The Insanity Continues…..

Project/Program Portfolio Management (PPPM)
By PH Lohnes, PMP

Our next foray into understanding the issues with project management lack of success ratios commensurate with the increase in certified project managers must begin with the status of what many refer to as industry best practices or bodies of knowledge. Most certified project managers are from a self-proclaimed “standards body” called the Project Management Institute. These certifications called the PMP® (Project Management Professional) [registered mark of the PMI] are bestowed on those that meet three requires of education, experience, and successful passing of a 200 question exam.

From the early 1990’s until now, there has been a 100 fold increase in the number of certified project managers just from the PMI – not counting the other PM organizations overseas. If the value of the certification was correlated to the success ratios of project completions, one would expect the ratios to have taken a significant increase over these past two decades. This is far from the reality as has been shown in several studies of project success ratios from the Standish Group, Computerworld, InfoWorld, and authors: Martin Cobb, Kirk Kirksey, Bob Lewis, Thomas Hoffman, Julia King, and many others.

Consequently, if the large increase in certified project managers has not advantaged the project success ratios, the problem must lie elsewhere. In some blogs, the fault is levied at the increase in project complexities, lack of senior management support, lack of defined goals, requirements, etc. However, it would seem that most likely culprit is the methods, processes, and perspectives in use over the past two decades. What I am speaking about is the industry best practices or bodies of knowledge in use. These components of project management are largely unchanged from the 1950’s – 1960’s where they were born of the construction industry. One notable exception is the advent of the Agile methodology in use for the development of software applications. I will discuss this in a later blog post.

Thus, I make this assertion using Albert Einstein’s quotation of insanity:

“Continuing to use the same practices, but expecting a different outcome is indeed insane.”
CJP Stoneman, 2010 (paraphrasing A. Einstein.)

I maintain that the project management profession MUST come to grips that it is not serving its customers, stakeholders, or clients by continuing to demand wages in the low six figures, but not delivering business value for those high compensatory pay-outs. The US Government has already begun the process of altering their perception of what a project manager is by defining, creating, and instituting their own project management certification program: the FAC-P/PM (Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers) from the OFPP (Office of Federal Procurement Policy). The policy letter of April 25, 2007 states that “the certification shall be accepted by, at a minimum, all civilian agencies as evidence that an employee meets core training and experience requirement for general program and project management.” This should have rocked the PMI and APM to its core; however, nothing appears to have been done about this lack of acceptance of the commercial certifications by the US Government.

Therefore, it it is not the number of certified professions, what is the main problem? This is the topics of my next blog: “Processes, Processes Everywhere, but not a Drop of Success Anywhere!” I look forward to sharing this with my readers.


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