Certifiably mistaken: two wrong reasons for pursuing project management certification
Project management certifications are booming. However, it seems to me that the main beneficiaries of the certification gold rush are the certifiers, not the certified. There are a lot of articles aimed convincing people of the value of certifications. Here I take a different, and possibly contrary approach: I’ll give you two common, but (in my opinion) wrong, reasons for pursuing PM certification.
My motivation for writing this post is a recent conversation I had with a colleague. It went like this:
“Do you think a PM certification is worth the effort?”
“Depends on what you want out of it,” I replied.
“Well I reckon it will make me a better project manager and help me stand out from the crowd .”
Now I don’t remember what I said in reply, but he’s wrong on both counts. Here’s why:
To become a competent project manager: A cert does not a PM make. Preparing for a certification will teach you formal project management processes as decreed by a particular certifying authority. These processes are easy to learn by reading a book or two. The “hard bits” of project management – negotiation, people skills, crisis management, conflict resolution, prioritisation, stakeholder management (I could go on and on but I’m sure you get my point) – are not, and cannot be, learnt through certification.
To stand out from the crowd: The fallacy here is easy to see: certifying authorities push their credentials like there’s no tomorrow, hence the number of people gaining certs is growing rapidly. That being so, the “stand out from the crowd” factor is getting smaller and smaller every day.
Before I conclude, I should come clean and admit that I have a cert or two. My main reason for getting certified was (is!) that it is a good way to learn about commonly used project management processes and the associated terminology. The certs don’t make me a better project manager, and they won’t help me get that dream job either. However, they do help me recognise jargon-laden bulldust when I hear it (which, unfortunately, is quite often).
In the end, formal knowledge is always useful. So, gaining a cert won’t hurt, but be sure you aren’t doing it for the wrong reasons.