Cynicism Toward the PMP Credential

The PMP Is Not a Panacea
By Owen Head

Is it possible to train your way to consistent best in class project performance? In a word, no.

PMI best practices and the PMP certification have successfully communicated the value of project management and increased the demand for PMP certified PM’s around the globe. A great outcome, but within that growth, some flawed assumptions have surfaced with dire results. Many hiring organizations have come to view the PMP as a panacea for excellence in all aspects of project management. In fact, the PMP is not a cure all, and treating it as one will ultimately lead to disappointment/failure.

Case in point: many executives believe they can achieve best in class project performance by staffing their projects with PMP certified project managers. This is a false and potentially damaging assumption. Best in class project performance refers to a consistent and high level of performance across all projects in the PM office. In the absence of required quality standards, each PM (or PMP) will act independently using their own skills, methods, tools, and interpretation of PMI best practices to achieve project goals . The result, of course, will be a different level of performance for each PM and each project.

Consistent (not to mention best in class) performance, requires that all PM’s adhere to a competent shared standard which is independent of, and must occur in addition to, any training or certification efforts.

This is a critical realization because the strongest reason for the PMO to exist at all, is as a vehicle to consistent and improving project management and product quality performance. By extension, the success of any PMO is tied directly to its ability to define and comply with competent PM standards. At its core, the PM office is a quality management organization.

Adhering to standards in the form of written policies, procedures, and templates ensures a consistent level of performance each time governed work is done. When standards include processes for performance measurement and improvement, then the PMO has all the ingredients needed to achieve best in class performance and fulfill its mandate. Understanding is half the battle.


Owen Head has over nineteen years of technical Program and Project Management experience in ISO/TL 9000 compliant organizations. He has built a number of PM Office practices from ground up, and managed more than 70 technical, business process, and change management programs and projects, in all areas of IT and Telecom development and support. He holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington and has been certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Owen is the Managing Director of PMOSoft, LLC, a company dedicated to PM Office performance maturity, through fast and affordable maturity management system (MMS) solutions. For more information, please visit or our blog


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