Project management education should be like riding a tricycle

tricyclePMI has just announced a number of changes to their Continuing Certification Requirements program which requires certified professionals to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) over a three year period to retain their certification.  One of the key changes is that formal education-based PDUs must be earned from courses spanning the following three areas: technical project management, leadership, and business & strategic.

When we categorize the multiple competencies which are required to be a successful project manager, you’ll find the need to have a solid foundation of project management theory and practice, coupled with significant soft skills and sufficient domain expertise.

Some of you might argue that only the first two are a must, but the reality is that most managers will prefer to hire a project manager who understands their business processes and industry nuances enough that they can help identify risks and challenge assumptions and estimates.

These three categories map exactly to PMI’s new requirements. So while my initial reaction was to ask “Why fix what isn’t broke?”, upon further reflection, I believe this change is positive.

Many of the project managers I’ve met had focused their formal education on technical project management (e.g. risk management, critical chain) earlier in their career but as their experience increased, the focus shifted to enhancing soft skills or in gaining further domain expertise.

While any effort spent on developing oneself is good, there are risks in focusing development efforts on a single area.

If we focus on technical project management, we could learn about tools and techniques which we can’t apply within our work environment, and the investment is wasted. We could also run the risk of becoming dogmatic as there are very few technical project management courses that are 100% pragmatic.

If the focus is on soft skills development alone, we will certainly improve our ability to forge positive relationships with stakeholders and with our team members, but might lose track of how the tools and techniques within our profession are evolving and could come across as Luddites.

Finally, if the emphasis is placed on domain expertise, we would gain the respect and credibility of our customer and key business partners, but we run the risk of overstepping our boundaries with the analysts and other subject matter experts on our teams, and we might lose sight of the key tools and techniques required to be a successful project manager.

Recognizing that individual professionals are not likely to have the same level of interest across all three categories, PMI has only established minimum requirements for each. If someone is particularly interested in developing their soft skills, once they have earned the minimum PDUs for all three categories, they can earn the balance of their formal education-based PDUs through additional soft skills courses.

While a unicycle can be a capable means of transportation, a tricycle is more versatile.






Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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