PMP Exam Changes: What, Why, What Does It Mean?

The Project Management Professional (PMP) exam was recently updated, and we updated our training to include the prescribed changes. But what were those changes all about, why did the update occur, and what does it mean to prospective PMPs?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has done a Role Delineation Study (RDS) every few years to identify trends and sifting needs within the project management profession. typically the RDS will result in changes to the project management certification requirements, both for the PMP exam and for PMP re-certification through earning Professional Development Units (PDUs). In the most recent RDS, concluded in 2015, changes to PMP exam and PDUs resulted. The focus of this post is on the PMP exam changes.

In short, employers want project managers to understand and respond to organizational context.

projects and organizational context

A hint at what was behind the PMP exam changes is in the PDUs changes. For the PDUs, the PMI developed the PMI Talent Triangle, which highlights three areas of project management competence that employers demand, as derived from the RDS. these areas are:

  1. Technical Project Management
  2. Leadership
  3. Strategic and Business Management

Current PMPs know that they must earn PDUs through training in each of these areas. As a result, on our site, you can see hundreds of PDUs courses mapped to the PMI Talent Triangle.

But how does the thinking that resulted from the RDS and brought us the PMI Talent Triangle effect prospective PMPs, and how did it effect the PMP exam?

There are two hints at this:

  1. the primary drivers behind the PMI Talent Triangle
  2. the new courses added for PMP exam prep

Looking at the PMI Talent Triangle, the Technical Project Management and Leadership legs of the triangle have essentially always been there. However, the Technical Project Management leg leaves room for a variety of techniques and approaches that reach beyond what has always been there. In addition, the strategic and business Management leg hints at a broadening of the mindset, at least, of project managers - to go beyond the projects into the organizational context within which the projects operate.

For PMP exam prep, we have added three courses:

  1. Capturing, Analyzing, and Managing Lessons Learned
  2. Strategic Alignment and Benefits Realization
  3. Quality Management for Continuous Improvement

The first two of these are in the area of Project Integration Management. Both of these indicate a broadening - of lessons learned to the context of the organization, and alignment and realization of benefits from the project at the organizational level. The third course aligns more with technical project management but borrows on quality oriented approaches which expand beyond just project management.

At the end of the day, the changes are not monumental. We still manage projects by the basics: schedule, budget, and quality. However, the context within which project managers work is seen as more important. Employers emphasized that they want project managers to understand the big picture - and to manage their projects to big picture objectives. I think the idea here is to measure project success not just in terms of the projects, but by the terms of the organizational context also. If you have the PMP or are a prospective PMP, you need to keep that in mind in the continuing studies.

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