Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

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Last time, I wrote about the fact that there is a tendency to look for silver bullet solutions to the all too frequent failures of project management.

When silver bullets don’t work there is a negative reaction against them. Unfortunately this is sometimes quite extreme and the solution in question becomes treated as a cause of failure as opposed to a solution that hasn’t been applied properly.

One example that vividly illustrates this is the question of knowledge based qualifications such as APMP and PRINCE2 Practitioner.

In the late 1990’s there was definitely an upsurge in popularity of these qualifications. Much of it was driven by the recruitment industry that needed simple badges for use in initial candidate selection. Many people sought to gain the qualifications to improve their CVs. The tipping point came when it ceased to be an advantage to have them on your CV but became a disadvantage not to have them. That’s when they became commodity products and really took off.

This kept the recruiters happy, but those responsible for projects soon realised that there was a tendency to think “have qualification will manage” and that wasn’t working. Why this came as a surprise I don’t know. The likes of APMP etc. are similar in academic level to GCSEs and while I have ‘O’ levels (that’s GCSEs in old money) in chemistry and French I am neither a chemist nor a linguist. Why would an APMP make me a project manager?

The fact that I am neither a competent chemist nor linguist is no reflection on the value of the corresponding GCSEs. It just means that I chose a different path for higher education and experience. My inability to hold a conversation in French is not a reason to discard French GCSE.

The objections to APMP, PMP, PRINCE2 Practitioner etc. are, in some quarters, lurid bordering on the fanatic. Commentators maintain they should be banned because they don’t create experienced project managers. Of course they don’t, they were never meant to, any more than GCSE Chemistry makes someone a chemist.

The problem is not that the qualifications are inadequate – it’s the perception of what they represent that is misguided. Knowledge based qualifications are an early stepping stone to becoming a competent project manager, just as my ‘O’ level maths was an early stepping stone to becoming a competent engineer.

So to all those naysayers, please stop babbling on about the inadequacy of knowledge based qualifications. What we should all be doing is ensuring that they are understood for what they are, and more importantly, making sure that the rest of the stepping stones are in place to get from an APMP all the way through to RPP.

Stop trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Posted in PRINCE2
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Posted by Adrian Dooley on 14th Aug 2014

About the Author
Originally a construction project manager, I became involved in the development of project planning software for PC's in the early 1980's. In 1984 I set up a training and consultancy company, The Projects Group, and ran that until its sale in 2008. I was a founder member of Project Manager Today Magazine and Project Management Exhibitions Ltd. From 1996 to 2000, I served on the APM Council. During that period I was the Head of Professional Development and was appointed to the Board of APM Group Ltd. I am now semi-retired but remain on the Board of APM Group. I was heavily involved in the development of the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and have drawn on that experience to create an integrated framework for P3 management at www.praxisframework.org.

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