The Inescapable Myth Underlying the PMP Certification…

2010.03.02 MV to All:
As I sit here continuing my lunchtime studying for my upcoming PMP exam, I suddenly had a Moment of Clarity regarding why I DETEST pursuing this certification. Oh, it’s been nagging me for quite some time (at least a year since I first considered sitting for this exam), but I could never put it into words. Yet with each new encounter with a “certified” Project Manager in my SharePoint consulting travels, my observations of their poor project management skills fed this nameless, nagging vexation.

Then today – seemingly out of the blue – it hit me what the PROBLEM with the PMP is:

There’s an underlying ASSUMPTION that whatever skills were needed to pass the exam were indicative of a highly-experienced, well-learned, in-grained, ready-to-be-called-forth-whenever-needed set of project management principles.

For the vast majority of PMP-certificed Project Managers I have ever come across… NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.


The skills that are needed to pass the PMP exam can be learned by a college student fresh out of school, and – at least so I’ve been told – in less than 3 weeks. Maybe 2 weeks.


I shit you not. I even traded emails with a business aquaintance who made that very claim – that he studied-for and passed the PMP on his FIRST try, and he did it just 2 weeks of evenings spent at the local public library.

Now I ask you, given a scenario wherein THAT “certified” project manager got The Job over a far-more-experienced-but-UN-certified project manager, WHICH ONE – when a genuine NEED arises – is going to be able to call upon IN-GRAINED, GENUINE project management skills to carry The Project to a successful conclusion… and WHICH one will have already PURGED from his short-term memory (you know – the kind used to cram for exams) any USEFUL information, and instead will be lamely relying upon consultant-speak and “leadership by committee” to obscure the reality that he DOESN’T really KNOW how to manage a project…

Think about it. How many PMP-certified Project Managers do YOU know, do YOU work with, who adopt – nay even PRIDE themselves on performing – the very activities (e.g. status meetings, managing by committee) which are the ANATHEMA of PMP goddess Rita and her ilk of PMP gods?…

Lots. Tons. If I MUST be technical… “heaps & gobs” of PMP-certified Project Managers behave like this.
You know it. I know. Hell… RITA HERSELF knows it.

So what does it MEAN?…

It means – like I said – that the underlying assumption that the skills needed to pass the PMP are deeply-ingrained is in fact FALSE, and that these skills CAN and ARE temporarily CRAMMED, and that the PMP as a result is NOT the infallible sieve which can be used to separate pyrite from true gold…

In fact, if I must be candid (I am ALWAYS truthful), I can only state that in my own experience PMP certification is accomplishing precisely the OPPOSITE of what it intended; there are now in fact MORE BAD PROJECT MANAGERS THAN EVER BEFORE.

And here’s the REAL irony – we have none other than RITA herself to thank for this sorry state of affairs, because she & her ilk make it a (lucrative) BUSINESS out of preparing these pyrite PMPs to pass the exam in the first place !!!

Back to my studies. I somehow feel “lighter” – as if a great burden had been lifted off of my shoulders…
… or maybe it was just a loss of bile.


Peace out.



  • Ghost of Rita

    Argh, you killed me.

    Please also remember that the credential requires more than a test. Additionally, you need to document 3 to 5 years work experience in the role, as well as 35 hours of PM training. You also are obligating yourself to a code of ethics and professional responsibility.

    Yes, most PMP’s are paper tigers, but so are most MCSE’s, MCITP’s, etc.
    That’s what you get with entry level certs – for which there is no
    Demonstration component (or practical as in the Cisco certs).

    It’s the starting point, not the proof.

    • Mark Edward Vogt

      Hi Rita,
      I think I long-forgot to respond to your comment, but figure it’s worth it even months later.
      While I concur you are required to “document 3 to 5 years work experience in the role” – what drives me buggers is that NO ONE I’ve ever met has EVER actually been audited. Add on top of that the repeated experience of meeting young men & women less than 3 years out of UNIVERSITY who are “documenting” 4,500 HOURS OF EXPERIENCE in project-management roles. It’s just not possible. Period. No workplace gives someone with a BS or BA a project manager role right out of college… PARTICULARLY for a “project” as defined by the ever-blunt Rita Mulcahy; she describes a project as (I paraphrase) over 1 year in length, over $5M in cost, and with a staff of 25+ dedicated people….
      By those standards many of us – even professional consultants – have only about 5-7 “projects” across an entire 25 year career, and certainly NO just-graduated staffer is going to land that kind of opportunity – it would be throwing that $5M down the drain, and risking the careers of those 25 seasoned people.

      PMI does NOT audit EVERY single candidate, and that’s what MUST change, or “PMP” will become not only the empty promise (or joke) it is already heading toward becoming, but it may very well become a professional liabiilty, with everyone who possesses that title considered a project management pariah…

      Here’s hoping you might actually get an email on this response. Thank you for taking the time to comment thoughtfully and intelligently. I wish you a Merry Christmas.

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