OK, my apologies in advance if this offends people. It’s not meant to offend but to provide an alternate way of looking at things. No, not “alternative facts”, but “alternative views”.
OK, now that that is out of the way, the PMP certification is killing project management. I must admit that the impetus of this note is a post on LinkedIn that is almost two years old: “The PMP – How it Ruined Project Management“. I’m going to try to approach it from a slightly different perspective and expand the scope a little bit.
I have been, for years, arguing that being a good developer is an art. This can extend to project management as well. Good developers, good project managers, are creative and innovative.
Would you want someone who has built software to be in charge of building a new space shuttle? Or a skyscraper? Or a bridge? They have the theoretical knowledge, after all they passed the PMP exam, but do they really know what they are doing?
Having a PMP does not mean that you are creative or innovative. All it really means is that you can pass a test. And, honestly, if you can’t pass the PMP then you don’t know how to find the answers on the Internet. There are a lot of places to get PMP examples and help. And if you’re really good you can retrieve from the Internet real exam questions that are in use. No, I’m not going to tell you how.
So, exams, while interesting, aren’t the whole story. I once took an exam on Shorthand. I had never taken a course in shorthand, nor did I really know much about it. I kept seeing it on TV but that was the limit of my experience. I passed the exam. I couldn’t read or write shorthand, but I could pass the exam? There are lots of people out there who are good at exams and regardless of whether or not they know the subject they can score a respectable mark on the exam.
The differentiator is experience. Experience shapes us, guides us and turns us into who we are today. Experience cannot be determined by an exam. And, to be honest, in the interviews that we are using today to hire people, experience doesn’t show through. The interview process that we are following today is an exam, plain and simple, just done orally. Some people will pass with ease even though they know little while others, with a deep reservoir of knowledge, will fail because they don’t do well at exams.
A PMP gets your foot in the door. An exam gets your foot in the door. But they don’t really mean anything. If you want someone that can create status reports, calculate the ROI on a piece of work, do all of the administrative work around a project, then go right ahead and use the existing process: look for a PMP and use the standard set of questions.
However, if you want someone that can truly manage a project, handle the unexpected events that occur, can get the members of the project to actually work together as a team, can excite and invigorate both the team and the business, then you need to think differently. You want your project managers to “think out of the box” then you need to think the same way when hiring.
Dr. Bradford D. Smart has a degree in industrial psychology, formed the company Smart & Associates and eventually founded Topgrading.com, a firm designed to help you hire the best people. I won’t even give you three guesses as to which side of the fence he stood on because I am mentioning him, after all, and I wouldn’t mention him if he didn’t support my point of view. (What? You thought this was an objective blurb? LOL) His idea of an effective interview is chatting with someone for a couple of hours, digging into their life and pulling out the real person.
When we hire we have a set of skills that we ask for. Cool. That can be faked. We have a set of standard interview questions that we ask. That’s great. The answers can be faked. You know what is more difficult to fake? Personal experiences. You ask them more personal questions, about their lives and experiences, and you drill down. Once you get past the veneer you get the details, you get the truth. Someone who got into the IT business because of the money is very different from someone who went into IT because they liked solving problems. They may both be competent, but for the role, you are looking for one may be better than the other. But how do you get that information? How do you get that tidbit of knowledge? Not from standardized skills and questions. You need to be creative.
So, to circle back to the beginning. I’m not saying that people with a PMP aren’t good project managers as there are probably a lot who are. I’m not saying that people with a PMP don’t have the requisite skills to do the job. What I am saying is that a PMP certification in itself is not as important as it once was. When you were the only person with a flat-screen TV you were special. Now that everyone has a flat-screen TV.
We need to delve deeper into the individuals. We need to make hiring subjective again, instead of objective. Objective gets you someone that can build a functional table. Subjective gets you someone that builds a table that you like to sit at.