To project management certify or not…?

That is the question….

Now I know I may well upset a few people with this articles however here goes…..

I receive many emails asking for advice how to ‘get into’ project management or what project management training should I undertake? ‘Should I get PRINCE2/ APM/PMI’ is usually attached to the question.

Enquirers tend to fall into 3 categories:

  1. The inexperienced – no project management experience at all. They feel project management is a good career move however they know little about it
  2. Those involved in project management – usually as a project team member or what I call a project management contributor (a person who contributes to a work package in a minor way)
  3. A project manager involved in a strategic project for a company who wants to better themselves; get more experienced; a person who has revived no project management training

What project management training do I recommend?

For the person with no project management experience I mention a combination of reading, some voluntary work with say a charity getting involved in project management. I also suggest getting in touch with project managers suggesting they ask what it’s like being a project manager, generally discovering what is involved in the role. As they are not yet in a project management role, I advise against any qualification route

However, what about those in category 2 and 3 above?

Let me take a side step from the answer for a moment as I believe this will give some background into what I say.


Practical project management training

I decided many years ago that Project Agency will provide practical project management training. Why? After attending various qualification courses I felt that the driver was to get people through a qualification rather than application of project management techniques and tools. To me, it was (and still is to many who I speak with) not real world.

Yes I know that the idea is that you apply it to the situation you face; adapting it to suit the project or the company. But, people have told me that this is the difficult bit. They cannot adapt it finding it too difficult.

This conclusion has been supported by many people who have come along to our Perfect Project course. This is a 2 day course with many practical activities based around a well tried and tested framework. Many people who have been on a qualification course come along at the end of the course and saying something like ‘I went onto a PRINCE2/ APM/PMI qualification course and this 2 days makes much more sense’ Or, ‘I can apply this to my projects straight away. I couldn’t with my qualification course’

Practical application of project management tools & techniques – but not on qualification courses 

Key words: I can apply this (the course) to my project straight away.

So back to the question; do I suggest they get qualified? Yes! I have done so and will continue to do this. People who are involved in key corporate projects need that solid base however they are in the minority of people my company deals with.

As an aside, I am recommending and running more and more soft skills training for all of the 3 above groups. Something I have been speaking about for many years.

So what else do I say to people who enquire about qualification courses? I suggest for example starting a project to develop a community of practice . Where there is no PMO to research what it is and start to act as a PMO (attending various free PMO events) or coaching a less experienced project manager or a team member or receiving coaching from an experienced project manager.

The advice I give is clearly based on the persons experience and circumstances.

It is important to stress I am not suggesting that project management certification training is a waste. As suggested above, I have recommended people to attend such courses. However, it’s about being practical. The drive to pass the exam is just that…a drive. The application of project management seems to have got lost in the process. Then, on re-entry to the business people find it difficult to apply to a project. To repeat, these are the words people say to me, though I have thought this was the case for many years.

Finally, I came across an article from Elizabeth Harrin. It is called Professional development (without a training course). In it, she calls on the expertise of Louise Worsley who is a coach, consultant and academic in South Africa. Worsley says (and I agree) that:

“Most adult learning comes from relevant experience: challenges faced on a project, interactions with peers, or opportunities which force reflection upon and make sense of our experience.”

Do read the article as it has a strong link into what I am suggesting though from a different angle.

To project management certify or not…? What’s your view?

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