The Certification of Project Managers
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Many job advertisements require PRINCE2™ or APM™ certification from applicants. In government-related organisations this is mandatory.

But how does 5 days theory followed by a multiple choice exam represent an appropriate qualification for someone to manage a multi-million pounds project with careers and even organisations on the line? And if not, what other criteria should be used?
Buying professional services
Acquiring high-quality professional services is a difficult business:
  • Services are intangible
  • Candidates are bought on trust
  • Candidates are difficult to measure or assess in advance
  • The 'sales meeting' is part of the value-add because expertise should enlighten the client and experience should indicate appropriate domain knowledge.

Will PM certification help?
Evaluating professional services
Employers try to get the right people but there are major flaws:
  • Candidate CV had the right buzz-words
  • Agents often ask candidates to "tailor" their CV online or otherwise (inappropriately?)
  • Candidates who are good at interview but that's all
  • Candidates who have 'embroidered' their expertise
  • Can't get references these days

What value does PM certification add?
Worse still, we can easily unravel even what we have. When have you ever experienced PRojects IN Controlled Environments and slept easily in the certainty that your project will deliver the appropriate solution on time and to budget?
I suppose it is tempting, If the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Abraham Maslow (1962)
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And maybe that's the crux of the problem! These, simplistic certificates are all we have! Until there is a well-defined professional career path for project managers (c.f. engineering) all we have is some basic theory, examined by whom exactly? A world-class project manager who has been there, done that and has pearls of wisdom issuing from their lips? Hmmm...
Turkeys vote for Christmas…please!
The need to "professionalise" project management increases with every failing project. But who has the knowledge, understanding, desire and finance to undertake this (ultimately) worthy venture? Not the majority of current project managers that's for sure: turkeys aren't likely to vote for Christmas.

But we really do need a genuine professional certification process based on real project management theory and practice - not a one week training course. But I'm not 'knocking' PRINCE™ or APM™
per se: they are useful if you know and understand what they are. I'm simply observing that their perceived value is grossly inflated because nothing else is out there.

So when seeking a project manager, maybe it's worth reflecting on what a certified project manager really means…or maybe we should be certified ourselves - if you see what I mean.
An early version of this article was first published in the Pelicam Newsletter & Journal, December 2008