Five Myths of Project Management Certification Debunked
Project management training schools are popping up like weeds in a fertilized garden, offering online and in-person accelerated courses to help students pass an exam to become certified project managers. The underlying premise is that anybody can internalize and assimilate years of project management experience in a few weeks and walk out of the examination with a freshly minted certification in project management. The problem is that newly certified project managers do not realize how little they know and how much real world experience they need to learn before they can effectively deliver consistent value on projects.
Here are five common myths about certified project managers, and the truth that you need to know for successful relationships with certified project managers.
Myth #1: Certified Project Managers are trained and capable to handle any situation.
Truth # 1: Certification processes for project mangers do not usually include hands-on training. Project managers obtain certification by studying prescribed material and passing a test. The resulting certified project manager has a measured base level of understanding of project management terminology and best practices. However, a newly certified project manager may not have internalized the skills that only years of experience can hone. Don't assume that all certified project managers have the same level skills and capabilities simply because they have passed the same test and become certified project managers.
Myth #2: Certified Project Managers will slot right into your unique project management methodology (or lack thereof).
Truth #2: The project management profession covers an enormous span of job descriptions that are commonly filled by a generic role of "Project Manager". Many organizations misapply the title of "Project Manager" to roles filling secretarial functions, project expeditor and routine administrative support, resulting in unorthodox methodologies which are unique to the project manager implementing them.
Each organization has a unique project management environment. Some organizations have PMO templates to follow other organizations don't follow standards and give each project manager the freedom to arbitrarily create project plans. Your organization has unique financial reporting systems, communication channels and norms. If you have been in the same organization for a number of years, then you may not realize just how unique your organization is when compared to other organizations.
Therefore, unless your organization has a high percentage of project managers schooled in the same project management methodologies; it is unrealistic to expect a newly certified project manager to slot into your unique project management methodology. To overcome this challenge, always assign a mentor to new project managers until they have assimilated into your unique environment. Certified project managers integrate quickly into changed environments, and you accelerate the process dramatically by assigning a mentor project manager.
Myth #3: Certified project managers are always more effective than non-certified and experienced project managers.
Truth #3: This is similar to myth# 2, in that each organization has unique methodologies and norms that evolve over time. The more unorthodox your organization's project management methodologies the harder it is to integrate newly certified project managers. In the short term, project managers experienced with your unique methodologies in your organization will be more efficient than certified project managers. However, for sustainable high performing project management results, you need to hire certified project managers and support initiatives to implement standard project management processes throughout your organization.
For maximum effectiveness assign mentors to new certified project managers. Help new certified project managers to quickly learn the uniqueness of your organization, for everyone's benefit.
Myth #4: Certified project managers are project miracle workers. When a project is over-budget and behind schedule then assigning a certified project manager to the project will solve all the project problems.
Truth #4: Nobody can make a project successful if you have unrealistic timelines and insufficient expertise on the team. Professional project managers who are certified are human beings with specific project management skills and trained to apply best practices. With a certified project manager in charge, you are more likely to have successful project outcomes than with untrained project managers at the helm, but no-one can resolve impossible conflicts including unrealistic timeframes. You are simply setting yourself and all stakeholders up for conflict and ultimately disappointment, when you believe that a certified project manager will resolve impossible problems.
The best course of action to take when a project is clearly over-budget and behind schedule is to have a certified project manager assess the current project status. Then, with the facts on the table, all stakeholders can decide on the appropriate actions which may include revisiting the project schedule, increasing the budget, descoping items or canceling the project.
Myth #5: Certified project managers will convince the organization of the value of project management, solve all staffing issues and implement effective project management methodologies without support from senior management.
Truth #5: Part of all of us would like to believe that after appointing a certified project manager, all organizational woes are magically cured. The truth is that professional project managers will bring project management discipline to your organization, but lasting improvements require senior management buy-in and support. Without management focus, professionally certified project managers have limited influence and will focus on delivering short-term projects and not on implementing sustainable solutions.
In summary, you can expect a newly certified project manager to be schooled in the best practices of project management. Also expect certified project managers to take a period of time to learn your unique environment and build relationships with key stakeholders in your organization. You get the best return on your investment by assigning a mentor and professional coach to each new project manager on your team, to accelerate the learning curve.