Posts Tagged ‘Certification’

PMI Agile Certification

Posted on February 25th, 2011 by Dennis Stevens  |  7 Comments »

PMI regularly surveys project practitioners to identify trends in the practice and needs related to project management. One of the practices that PMI has monitored over the last several years is the continuing growth and usage of Agile practices in project management. Since Agile is a topic of growing importance in project management many project professionals are eager to gain Agile techniques to apply on the job. Similarly, organizations that utilize project management to serve both internal and external clients are seeing value in Agile methods to deliver projects for these clients more quickly.

Because of these changes in the project management environment, PMI is developing an Agile certification. This certification will complement the existing PMI offerings in Agile, such as our Agile Community of Practice, SeminarsWorld and eSeminarsWorld classes, and Global Congress area of focus sessions.

My entire focus over the last decade has been responsibly connecting Agile and Project Management to help organizations deliver technology that makes a different to the business. I am passionate about where PMI is going with this. Over the past year or so, I have invested significant time and travel in the groups that are helping connect Agile and the PMI community.  These efforts include:

Agile Certification Overview

I have talked about why I value certification and what certification means previously. I am an advocate of communities generating shared language and exploring how to do what they do better. And I believe that a certificate that exposes a basic understanding with that community is valuable. There is a HUGE gap in understanding between the traditional Project Management practitioner and project management based on an Agile foundation.

PMI’s Agile Certification builds on six key competency areas. Here are the six key areas and a conceptual view of how they may contrast with traditional thinking. Pragmatically, these all exist on a continuum. The key is that most organizations lean toward the traditional side of the equation and that most Project Management implementation put up barriers to delivering projects with practices that lean toward the Agile end of the continuum.

1. Value Driven Delivery

Agile: Deliver value by understanding and prioritizing what is important to the customer and the business, continually refining the smallest and simplest thing that might possible work, delivering quality results incrementally, and obtaining feedback to improve the result.

Traditional: Define the project up front. Use robust change management to protect against / prevent change.

2. Stakeholder Engagement

Agile: Establish and maintain mechanisms that ensure that all current and future interested parties are appropriately participating throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Traditional: Throw projects over the wall across Analysis, Design, Development, QA, and Production. Engage end-users at the end. Leave significant strategic decisions to the interpretation of the development organization while the project is in the black-box of development.

3. Boost Team Performance

Agile: Boost team performance through creating an environment of trust, learning, collaborative decision making, commitment and conflict resolution, thereby enhancing relationships amongst individual team members.

Traditional: Focus on resource optimization. Form teams around projects. Share resources across multiple projects simultaneously. Take power away so people just do what they are told according to the standards. Put all decision making into the hands of few key managers.

4. Adaptive Planning

Agile: Work with the team and the stakeholders to produce and maintain an evolving plan from initiation to close based on goals, business values, risks, constraints, and stakeholder feedback.

Traditional: Plan the work and work the plan. Stick to the Gantt Chart.

5. Problem Detection and Resolution

Agile: The team identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.

Traditional: Management identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.

6. Continuous Improvement

Agile: Improve the quality, effectiveness, and flexibility of the product, process and team and influence the organization in order to better deliver value now and in the future.

Traditional: Perform lessons learned at the end of the project. Use those to update organizational processes and standards.


If you are a traditional and experienced project manager you may not agree with the dichotomy between Agile and Traditional that I presented above. This is either because you view the Agile approach as irresponsible or because you believe you apply Agile in situation specific ways without having to call it Agile. In theory, I agree. In practice I see way more traditional project management than agile project management. Right now, most organizations don’t even have language or feel it is safe to discuss how Agile fits in.

Having open and responsible discussion around the concepts of value drive delivery, stakeholder engagement, boosting team performance, adaptive planning, and continuous improvement can do nothing but help organizations improve performance.  I don’t believe PMI has gotten it perfect in this effort. They have made great progress toward establishing language around the important conversations and have expressed a desire to evolve this body of knowledge rapidly. Creating the Agile Certificate will create safety for organizations to explore the Agile options responsibly.  I am excited about the where the Agile Certification today and where it is heading in the future. But, within five years – I hope that these Agile concepts aren’t controversial. I hope they just become part of the generally accepted way of delivering projects.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #PMIAgileCert

Certification, the Dreyfus Model, and Tilting at Windmills

Posted on August 25th, 2010 by Dennis Stevens  |  3 Comments »

There continues to be a lot of discussion about certification and the value of certification. Most recently at PM Hut with Certifications Don’t Make Project Managers. The article argues that PMP certification is not useful because we still fail at projects at an alarmingly high rate. I think it is a flawed argument in many regards (check my three or more comments) but I understand the underlying concerns. First, that hiring managers take certification to indicate an improbably high level of competence. Second, that there are talented people that can’t or choose not to pursue certification. Let me address both of these concerns.

