time for change in project management

The New and Improved PMP Certification

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is (finally) updating the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification subjects (called the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK). This update shifts focus from predictive approaches to hybrid ones as popularized in the modern workplace. We think it’s about time! As the workforce and development methods have evolved, so too must the leaders of change: project managers! Many project managers are probably in high gear to attain their PMP certification before 2021. We suggest project managers who want more credibility wait until the exam changes in 2021!

What’s Changing in PMP?

For starters: it is better tuned to modern work environments that focus on people and strategy. The PMI process will always be the heavyweight in PMP or PMBOK. For new project managers, the body of knowledge (aka PMBOK) provides a good toolset. In other words, seasoned project managers have a hard time aligning their practices to the pie-in-the-sky process that PMBOK entails. If you read our earlier blog post about how education stacks up against a pre-2021 PMP certification, you’ll know that we don’t give more value to PMP certification than typical online learning. That’s because PMP is boring, outdated, and doesn’t allow room to satisfy some of our most important needs: like people and strategy. As we read through the new structure for the upcoming changes to the PMP certification, we were excited that finally, the content meets more of what organizations need!

Leadership Versus Administration

A quick look at the contents of the pre-2021 PMP certification content breaks components of project management down into five domains. Each domain, in some organizations, becomes phases that end up stove-piped into their project management structure. When NASA executed a project that landed us on the moon we were convinced that all those processes inside initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing phases were perfectly deliberate, methodically executed, and carefully measured to a resounding success. Today, Elon Musk builds Starships built by passionate people who refuse to be constrained by phases and domains. We should take note.

Project Resources: People

The people (resources) are at the core of our new shift in project management and hopefully, the PMP change in 2021 is just a start. The builders, the dreamers, the executors of innovation don’t have to be starship builders but definitely need to have a leaner project ethos that supports them. These leaders can lead teams to build to the vision and use rapid processes that can be improved exponentially to deliver to the business environment. Project managers who guide teams to develop starships, software, infrastructure, creative solutions, and everything in between, should have an efficient set of tools from which to draw from. Whether your delivery includes a stainless steel starship or an application that teaches multiple languages; it requires a project manager who can guide the team through domains that are better suited to our work today.

Project Management and Domain Focus

The pre-2021 PMP certification was focused on the activity of realizing your project in several different domains and understanding those connection points as you worked your way through them. The next iteration of the PMP certification looks at you (yes you, project manager) as the leader who pulls people together to enable process and deliver to your business environment. The new PMP understands that machines, software development, and artificial intelligence do not a project make; it’s people, project leadership, and the tools that enable them. It is teams, leadership, and collectively building it together that make up the first domain: People. In the People Domain, there are tasks which include, as a whole, leading a team, working out the kinks, and navigating the execution towards your deliverables to make your customer happy. Simple. Efficient.

Process Makes Perfect (Project Execution)

Deliberate, effective, efficient, and reusable. Are those adjectives you can use to describe your project management methods? Over the years project organizations have extracted the PMI domains of project management and applied to their own methodologies. Meaning: most organizations have outgrown PMI’s PMP so it’s about time they have made some changes. Don’t get us wrong: it takes years of marketing and strategy to make the PMP one of the most coveted sought after certifications! Effective perhaps, but as Agile has crept into just about every corner of our workplace, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) has become heavy, dull, and lethargic. With robotic process automation and business process management, the concept of process improvement takes on new meaning. We need to put the process of managing project domains into people’s (project resources) hands and do what projects ‘managers’ should be doing – leading and communicating.

Building effective tactics into projects takes project managers who are empowered leaders. While we don’t think all of the tasks within the people domain support organizations who execute projects with many different strategic forces, we do think that the focus on team building and leadership is critical. As an example, in the new PMP content, task 1 is focused on delivering business value. We applaud the idea of business value being front and center in PMP, but so far, there seems to be no structure for projects that deliver both internal and external business value.

Projects or Project Management?

Many organizations struggle with delivering a project management capability along with deliverables. Some have even suggested that focusing on deliverables is out of style! In some cases, your external customer seeks a solution plus your project execution (management) role. A project manager in this situation is the communication bridge and has no other choice but to focus on deliverables (quality) and default vision to the external project sponsors. Millions of projects are executed where external business value is not a core strategy of the organization driving execution. This is where organizations who drive projects for external ones; need enablers identified to support them.

Project Managers have to be effective customer relationship managers and always need to be able to tie core execution to a stakeholder’s needs. That’s value!

PMP 2021: Room for Improvement

Domain Three: Business Environment is the last and thinnest section of the new PMP. We don’t find this domain, at 8% of the whole, packed with a great tool-set. In fact, we would guess that the creators of the next PMP contents short-changed it somewhat. If you’ve ever been in the Washington DC, Huntsville Alabama, or any place with a large government presence; you understand why. For us, Task 3 Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on scope and Task 4 Organizational Change should have been front and center, and at far more than 8% of the whole. Project Managers focused on external business change need to be armed with the necessary tools to manage customers who don’t understand the impact.

Taking the Next PMP

Our advice (contrary to others) to anyone currently studying for the PMP should wait until the certification testing is ready for this improved look at projects. If we talk PMP certification with new project managers, the question becomes: did you get the 2021 certification or the one that swimming in 30+ years of process?

We still recommend opening up your project toolbox by studying up on Prince2 methods and watching the industry for next-level project executors like Prof. Antonio Nieto-Rodriquez who believes that radical changes like business operations automation being replaced by artificial intelligence could replace job titles with project roles. PMI’s PMP is broad enough for most project managers and once PMP has enabled all the industries they support, most project managers will benefit from it after 2021.

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