“I Try to Avoid Hiring PMPs”

Let’s start to think outside the box and focus on the business. 
Let’s start to think outside the box and focus on the business. 
Let’s start to think outside the box and focus on the business. 

(Originally posted March,2016)

Not a great start to the day when you hear this from someone in the gym.  And that’s what happened one morning recently while I was chatting with my ‘elliptical’ partner.  He works for a cloud-based accounts receivable solutions provider.

Our conversation came around to project managers, the PMI® and PMP’s when he made this remark, making me cringe. He explained that, in his experience, the project managers being produced by our community work in a shell – focused only on their project tick boxes. Cringe #2.  In his environment in particular, he elaborated, he needs project managers that think in terms of business outcome management, strategy execution and business benefits.

My fellow PMI® members may or may not be pleased to know that while I agreed with him to an extent, I did let him know that things are changing.

The PMI, I offered, has recognized this issue. The ‘Knowledge Triangle’ has mandated that at least a third of our re-certification units over three years must come from education and experience in strategy, leadership and business management.

I also offered that when I talk to audiences about taking our project management careers to the next level, I always emphasize the importance of understanding the business and connecting the work we do to strategy and business outcomes.

But I did agree with him, recognizing that he represents the world of small to medium sized businesses and not the world of 200+ project-manager-strong companies.  Too many of us, I agreed, are tick-box managers: by the books, black and white, build it on-time, on budget, on scope.  

Chapters of the PMI® are waking up and offering monthly speakers, workshops and content within conferences around this idea of talking strategy, business outcome and leadership.

Let’s start to think outside the box and focus on the business. 

My ‘elliptical’ friend works for a growing business in an innovative field like thousands of other business out there and he and they need smart, business-savvy and strategic project managers!

We have time to fix this.


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5 thoughts on ““I Try to Avoid Hiring PMPs””

  1. I agree with your elliptical-partner and I run one of those 200+ PM shops. The PMI is not completely to blame, although they should take the lions share of it. Big companies invoke rigorous process and to quote Dee Hock (Founder of Visa), “Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behaviour. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behaviour.”

    Between PMI and corporate processes we have a lot of complex rules and regulations, so we get a lot of…

  2. I agree that this is the perception and, unfortunately, perception is often reality. After obtaining my PMP (I was already certified in Lean Six Sigma and managing a portfolio of projects) I instantly became defined as someone else by peers and prospective employers. We are given a toolbelt by PMI, not a bible. We don’t always need every tool but it is great to know which one to use for specific desired outcomes. This is perpetuated by many with a PMP that operate within a black and white or “tick box” mentality.

    True strategic execution is something that is horizontally applicable across industries and projects. There is some need of knowledge in a subject but getting the right people on the bus, turning ideas into actions, and those actions into results are what truly define a great Project Manager. A PMP should represent someone who has done just that and shown application in addition to knowledge.

    I believe we are slowly changing the perception and PMI is making great strides towards supporting that perception change.

  3. Walter Washburn, PMP

    I cringe too, David. I suppose your gym acquaintance avoids attorneys – they are always too hung up on the law and legal process. He avoids his doctor, I’m sure – too fussy about medical protocols. Architects are way too focused on structure and materials. Does he also eschew his software architects too? I’m sorry but the premise of avoiding expertise because the body of knowledge gets in the way kind of makes me think he’s another exec who doesn’t want to cope with facts. That is not to say any of these professionals – including project managers – can get wrapped around the process axle – but to say PMPs are too much trouble? Really? The whole group?

  4. Neville Goedhals

    This won’t change until the PMI has both a competency requirement as well as a competency audit. Also, having a mere 35 hours of study and a muti-choice question test should not result in anything that has the word “professional” in it. I personally believe that it may to too late to do anything. The PMI has watered down the certification to the extent that even excellent and experienced PMs with PMPs are a minority amongst the tens of thousands with little real PM knowledge.

  5. Satyendra Kumar

    PMP or not PMP, you cannot tell who is competent without interviewing him properly. I have a extensive experience in project management and appreciation letters even from Clients CEO. but I did PMP because everyone on job website asking for PMP. now

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