Sunday, 21 February 2010 00:00

The PMP: Competency or Marketing?

Rate this item
(2 votes)

Student Taking the Test

After being a project manager for a couple decades, the Procedure Police finally caught up with me and I had to get my PMP®. No, not for a job, for marketing. My publisher's marketing department made a PMP a requirement for publishing my new book. My wife was aghast that after teaching courses to PMPs so they could get their educational credits and recovering multiple projects that PMPs had led down the red road to failure, that I would have to go through any process to get this certificate. In her mind, my record of accomplishment should have stood for itself. I realized the bureaucracy of the whole affair and trudged forward.

Since the dozens of books I have read, articles I have written and classes I have taught do not count as any form of education, I bought my thirty-five online contact hours as well as a two sets of sample tests. I had been warned that the test questions were tricky (not difficult) and being well versed in sly questions was critical. Optimistically, I moved forward hopeful I would learn something in the process. It did not take long, I learned why I needed to recover those projects that PMPs were running into the ground. A feeling of job security would overcome me.

The Education Provider's Role

I have to admit, I have difficulty differentiating between what the Registered Education Provider (REP®) had wrong versus PMI®. The fact that I had to think about it, though, says that PMI's REP qualification process is squarely in need of help.

Scope Creep

As an example, the one education provider had a new definition of scope creep. One of their questions was, "Which case would most likely result in scope creep?" Out of the four choices I confidently chose "A replacement architect is being placed on a project." From experience, I knew that a different architect has a strong possibility of changing many aspects of the project while bringing in his or her personal preferences. I was shocked to find their choice was "There is a threat of a strike by the construction union." Their reasoning was that the strike would require negotiation and that was not part of scope. This is true, however, the time spent negotiating is a small part of the actual impact of the strike, which is a day-for-day delay in the project. A strike is a time management issue and should be in the risk register as such with proper mitigations and contingency in case it happens. The mitigation should be to continue negotiation throughout the contract to ensure the union workers are happy and will not strike. Strikes are time and risk management problems, not scope creep.

I enjoyed arguing with the first-level mentor at the class provider and eventually getting the email from the second-level staff agreeing that things like TCPI could not be $220,000 and that the course had been corrected and I could take it again in three weeks with the corrected material. Those poor students that actually believed the course was right.

By the way, I am intentionally not providing the name of the providers. There were two education providers, both well respected names for PMP educational material. Since both had the same issues, I need to use the data to suggest PMI improve their governance over their education providers.

TCPI with Units


Puzzled and frustrated, I moved on to team building. Come to find out, team building is part of Execute. What about Initiation? Team building is required the minute there is more than one person on the project. That normally happens when the customer comes to the supplier with the initial request for service—long before initiation. Since PMI's model mentions nothing of working with the customer prior to the project, where the teambuilding needs to start (see Project Inception or Birth), the only logical place for team building in PMI's model would be in Management and Control. That is the only process group that covers the entire project. Team building is priority number one and only stops when the project is disbanded.


Confused, I looked in the index for leadership. The index shows "Leadership Skills, 240, 409." Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I looked up the references. Page 240 had one paragraph; page 409 had no reference to leadership at all. Depressing. Without leadership, how are you going to build high performance teams? So, I searched for the word and found only thirteen occurrences in the main body of text. I was losing my optimism. There were no sections on leadership in the main text, only an afterthought Appendix G (new, in Version 4) that mentions it as part of interpersonal relationships. As discussed in the past, PMI would do businesses and the profession a lot of good if they were to start teaching a lot more leadership and lighten up on the process.

Time Management

I had to focus, I was doing this to get my book published. I needed to move on to my next area of study—building a schedule. This is straightforward, it should be easy to clip through time management. The process: define the activities, good; define the sequence, good; assign the resources, uhhhh...; assign durations, nope. Assign the resources before you know when the task will occur? That makes no sense, how do I know the resource will be available for the task when the task actually occurs? You need to assign durations and then assign resources that are available at the time the activity will occur. Okay, I will simply memorize that.


