The De-valued Professional Project Manager

I have seen a very upsetting trend in the United States over the last three years – organizations have stopped valuing experienced, professional Project Managers.  Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it – companies put out a call for a position such as a business analyst, developer or technical specialist, and when you read the competencies for the job, it has project management all though it.  So, do they really want a business analyst, or have they asked for a business analyst with a PMP because they don’t want to pay for a professional project manager? In how many of these situations do they really need a professional Project Manager because the project is complex or mission critical?

I will admit that even I have questioned certifications in our industry, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP).  What does it really mean today? And does it help to filter out people who don’t have real and deep experience in project management?  I have met more non-experienced PMs with a PMP certification in the last 2 years than ever before.  I wonder – has PMI sold out? Are they no longer enforcing the experience requirements for obtaining the PMP?  Can anyone earn a PMP?

So, as more and more companies post job openings where they want project management as one skill among many, will the project management profession become obsolete? The biggest problem with this trend is the de-valuing of thousands of professional project managers who have years of experience managing projects and applying project management principles to complex projects.  I am not saying every project manager has to be a certified or professional – not all projects are the same or require full time project management.  But many of the new projects we are seeing, which were delayed due to the recession, are strategic, with high visibility and should require a professional project manager.

If you have devoted your career to being a professional PM, like I have, you are frustrated watching companies put individuals into project manager positions who do not have the experience nor the skills to do the job.  And why does our profession end up as a just a skill on another job position?  Would a company do this with any other professional, certified position? For example, would they hire a telecommunications engineer and require that they have a CPA?  Probably not, even though the engineer might need to know accounting. To do so would de-value the career associated with the CPA. By the same token, the skills set of a Project Management Professional (PMP) is not the same as someone who just needs to understand project management as a part of their job.

Well, now I will step down from my soap box!  But really, this is a main concern of mine for 2012.  In this cost-cutting, post recession environment, how many of my PMP peers are seeing this disturbing trend as companies try to “do more with fewer people?”

6 Responses to “The De-valued Professional Project Manager”

  1. Bruce Fieggen Says:

    I am seeing way too many people with little to no PM knowledge getting their certification. With companies like Cheetah giving you a crash course and a guarantee, it’s too easy to get the PMP. And is anyone really checking the experience these people claim to have? I watched one of my co-workers obtain his PMP six months after graduating from college.

  2. Warren Simon Says:

    I agree with your article and with the above comment. A coworker of mine is in the midst of obtaining his PMP certification simply so that he can “pad” his resume. He has no PM experience whatsoever. He is bright — he’ll have his PhD very soon, but in an entirely different field. He has taken one of the 4-day crash courses and will then take the exam. That simple. And that is not right.

    The PMP certification is, honestly, just a test. I personally don’t have my PMP and will probably never bother to get it. Why? Several reasons: First, I work for the Federal Government, and my agency doesn’t care nearly as much about the PMP certification as it does about sheer PM experience, so a PMP won’t do me much good. Second, I have 20+ years of experience as a PM, and I have a Master’s degree in PM as well, from the University of Maryland’s Civil Engineering Department. Not to demean those that do have their PMP certification, but I have ALWAYS thought that having the experience and education is worth much, much more than the piece of paper. And third, I remember one of my Master’s professors mentioning an interesting tidbit which … sort of … bothered me. He said that all of the other industry ‘authorities’ (IEEE and such) are non-profit or not-for-profit. However, PMI is specifically a for-profit company and has always been so. I do not know for sure that this was true, or if it still may be true, but what I saw showed me enough evidence that this is true, that PMI is a for-profit organization, and that therefore the goal of making Project Management a believed-in worldwide standard is possibly secondary to them just making money. That bothered me. I also notice that PMI has since generated a slew of new sub-fields and therefore new certifications that we can get, by paying for them. To me, yes, you enhance the existing necessary base field and certification, but somewhat randomly adding new ones just smacks to me of being overtly profit-driven.

    I may be wrong on all of this, but this is what I see, read and hear.

    Meanwhile, thanks for your blog. I’ve gotten a lot of great helpful hints from you over the last few years.

  3. Jim Says:

    I agree that the PMI/PMP certification process today, while well intended, is just not effective. It does not “certify” any level of PM skills or knowledge beyond what is required to take an exam. The work experience requirement has become a joke … even with the “audits” that they intermittently perform.

    Today’s PMP certification appears to have taken on a life of its own. It is now viewed by may employers as a talisman that will ward off project evils. Those who carry the PMP after their name will be protected and bring successful projects along with them. Those who don’t will bring fear and failure.

    Those of us who measure project management experience in decades know that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, the PMP label has allowed far too many inexperienced (and just plain bad) project managers to assume positions that they were just not able to successfully perform. The rest of us then get tarred with the same brush, after all aren’t we “professionals” too?

    PMI now represents a significant business organization with a healthy cost overhead. To support such a “habit”, it requires a steady flow of PMP applicants and membership fees. Regardless of the potential for quality improvements, does PMI have the intestinal fortitude to make required changes?

    Has the PMI organization become so large that it now exists to sustain itself, instead of providing a service to the profession?

  4. What makes a Project Manager, Professional? | beyondcenter Says:

    […] Like many Project Managers, who had “earned their stripes” in the delivery of projects prior to the popularity of certifying organizations, I have often looked at the PMI certification “tags” after a signature with disdain.  The thought of someone claiming greater levels of expertise by paying a fee and taking a test is a travesty. While it is true that there are many highly skilled and greatly experienced PMP‘s out there, there are also many PMP’s who present themselves as more than they really are. […]

  5. project management | futureblender Says:

    […] The De-valued Professional Project Manager ( […]

  6. Young PMP Says:

    I do agreed with some of the comments, but I think PM (with Certification) are very much seniors in an organization. Perhaps, have younger PM (with Certification), is what corporations needs. Experience is something that I know can not be replace. But handing over the torches will be something companies are looking at. Young PMP will make mistakes, but it’s the only way we can learn and get the required experience to move forward. Thank you!

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