HowTo Get Your PMP: Overview

Five years ago I received my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI. In the time since, I’ve regularly given advice to peers on how to get certified and what it takes to keep current. Over the next four posts I’ll be covering what worked for me, updating this post to serve as a table of contents.

DISCLAIMER: This is what worked for me – everyone learns differently and PMI keeps evolving their requirements and process.

  • Counting Up Work Experience
  • Satisfying The Training Requirement
  • Passing The Test
  • Continuing Education

Here’s the short version for the impatient –

  • Don’t read the PMBOK for your primary source of studying – it is meant as a reference and doesn’t work as a textbook. Read a study guide, such as Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep instead.
  • Been working over 5 years in a role slightly beyond an individual contributor? You have the experience needed without needing to have had the title of “Project Manager”.
  • Get as many practice tests as possible and do them all.
  • Working as a PM? You’ll only need a few PMI webinars to satisfy your CEU’s.

Daily Reads 10/3

Daily reads for 10/2/2013

Too many articles on the Silk Road bust, but it is fascinating…

Reads for the Week 9/9 – 9/14 (part 1)

After a week where I had some trouble finding the time to do daily posts, I’ve automated part of the process so hopefully next week these will be more regular. This part 1 of what I read this week is mainly the gaming and computing news I’ve read. Articles are roughly in order of interest for easy skimming. Expect part 2 later today with more general articles.

Reads for 9/5 & 9/6

Life got in the way of updating, so here’s a slightly longer list of readings from the past several days. In no particular order…

Recipe of the day: Green Onion Manicotti

More Than 800,000 Scientific Papers In One Beautiful Infographic

Reads for 9/4/2013

Here’s what I’ve been reading today:



  • Cow Tipping: Fake or Really Fake? – A good link to keep handy next time the topic comes up. Nothing I wasn’t already aware of, so could probably have skipped reading it. 
  • Corporate Personhood: Why It’s Awesome – The law around “Corporate Personhood” is very interesting and nuanced and not easily reduced. 
  • Straight  UpA brief history of how Johnnie Walker grew to be such a global brand. Interesting aspect is the ceremonial role it has taken on and positioning in the the developing world. Feel like I want to apply some value judgement here, but it is hard to unpack the complex web at work.

Recipe of the day: Polenta Tart with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Evolution of Bicycles (via I Love Charts)

Reads for 9/3/2013

Here’s the deal – I scour through a ton of reading material each day and to start tracking my reading, I figured it would be a good idea to capture the articles I actually read. Additionally, figured it would be an good throw-back to the days when everyone used to share everything they spent more then 5 minutes reading. That social aspect has mostly been replaced with twitter and facebook, but there is so much weight from commentary and the pressures of the curated timeline results in much more targeted sharing.

So here goes! Today happens to all be fairly general, but I expect some categorization in the future.

One more thing…

Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, hugging, smiling, underneath a rainbow.
“…Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, hugging, smiling, underneath a rainbow.” from Portland Mercury Blogtown

PM Links for 4/28/2013

  • A Dangerous Bias: action over thinking – A caution that it is easy to run into action but there is value in the upfront initiation processes and that they can help guarantee project success. 
  • Averages Without Variances are Meaningless – Or Worse Misleading – A good reminder in light of the revelations on Reinhart/Rogoff that statistics are important and we should be careful in choosing and testing our tools.
  • When and Why Does Total Quality Management Work, and Why Isn’t It Still Prevalent? – Another story of a good technique, miss-used, implemented poorly and as a result looked down on and phased out. Give it another 5 years and I suspect TQM will be re-invented under a different name. 
  • Basics Reminder: The First Essential of Project Management: Benefits
  • Opportunity v Threats (again) – Discussion itself is worth being reminded of, but there is one item worth calling out – a tool vs technique distinction is drawn. This distinction I feel is key to a lot of project management. Because of the state of PM education, tools end up dictating process instead of the other way around. We need to always be on the lookout for these situations!
  • The PMBOK Approach to EVM – “It was clear to me, as a result of these encounters, that EVM is not well understood and that the cost / benefit aspects of utilizing it are not properly grasped by a large number of PMs.” I’m a big fan of EVM, but if I only had the information I had to learn for the PMP exam I’d probably have a very different opinion.
  • Self Help for the Week: How to accept a compliment – Accepting a compliment can be challenging for many people – the scripts given near the end should take the anxiety away. 
  • Video for the Week: Statistics Before Calculus [via John Goodpasture] –

Fine Print: While article recommendations are welcome, I avoid articles that overtly try to sell a book or service. 

Project Managers give Project Management a bad name

If you present people with the 5 immutable facets of project management, you get a positive response:

  • What does ‘done’ look like?
  • How will we get to ‘done’
  • Do we have the resources to get to ‘done’
  • What obstacles will we encounter on the way?
  • How do we know we’re making progress?

People want the answers, yet when you start talking about Project Management the room goes cold. Why? Where is the disconnect between information people want and the tool (Project Management) to obtain it?

The problem in my mind comes from bad project managers and the problems they cause. There are a number of common sins –

  • Incomplete project management
  • Schedule inflexibility
  • Methodology mis-match

These are far too common and the problem is compounded by the fact that most management can’t easily tell the difference between these problems and shortcomings of project management in general. Without understanding of good project management or project managers by both management and team members, it is easier to blame the discipline instead of the individuals.

While each of these sins could use a post on their own, there are a few specific recommendations –

  • Improved training of project managers. A certification is not enough, there needs to be continuing education and improvement.
  • Training of managers in what good project management looks like. Either in the form of basic project management training or a course specifically for project sponsors, managers everywhere need to know what they need from project management and what they should be looking for.
  • Include project management in retrospectives and project goals. Identify issues with project management and make improving it a part of the next project.

Project management can be a force for good, making teams more effective and improving project success rates, but only if we confront project manager shortcomings, not just project failures.

Report on NASA’s Project Management Challenges

The US Government is a great source of Project Management resources and while I plan on giving an overview of what is available for free in the near future, I stumbled across an item from NASA’s “ask” that I just had to share.  The US Inspector General released a report recently attempting to answer why NASA projects so often seem to cost more and take longer than originally planned.

While the full report weighs in at 72 pages, I’d recommend everyone interested in Project Management to read at least the overview. Where the rest of the document is interesting in its deep exploration of the current operating environment at NASA, the overview gives a good introduction to the four major factors limiting project success:

  • NASA’s culture of optimism.
  • Underestimating technical complexity increases cost and schedule risk.
  • Funding instability can lead to inefficient management practices.
  • Limited opportunities for project managers’ development.

These issues are far from specific to NASA and serve as a great reminder to constantly review trends in your own projects’ success and examine ways to improve.