Ethics should be easy, they boast of their new ethics sections that are continually improved to thwart corporate malfeasance. At this point, I realized I was in trouble. Between the mandatory and aspirational ethics, most of the aspirational ethics were well inside my mandatory bounds. I endeavored to find logic behind the dividing line. Alas, I reverted to rote memorization.

One of my purchased sample test questions asked:

Archive File Composition

"You are an expert on a certain subject and have preformed a job for a client using that knowledge. You have signed a confidentiality agreement with that client. A publisher requests that you write an article on the subject. What do you do?"

The correct answer is to write the article using your knowledge. After all, you are supposed to be an expert in the field. Alas, that is not a choice. The choices include publishing data that you got from the client. That, along with another answer, are obviously poor choices. The two choices remaining are "Say no to publishing the article" and "Ask the client to be released from the confidentiality agreement." My choice was easy. It is never ethical to ask to be released from any agreement unless it is for grave conditions out of your control. That said, I am incapable of concocting a condition where I would ask to be released from a confidentiality agreement. That, to me, is simply unethical. The correct answer was to ask for the release. I looked at the code of ethics, confidentiality is only aspirational (Section 2.2.5). I resigned myself that I would do poorly on this section.

In retrospect, should I have expected more from a group that creates the material, administers and grades the test, provides the certificate and collects money at each step of the process? (To their credit, I have heard rumor they are going to address this issue.)

Exasperated, I retreated to my homemade flashcards and memorized process after process, knowing I was going to forget them immediately after passing my test. What a grandiose waste of time. Doh, wait a minute! I need it to publish my book.

Charters without assumptions, WBSs, or stating methodologies; the inability to create actual flow diagrams of how documents move around the PMI process; convoluted processes jumping pieces of data back and forth between Execute and Monitor and Control for no reason other than for processes' sake. What is this process achieving?

Why the PMP

After five weeks of study and a thousand dollars, I passed my PMP, pleased my publisher and got a signed contract. I had accomplished what I set out to do. However, I could not help but try to understand the real reason for the PMBOK® and the PMI process. What was it teaching? I am still unable to answer that question.

I did, though, come up with the reason for the PMP. Marketing. Whether you are selling a book or yourself it is a marketing tool, it does not show competency. PMI has effectively marketed and sold their certifications to corporations. It allows corporations to have a little box to check off and blindly believe someone has the ability to be a project manager.

Maybe I should be easier on PMI, it is the corporations that bought into the PMP certification as part of employment and it is the reader that buys into the idea that an author needs a PMP to write a good book, not the publisher.

If you think this is just a rant, ask yourself why projects continually seem to fail. For more data on that, look at my article on project failure rates and how well projects success rates track to PMI membership statistics. You might be surprised.

Read 14192 times

Related items

  • People vs Process Track Session/Keynote Example

    If you want educational keynote many of our presentations can be keynotes or track sessions. In the example below, the presentation People or Process: Which Impacts Project Success More? is given as a track session.  

    Example People vs Process keynote as a track session

    This session was given at the PMI Sioux Empire Professions Development Day help in Sioux Falls SD on September 9, 2014.

  • Transform Your Project Leadership: For Professionals Leading Projects or Company Initiatives

    Todd Williams contributed Chapter 7, "Leaders Listen." You can buy it on Amazon.

    More coming soon!

  • Filling Execution Gaps: How Executives and Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy into Successful Projects
    What Filling Execution Gaps Covers

    Filling Execution Gaps

    by Todd C. Williams
    ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
    De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

    Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

    Check it out on Amazon or the Filling Execution Gaps website

    Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

    Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

    Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

    Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

    Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

  • Filling Execution Gaps: Building Success-Focused Organizations

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education. 

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.


PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Upcoming Events