What Does Certification Imply

From my experience, a PMP is like a recent college graduate, a medical resident, or a 16-year old who just got their license. They have shown interest in being project managers, have some situational awareness from having participated in projects, have been educated in the fundamentals and share a common language. But they are not prepared to be CEO of a business, an emergency room surgeon, or a cross country truck driver. I am not sure how big a problem this really is.

The Dreyfus Skill Acquisition Model identifies five stages of competence:

  • Novice: Basic understanding of concepts. Adherence to rules. No discretionary judgment.
  • Advanced Beginning: Situational perception. All aspects of work treated with equal importance.
  • Competent: Coping with crowdedness. Formulating routines. Able to recognize patterns.
  • Proficient: Holistic view. Senses deviations from the pattern.
  • Expert: No longer relies on rules. Based on deep tacit knowledge. Vision of what is possible.

Certification takes you no higher than Advanced Beginner and probably doesn’t guarantee any more than Novice. But a Novice is way ahead of the competence curve from someone who has no idea what to do.  To be a great project manager who can run projects in complex organization unsupervised you probably need to rise to the level of Proficient or Expert. Additionally, Getting beyond Advanced Beginning requires more than just some knowledge. We talk about Knowledge, Skills, and Aptitudes. Beyond project management knowledge, there are soft skills and organizational aptitudes necessary to be successful leading complex projects.

I don’t think that the concern that hiring managers and HR departments place too much weight on the PMP is a real problem. In my conversations with HR managers and hiring managers, they aren’t assuming more than this. The fact that hiring managers are asking for PMP’s as an entry point means that they are looking for a common starting place and basic level of intent and awareness.  If they want to greater level of Skills and Aptitudes then they should interview for these. PMI supports this model through their Project Manager Competency Development Framework.

People Who Can’t or Won’t Earn Certification

I earned my PMP in 1998. I have been active with PMI since then including working as the Deputy Project Manager for OPM3 and my current work as a member of the OPM3 Services Advisory Group and on the board of the PMI Agile Virtual Community. My PMP lapsed in 2001. I have not renewed it. Why? At the time it was partially due to the neglect of not attaining and recording PDU’s and partially due to tilting at this certification windmill. I felt that the real value of PMI was in the community and in advocating for responsible project management. I put my money where my mouth is – I support the community and advocate for responsible project management. I don’t really need my PMP at this point to get a job. If I did, I would have it. In fact, I wish I had kept it as I gained nothing by tilting at the PMP windmill.

If you can’t get a job because you don’t have a PMP or can’t pass the PMP test, then you should get your PMP. Unless you want to be unreasonably stubborn – like I was – or want to continue to not be evaluated for a job. This argument just doesn’t hold water for me. While I have known plenty of super capable, super talented project managers that were PMP-less – they had the language, they had the hard and the soft skills, and they had the organizational aptitudes to be successful. It is a logic fallacy to say that because there are good project managers without PMP’s that you shouldn’t look for PMP’s to be your project managers.

Tilting at Windmills

The shame of this is that there are real issues with project management today. We don’t have a clear enough path for determining Agile Project Managers (ICAgile is looking to address this shortly). HR organization’s fail to interview effectively for situation appropriate Skills and Aptitudes. Many companies don’t invest in the developing project managers further up the Dreyfus model. Organization’s are still poorly designed for adapting to change and supporting project execution.

However, none of this has anything to with the value of the PMP or other types of certification. Certification is the beginning of the journey. It is the first driver’s license, the college degree, acceptance into the residency program. Certification is critically important. It sets the baseline. It establishes the basic body of knowledge that is expected. It creates awareness in HR departments and with hiring managers of what kinds of knowledge they should be looking for.

So, rather than tearing down certification and slandering organization’s that have promoted our profession and created great communities for us – let’s put our energy into:

  • creating awareness of the need for further growth
  • promoting to individuals and hiring managers the Knowledge, Skills, and Aptitudes needed to climb the Skills Acquisition Model.
  • communicating the value that organization’s receive when they are organized to be adaptable and execute strategy well

There is power and benefit in these activities. The continual bashing of certification and the organization’s that support them is just useless tilting at windmills.