Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Skills and Certifications

While browsing through some Project Management links, I came across an interesting discussion whether we really need PMP or other PM certifications. Comments by one of the contributor reminded me of some comments by the Hon'ble Judges from an earlier Supreme Court of India judgement on exams for senior advocates. (Well, I'll come back to this comment later and I'm not going to search through the AIR for case # and quote it.) The topic of discussion was whether the PMP certification is worth it. A lot of contributors were of the opinion that the certification serves as a gate-opener and it is the individuals performance that would make it not to open from the other side once for all. True. This happens with MBA also, and for that matter any professional qualification.


But some comments threw light on how flawed the recruitment system is, on its fundamentals. People with 10+ years of successful project management experience and a good track record have stated that their profiles have been filtered in the primary search which is based on the PMP tag. This is a lamentable condition and adds values to referrals by individuals as the best means to find the right candidate. If that is the case the investment on tools and people in the recruitment system needs a critical revisit.

On the brighter side people opined that they have no worries when pitted and not being selected against an equally experienced candidate who has those three letters tagged after his/her name. When other factors remain natural, the world goes by survival of the fittest. So, when a person has experience, talent and educational qualification, naturally he/she becomes the choice over another who has one of them comparatively lesser. Priority should be given to talent but different schools of thought have different opinions, so the decision and the consequent outcome depends.


Now on to the comments holding the flips high. Most of the commentators have attempted any of the Project Management certifications and obviously have failed. Some have not even attempted exams. We cannot take into consideration, the comments of people who have bowed out before even stepping into the testing part. Their comments are not feedback based on constructive analysis of the system or syllabus of the certifications. Nor had they highlighted any flaws or misses in the knowledge imparted in the training programs nor challenging the core competencies on strong grounds.


It is all whine, wail and worry. They all agree on one point that the institutes imparting certifications make lot of money. Yeah. They do. If you have the business acumen, you have the idea. But, all these rattling were a result of failure or fear of that. This reminded me of the Supreme Court comment on the law suit on senior lawyer exams. The Hon'ble judges opined,"The plaintiff attempted the exams, without success, for five times before concluding that the exams are not necessary and has approached this court. The argument that after spending years as a junior lawyer should qualify a person to become senior lawyer lacks legibility, as the time if spent properly should qualify the person to succeed in the exams related to his very profession."

Two of the prime arguments against certification is that,"All those certified are not successful." "They fire even certified people". Well, the most successful corporate managers on earth are non-MBAs. Jack Welch and Lee Iacocca are a famous two to point at. Many people armed with an Ivy League MBA spoil businesses and economies. It is all the way you utilize the skills imparted by your education. One of the ancient Indian saints rightly said,"Education should develop character which in turn will bring other riches". But we study to bargain for more money. Character? You're not talking about a role played in any opera or movie, right?

Management certification exams, in my opinion, should test the management skills of the person appearing, like they do in IIM, ISB and the likes to bring out the best thought out ideas to manage better. It need not be like the class tests conducted with multiple choice questions on the fundamentals which don't indeed reflect the management skills of neither the tester nor the tested. These sort of tests encourage cramming and discourage innovation. As the Great Hindu Guru AdiShankaracharya rightly pointed out,"Cramming lessons will not help you in life." (Nahi Nahi rakshathi Dugrung karane)

Well, with the information I gathered on PM certifications (as I plan to study and get one), they seem to enhance skills and test the knowledge of the aspirants on the proven methodology taught to them. This should act as a launch pad for a successful managerial career, and not as a shield against right-sizings often happening in the corporate world. Certifications are not 'fire' proof. Jack Welch said this: The way you work is the best job security you can ever have.

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