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PMBOK Good - PMP Bad - PMI ???

I first came in contact with the Guide to the PMBOK nearly 10 years ago. It used to come free on a CD with every copy of Primavera and you could download it off the internet. At the time I thought, great, this is a very useful taxonomy of project management practices. I think it was instrumental in defining common terms which if used consistantly would allow people to discuss and think about project management without misunderstanding.

As PMI matured, the PMBOK got updated and went under more control. Rather than a free disk in every box of software or something anyone could download it became a document that came with a paid membership. You can access certain excerpts of it on-line after filling in some form and agreeing to terms and conditions (PMI site here) but the open attitude and ability to pass the disk around to whoever wanted it is gone.

I seem to recall political battles around the turn of the millenium as well regarding what would go in and what would stay out. I didn't pay enough attention to remember what happened so I won't cover that here, but I'm quite certain that the battles began. Next thing I know the PMBOK became a reference text for PMP certification and a cottage industry of PMP exam trainers sprung up. All of this has a cost. PMI membership has a cost. PMP certification has a cost. Training can cost a couple thousand dollars. And then there is continuing education...something provided by PMP approved consultants.

The organization that once encouraged free sharing of project management ideas and defining common terms so we can engage in productive discussion (see the discussion/argument about what Enterprise Project Management means at Brian's Blog) and debate seems to have turned into a commercial enterprise. A look at the meeting minutes from the last Board of Directors meeting (held in Singapore Feb'05) shows just two items: approval of a travel policy for directors and the following notes about PMP certification:

• PMI will remain the global leader in project and program management credentialing driven by market demand, stakeholder needs and advancement of the profession.
• PMI’s credentialing activities will give priority to cooperation over competition while ensuring that competitive activities are undertaken in a fair and ethical manner.
• PMI will maintain standardized credentialing practices globally and drive innovative solutions which address regional and local stakeholders’ needs.
• PMI will expand the levels and types of credentials and position them to meet the demands of the marketplace. PMI will explore new possibilities for innovative and defensible methods of assessment which are scalable and portable.
• PMI will develop and maintain a clear value proposition for all credentials.

If I use the technique of stripping out the adjectives (very useful when reading corporate speak) and do a little clean up the message reads: "Expand and dominate the market for Project management credentials". Is this to pay for travel to Singapore? How does this benefit the membership at large? Is credentialing the functional equivalent of the sale of Girl Scout Cookies - something to raise money so that PMI can do good deeds? If so, then where are the good deeds discussed?

Sorry PMI - you leave a bad impression when all you do is look for and talk about money.


Comments (6)

From my very biased point of view, this also leads to very narrow minded approaches to project management. See current Blog.

There's one way and its the PMBOK way.

Jingying Hsu:

I am the one who is thinking about getting a PMP certification. It really costs lots of money.

Does it really help to get a good job abroad or just a commercial advertisement?


It is to my experience that it opens a lot more doors of opportunity. Most of the PM jobs especially in Federal and State governments now require a PMP certification to work on their contracts. Though I am no fan of PMI and feel I've learned nothing new via the PMP, indeed opportunity will be greatly enhanced.

Do it.

Best of luck,


Richard Tucker, PMP, PRINCE2 Practitioner:

As G. noted on January 10, 2008, PMP is often a requirement for a contractor to participate in performing work for the US Federal government. While I agree that the PMP certification provides limited value to a highly (10+ years) experienced project manager, clients use it to level set the theoretical knowledge that they expect a PM to possess. By example, if the contractor PM creates a poorly constructed schedule, the PMBOK is a neutral voice to mediate differences of opinion on what is a "best practice". CMMI, ANSI, IEEE and other industry standards all serve this purpose. The PMP after your name proves that you read the document and understood, for at least three hours, what it said.



I am currently planning to go ahead and take up PM training.Does the certification hold any value in these times of recessionary economies or should I wait a little longer?

I have been going through blogs to find the answer but haven't found one as of yet.

This type of certification appeals to professionals that either want or already have the responsibility of efficiently managing projects through their completion. Of course, the projects must meet or exceed expectations, be delivered in a timely manner, within budget, and within resources.

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