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The Times (and the PMP exam…) They Are A Changin’

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If you’ve been involved in projects long enough, you’ve likely experienced this before. You are a professional. You have a proven process. Your results are consistent, reliable and have real meaning and value. But then your customer tells you “You do good work, but you’re getting out of date. We’re doing things differently now, and you need to keep up.” Wow. Your first reaction may be along the lines of “Really? I think I’m the expert here…” or “If you think you can do it better then…” but what if they’re right (which they probably are)?


PMI has recently faced this and is taking a bold step. On the basis of customer feedback, they are making major changes to the content and composition of the PMP exam. THE PMP EXAM. The bar for entry into recognized professional ranks of PM-dom. A standard so high and well recognized that it drives significant value in the careers of hundreds of thousands of PM professionals across the globe and validates the existence of PMI as an organization. This is a bold step.

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Why would PMI take this risk? It seems to me that they are living their principles. The PMBOK Guide is full of statements about valuing customer feedback, working to identify customer needs and requirements, and adapting to the unique needs of the customer. Here was the chance to show its customers that they are walking the walk. According to the Project Management Professional (PMP) Examination Content Outline or PMP ECO for short, the results of a recent Job Task Analysis indicate that PM’s in industry use specific knowledge and skills very differently than the current PMBOK Guide and PMP Exam promote. PMI calls this out plainly in the introduction section of the PMP ECO

“…there are noticeable differences between this updated PMP Examination Content Outline and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition. While there are some commonalities, it is important to note that the volunteer taskforce involved in the study described previously were not bound by the PMBOK® Guide. The taskforce members were charged with outlining critical job tasks of individuals who lead and direct projects based on their experience and pertinent resources.”


In other words, PMI is creating an exam that better tests the credential holder on the use of specific knowledge and skills “to the industry-wide standard in the role of a project manager.” The time’s, they’re a changin’ and so is PMI.


These changes, originally to go into effect in December 2019 have been pushed out till June 2020 in order for the training base to be able to adapt curricula and classes to prepare candidates for the new exam. In this series of posts, I’ll walk us all through some aspects of the change and what it means for us in different points of our PM journey.


About the Author

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Curtis Nall, PMP has more than 12 years of experience in managing engineering, IT, and business projects across several industries.  He researches, teaches, and writes about project management and PMP prep and volunteers in support of KIPMI.