Attention PMP®s: Are You Up to Date?

Christine Moore, PMP, CPF - December 2011

No one's blaming you. I mean who knew? In my case, I think I just got comfortable with the title. I mean I earned it! I studied for a solid month back in early 1998 and on March 2nd I became a PMP® (certificate number 182649). I was managing projects before that, and still am today, but have to admit I'd gotten comfortable with my old knowledge of the Project Management Body of Knowledge® (PMBOK®).

Things Have Changed

Now in my defense, I have maintained my certification which entails earning the required Professional Development Units (PDUs), but recently I discovered earning PDUs and keeping up with the new PMP®s are two very different things...

At a recent Project Management Institute® (PMI®) dinner meeting a colleague and I were having the "what if my certification lapsed" conversation (you've had this nightmare you know what I'm talking about), and I spouted off that I was pretty sure I could still pass the test. A quiet man to my left asked if I had reviewed the latest edition of the PMBOK® (4th in case you are keeping track), or if I was familiar with the Role Delineation Study at the heart of the new PMP® exam. I admitted that though I could claim awareness of both and thought I may have participated in a survey of the latter, I hadn't actually reviewed the PMBOK® in quite some time. In the most professional and courteous way possible this young man started to inform me what I've missed.

After a couple of months of diving back in to the PMBOK® and the new test specification I can say that it has been as worthy of my time as the original study effort back in 1998. What I've realized is that the deep dive study of the updated body of knowledge has provided me with different benefits than the PDUs I've earned over the years, and I feel up-to-date. I almost want to take the exam again! And by the way, now I really do think I can pass.

What's Different?

The PMBOK® has grown. It's grown in both breadth (more attention to the process groups) and depth (more information about everything). In comparison to the 1996 edition (which I used to study in 1998) there are 211 more pages (after taking out appendices). Included are 238 additional definitions, and 5 more processes. The process groups and knowledge areas remain in tact but there's a lot more detail regarding tools and techniques. The number of acronyms has grown a little (just by 5). The new edition contains a really nice summary (Appendix A) about what's changed in the 4th edition. Also for those really long-standing PMP®s, Appendix B has the entire evolution. One more important difference is in the color of the pages—the pages of my 1996 edition actually have a yellow hue.

The exam has changed. This was the my biggest surprise, and I'm really impressed by what I've learned. The new test specification clearly explains that a PMP® will be tested on not only their knowledge of the PMBOK®, but what real project managers actually do. In my humble opinion, this new twist, compliments of the Role Delineation Study (RDS) Process taken on by PMI®, has really upped the value of the PMP® credential. The exam uses a task oriented approach which requires exam takers to have a situational understanding of project management.

Meta-Skills. The test specification now includes mention of what I've always referred to as "meta-skills" and PMI is calling "Cross-Cutting Knowledge and Skills." These are the foundational skills that underly all types of management, and are extremely important to Project Management. (Active listening and Facilitation are examples).

Why Should you Care?

In the years since I've been certified, the PMP® title has helped my career. What's helped me more, was the effort I put in to learning the domain of project management. The title is nice, but before I studied for the certification there were whole areas (like Risk and Procurement) where I had little or no understanding. The PMI® framework helped me focus my efforts and become a professional. Diving back in has helped me refresh my project management knowledge so that it doesn't deteriorate like the well used pages of my 1996 PMBOK®.

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