On May 6, the Project Management Institute announced exciting changes for continuing education requirements. These changes present an excellent opportunity for us to increase our value. In this article, I will analyze the requirements. You will also learn how these changes will help you to get ahead in your career. The below image summarizes part of the continuing education requirements PMI announced:
Where Did The Education Requirements Come From?
In order to offer valuable education and professional resources, the Institute regularly reviews the marketplace. Unlike law or accounting where many of the requirements are specified in law, project management has greater flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. Now that PMI has done the initial research, it is up to each professional to put these ideas into practice.
Theme 1: Learning Leadership
In my view, leadership skills are the most important area for project managers. Leadership is a broad category to practice and study. For our purposes, let’s consider leadership as being an aggregation of mutually supporting skills (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Negotiation Skills. The ability to understand your needs and the needs of the other side. The best negotiators work to achieve win-win results. For a fresh take on negotiation, I recommend William Ury’s new book: Getting to Yes with Yourself.
- Decision Making. Leaders make decisions, despite limited information and risk. Fortunately, there are ways to lower the risk in decision making (e.g. using decision criteria or a defined process)
- Motivating Others. Project managers working in a matrix organization understand that their formal power is limited. That’s why it is important to take the time and effort to understand motivation – you will become a more effective leader as a result.
- Delegation Skills. Asking people to do work for you is a skill that leaders develop. Simply issuing orders is not enough.
- Communicating in Difficult Situations. Working through conflict in a professional and effective manner is vital for leaders. This skill could be considered a subset of conflict management skills. The book “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” is an excellent resource in this area.
There are many approaches to leadership education. Studying leaders, past and present, through their biographies and autobiographies is an excellent approach (e.g. Career Hacks From Young George Washington). In addition, I suggest seeking out workshops, seminars and training that emphasizes interaction and self-reflection. Where possible, look for ways to build on your strengths in leadership.
Theme 2: Strategic & Business Management
Management skills make the difference in getting work done. Vision is essential but it is not enough. In developing your management skills, there are several approaches you can take, though claiming PDUs may not be possible in all cases. Here are some learning strategies to consider in developing management skills,
- Finance for Management. Understanding how to speak the language of finance is helpful. It’s not required to become an accountant to be effective. At a minimum, I suggest an introductory book such as the HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers or a course. Alternately, you can take a finance minded colleague to lunch and pick up some of the basics.
- Strategy. Strategy is an interesting area I first explore on this site in 2014 (i.e. Strategic Project Management). Strategy includes setting goals for your project that align with the organization’s goals. Many colleges and universities, especially those with business schools, offer night and weekend courses in strategy.
- Staff Development. Developing staff is an area that becomes relevant in certain situations. If one has a relatively stable team with long assignments (over 6 months), then it makes sense to look for ways to develop staff. There are various approaches to learning how to develop staff. Consider looking into courses on leadership and coaching.
The broad area of management offers many opportunities to increase our skills. Specialized skills such as Lean Six Sigma and business process improvement also follow in this area. Project managers may also want to look into studying other PMI certifications such as PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP).
Theme 3: Technology
The majority of project managers I have met over the years bring deep experience in technology. For example, it is common to see professionals start their careers in software development or business analysis and then transition to project management. This expertise is valuable because it produces expertise power. In addition, technically aware project managers are better able to ask good questions. Like the areas covered above, technology is a vast area. I will highlight a combination of standard and cutting edge technology areas to study.
- Vendor Certifications. Several large technology companies (e.g. Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle) provide specialized training and certifications on their software. Recently, I have been looking into some of the Microsoft certifications.
- IT Methodology. There are many management approaches to IT that one can learn. For example, one can earn the ITIL certification or the Scrum certifications. If you are based in a large organization, it makes sense to learn the methodology that is most popular (unless you relish the challenge of introducing a new approach!).
- IT Security. Keeping data and technology safe from misuse, theft and attacks is becoming more and more popular based on the IT salary surveys I have read. The ISACA organization is a recognized leader in the world of IT security
- Big Data. What happens when you combine computing power, large volumes of data and statistical analysis tools? You get the Big Data trend! From my study of this trend, Big Data approaches can be used to improve marketing, improve anti-fraud measures and other purposes. For professionals looking for cutting edge technology to learn, Big Data is an excellent area to study.
Question and Action:
What is on your agenda to learn new skills? Of course, learning new skills yields many benefits. I will close with one of my favourite quotes on learning from “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White :
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
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