PMP, Project Management Professional, a certification offered by Project Management Institute (PMI) has been a popular demand in new IT jobs, since 2009. The demand is driven by more and more IT professionals getting the certification and by more and more IT tasks being worked as projects with a limited life cycle of 3 months to a few years. However, in this blog, I would like to point out some false impression people have about PMP, and describe the reasons why I favor Six Sigma certification over PMP certification.
The major recent IT hiring pattern is that “PMP certification is a must-have requirement for IT project managers.”
PMP certification only certifies “academic” or “technical” skills of project management. Lots of PMP training companies can help you to get the certification in a week with money back guarantee. On the other hand, project management (PM) is actually an important course of most of academic management programs in the United States. What people learn from the fast-pace trainings do not actually stick well, compared to the PM courses offered by those academic management programs, because the academic programs are much comprehensive and allow for sufficient time for learning. Hiring managers should not give their hiring priority to PMP certification over academic trainings and work experiences.
Some people may argue about the PDUs, credits of PMP, required by PMI annually. Well, PDU requirements are very loose, compared to the ones offered by the academic programs. PDU requirements still focus totally on technical skills, which the PMP certification covers already. Disappointing examples that I have been seeing are:
- PMPs develop project plans with no due dates and no deliverables.
- PMPs no longer pursue PDUs after they received their certifications.
- PMPs eagerly attend seminars only to maintain their annual PDU obligations.
- PMPs do not use their technical skills to manage projects and continue their old styles of fire fighting instead.
- PMPs work on technical skills only without paying attention to any of the important PM “soft” skills.
- PMPs treat projects as given and seldom look at projects from out of the box (or a project). They seldom question the real value of a project before they start to work on it, whereas other projects should deserve more attention and resource.
- Some companies hiring only candidates with PMP certifications are not growing and are still behind their competitors; some of them even went bankruptcy.
Therefore, PMP certification is not a must-have job requirement. It can help, only IF the job candidates do not have academic trainings or comparable work experiences.
On the other hand, Six Sigma employs the following DMAIC methodology.
- Define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals, specifically.
- Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
- Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. Seek out root cause of the defect under investigation.
- Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experiments, poka yoke or mistake proofing, and standard work to create a new, future state process. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability.
- Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Control systems are implemented such as statistical process control, production boards, and visual workplaces and the process is continuously monitored.
Project management is one of the tools, that Six Sigma uses to manage its projects to meet deadlines, and control cost and resource. Because Six Sigma and PM are different, we cannot really compare them side by side. However, I would like to point out that Six Sigma is the real skill to help companies with the following examples, compared to PMP. Hiring manager should give six sigma skills higher value than PMP.
- Six Sigma asks questions about Voice of Customer. It ties your projects directly to a company’s revenue and profit. It requires people to look at the overall picture of a company in the “Define” phase and question which project would bring the maximal break through to a company before projects are worked on.
- Six Sigma is a break-through technology. It uncovers the force to change the landscape of your business instead of focusing on the low hanging fruit of your revenue tree. It depends on measures of your process and data to uncover the break-through force, not working blindly to get projects done in time and within budget only.
- Six Sigma focuses on “improvement” and “control” to ensure your project results are sustainable so your projects will continue to bring revenue and profit to companies even after the project ends.
Finally, I would like to add the following PM “soft skills” in addition to the Six Sigma, which remain as existing gaps in PMPs today.
- Emotional Intelligence: The ability to pick up on events and interactions (both verbal and non- verbal) and to process those inputs in the context of the project plan.
- Adaptive Communication: The ability to articulate one’s ideas—whether orally or in writing—to a range of individuals, groups and cultures using the most effective communication techniques for each group.
- People Skills: The ability to quickly build and maintain positive relationships with team- members and stakeholders.
- Management Skills: The ability to serve, motivate and focus a team and to foster collaboration among team members.
- Flexibility: The willingness and ability to change one’s approach to project management and/or course of action in response to business needs.
- Business Savvy: Knowledge of the organization’s business, strategy and industry. Ability to understand a strategy and align tactical work around that strategy.
- Analytical Skills: The ability to think through problems and decisions.
- Customer Focus: The ability to understand the end-user or end customer’s needs and the drive to ensure that projects meet those needs.
- Results-Orientation: The ability to get things done efficiently and effectively.
- Character: The project manager should have an appealing personality and a strong moral and ethical character.
In summary, the combination of Six Sigma and PM soft skills would bring actual value to a company.