi Master. Showing you’ve been working in and around projects for years means just that – you’ve been around them. It does nothing to show the size, quality, success, value, repeatability, growth etc. of those projects. So before you go assuming you have been given a golden ticket to manage any project, understand where your strengths (and more importantly weaknesses) are and use them to grow into a better project manager, rather than assume the role and deal with the consequences.

PMBOK is a great resource, it is not the Bible.

To those non-PMP people reading this, PMBOK is the Project Management Body of Knowledge. It’s something that has become something of a buzz word and certain Project Managers love to reference it constantly.

OK, so first off, right on the PMBOK page of PMI.org you will notice the description:

“PMI global standards provide guidelines, rules and characteristics for project, program and portfolio management. These standards are widely accepted and, when consistently applied, they help you, your global peers and your organization achieve professional excellence.”

The key takeaways from that: Guidelines, rules and characteristics. Like any good resource, the PMBOK provides information to drive consistency, which must be applied within the environment we are working to be successful. This also means that at times you will have to deviate away or otherwise interpret these guidelines more loosely in order to be successful.

It does not mean that if someone offers a way of doing things that differs from the PMBOK, that they are by default wrong!

Just because you don’t have a PMP, doesn’t mean you are not a Project Manager.

I originally earned my PMP because of the simple fact that as I went from one client to another, the first thing they always asked me was if I had one. The second reason I earned it was so that when I had to tell another project manager they were wrong, if they tried to play the PMP card, I could play it back.

Now I’m not trying to discourage people from getting a PMP, in fact if you honestly are trying to make it as a Project Manager I would say you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not having one, but I will say that some of the best Project Managers I’ve ever worked with didn’t have their PMP. You can tell these people often times by the fact that they could care less about it, because they’ve built their knowledge and network of Project Manager through consistent delivery over time.

My point here is don’t count someone out because they don’t have a PMP, because if you’re a good Project Manager you should be able to evaluate them by their experience, not this credential alone.

Stop talking about it.

To finish off my rant, I’d like to re-iterate the title of this blog: Shut Up About It. It’s not that you shouldn’t be proud, or take credit where credit is due, but if you find yourself referencing your PMP in anything other than an interview, then I would challenge you to re-evaluate your motives. If the value you bring to a project or organization requires that you continually explain your credentials, I would advise you to leave that organization and find one that values real life merits. If on the other hand you feel you need to explain it to others to give yourself credibility, then that means you haven’t built it yet with hard work. In either case, it means something is wrong.

Parting comments

Before I sign off on this one let me add one last comment. To those younger or less experience aspiring PMs out there, getting a PMP is a great way to start standardizing and honing your skills. It absolutely will help when you interview for different positions, and it’s a great process to go through even if you don’t intend to work in project management forever. Just don’t become a jerk after you get it…

What do you all think?

Joe Caprara has spent over a decade in the field of program and project management, both as an outside consultant as well as an internal integrator. Throughout his career he has specialized in large scale program implementations, rescue and recovery, enterprise transformations, metrics and reporting, financial management, building, structuring and re-building Program Management Offices, and more. He is a founding member of www.walkthecriticalpath.com and an active member of the project management community.

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