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March 24, 2009
King's Corner

PMI – The Four Letter Word

I think I might start a new certification, “Business Consultant Professional”. Of course, I’m not serious. But I do think it’s an amazing marketing ploy. Think of the advertisement!

“Have no experience in being a Business Consultant? Want to sell yourself as someone who knows how to be successful in the field? Don’t have the time to climb the ladder by performing years on the job up project and program hierarchies? Have no fear. Take our 2 week Business Consultant Certification course and exam. We’ll teach you expressions like ‘Return on Investment’, ‘Business Case’ and ‘Capability Redesign’. We’ll even provide you templates and sample deliverables. But most important, you’ll take and pass an exam where you can add ‘BCP’ to your title, ‘Business Consultant Professional.”

It’s genius, really. But of course, I won’t do it. My scruples would get the best of me. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else does. Heck, someone else may have already done it. How else did the consulting industry get flooded with PMI certified project managers? Yep, I’m doing it. I’m taking a shot at it. PMI, the Project Management Institute. In theory, a great idea. Create an industry-standard for project management practices and principles. Encourage companies to request only PMI-certified resources for their project management roles, to “guarantee” certain levels of quality and expertise. And voila, you’ve created demand for your certification program. But let’s look under the covers, shall we?

Great performing project managers don’t have an overarching need to market themselves. Their clients won’t let them roll off. Their employers have no problems keeping them staffed. Their track record is a library of successful implementations, with references which will convey the outcomes of those implementations: quality, on time and on budget. They should be teaching courses on project management, not attending them. But let the record state, not all project managers are “great performing”. Hence, they might need a little something to market themselves, just a little acronym perhaps that stands like a beacon at the end of their name, “PMI”. And it is this second tier of project managers, the ones who may not have the great-performing track record of which I speak, who could in fact benefit greatly both from a PMI education standpoint (i.e. learning best practices and disciplines) as well as from a PMI marketing standpoint (i.e. being able to put PMI at the end of their names).

If the situation ended there, the world would be a better place. You have A player project managers who don’t need an acronym to tell them they’re great. You have B player project managers who might benefit from the acronym and the education that goes with it. But unfortunately, the dirty little secret (and I’m guessing if you are still reading this, you’ve worked with enough PMI-certified people to know this isn’t so secret) is that not all project managers are A or B players. Some are C players, and some are worse. However, PMI as an acronym has become the great leveler. It allows anyone to take a class, pass an exam and as I said before, “voila”, instant project manager.

I like to think of PMI as salt. When you receive an absolutely outstanding meal, you are thrilled after the first bite. No additional seasoning is necessary. In fact, salt may even detract from the meal. Other times, you may get a so-so meal. It’s not bad. It’s not great. It needs a little something. Grab that salt and enhance that meal. What was so-so may become pretty darn good. And that’s a good thing. But unfortunately, there are times when the food tastes like a wet piece of leather. And no matter how much salt you pour on it, it’s not going to change the outcome: a lousy meal.

I’m sure there are some readers who disagree with my metaphor and my categorization of project managers. But ask yourself a question, who do you trust more? A chef who prepares his/her meal and presents it as is with complete confidence? Or a chef who prepares his/her meal and advertises the fact that you may need to add some salt for taste?

When posed with the question about which project manager you should utilize, don’t just reach for the salt. Do the research, and find the ones that have the track records and references that suggest you won’t need that four-letter word.

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