April 1, 2014 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Certification
Certification Doesn’t Make a Project Manager
By Richard Morreale
The Project Management certification organizations along with universities that certify project managers are a number of the biggest reasons that projects fail. My definition of failure is that the project is late, exceeds the budget or doesn’t deliver what is expected. They have sold the myth to the corporate world and to their certification customers that successful completion of their certification tests and the addition of letters after their name makes them a Project Manager. Companies believe the myth. They believe that when they hire a certified Project Manager, they are getting someone who is truly a successful Project Management Professional not just a newly graduated student. So when they hire project managers, just about the first requirement they put in their job specification is that the person needs to be a certified professional. The truth is that Project Management certification does not make the student a Project Manager. I’m not in any way saying that becoming certified is a bad thing.
In fact, I believe it is a very good way for potential project managers to learn the basics of Project Management. What certification does is teach the person the mechanics of Project Management tools and techniques. In a few days the student learns ‘what’ the Project Management tools and techniques are and it takes the rest of the students career to learn ‘how’ to use them. For example, certification training really doesn’t teach the student how to use them in the overall context of their project, when to use them, how to modify them due to circumstances or, in fact, when not to use them at all. And the training doesn’t recognize or teach the student what is really about 80% of the Project Management success equation which I’ll cover later in this article.
About the time that Project Management certification was becoming a big thing, independent surveys showed that approximately 70% of all IT Projects failed when measured against the criteria of cost, schedule and expectations. Since then, certification organizations and other certification institutions have certified well over 2,000,000 students as Project Managers in over 100 countries. these organizations and institutions have sold over 3,000,000 copies of their tools and techniques manuals. These certification organizations and institutions are making wheelbarrows of money off of the certification myth. A very large industry has been built up over the years based on certification. With all of this training, certification, book sales going on, surveys now show that approximately 70% of all IT Projects fail. What! If, as claimed, becoming a certified person makes one a Project Manager and over 2,000,000 people have been certified as Project Managers why are projects still failing at the 70% rate?
In addition, millions of dollars have been spent over the last 30 to 40 years on the project manager, on training, on certification, on Project Management Processes and Procedures and on other project management tools and techniques and still approximately 70% of all IT projects are failing. That tells me that successful Project Management must depend on something other than competence in those Project Management tools, techniques, processes, procedures and certification. Why are projects still failing at the 70% rate?
In my experience from working on and successfully managing some of the most visible projects and major programs over the last 35 years and studying the results from over 5,000 projects, what I’ve found is that good project management processes and procedures must not only be in place for projects to be successful but also the Project Manager must truly understand how and when to use them and modify them, if required. Without a doubt, Project Managers must understand and be experienced in the hard skills of Planning, Organizing, Monitoring and Controlling their projects. Certification organizations and institutions are certainly a very good way to learn these hard skills. However, I believe that these hard skills are only about 20% of the success equation.
The much bigger part of the equation, the 80%, are the soft skills, the attitudes and behaviors, that the Project Manager should have and practice. These soft skills include, but are not necessarily limited to, enthusiasm, energy, commitment to success, commitment to excellence; good communication skills – knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say it and when to shut-up; good interpersonal skills, approachability, self-motivation, the ability to motivate the project team, good team building skills, a go-for-it attitude, a no-problem attitude, a go-the-extra-mile attitude and a good sense of humor. Usually these soft skills are not part of the certification training and, in cases where they are, they are only a small part of the training. I’m a true believer in the song title, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
By all means, I think potential project managers should work to get certified because certification will teach them the hard skill foundations. But they shouldn’t believe nor should the certification organizations and institutions continue to give the impression that certification makes a person a Project Manager. The real way and the only way to being a true Project Manager and to lower the project failure rate is to ensure that our Project Managers are not only proficient in the hard skills of Planning, Organizing, Monitoring, and Controlling their projects but that they, also, have and continue to practice the soft skills. You’ll start to see the changes when companies advertising for project managers start off the requirements list with the soft skills requirements and finish up with the hard skills. After all, a person can be taught the hard skills a lot easier than the soft skills, attitudes and behaviors.
Richard is a project manager, professional speaker, author and consultant specializing in Project Management, Leadership, Achievement and Customer Service.
You can book Richard for your next meeting or conference at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336 499 6677.