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As a passionate practitioner of project and program management for the past 18 years, CANA’s Director of Programs and Project Management, Connie McKissack, brings expert opinions and important perspectives to share in the project management field. In this CANA blog series, she will address questions that project-centric organizations and Project Managers are asking about new developments in project management certification and processes.

Part I: The Evolution of Project Management and PMI’s Role

This year marks one of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) most extensive changes to the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam and certification. This is exciting because after many years of managing projects and supervising project professionals, we see how the 2021 PMP exam provides an enhanced toolset for both new and experienced Project Managers.

Changes in the project management field are long overdue given the emergence, over two decades ago, of Agile Management practices. Since then, process-oriented project management has deteriorated, and Agile practices have come to the forefront. Notable differences in project management theory and execution have become obvious for many practitioners. For example, in the Agile environment, the Project Manager’s role is distributed between team members rather than incorporating heavy processes or following a typical project plan. Additionally, the traditional Project Manager (PMP) forces change control (typical management of scope creep) but an Agile project team needs to accept and manage it. The Agile team members embrace collaboration and communication to produce working systems.

In concert with these changes, the value of Project Managers in corporate environments has decreased. This is due, in part, to the amount of process time and effort built into a typical project management role, combined with traditional project management techniques. Many readers would argue that Project Managers don’t even have a role in the Agile space! Some organizations have opted out or have developed their own project management toolkits. Traditional over-processed approaches just do not jibe with Agile-like concepts.

It has been an unfortunate reality that PMI, the largest body of knowledge supporting project management, did not update its certifications and training to suit the nature of modern environments and their projects. The value of the PMP was greatly diminished. Many Project Managers who used PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) were left without real tools and practical approaches. Until this year, the PMP exam content was overburdened with business process controls that far exceeded many Project Managers’ ability to actually implement. Organizations found themselves stuffing unnecessary practices into their project life cycles, gradually eroding the perceived value of PMP-certified Project Manager support.

In 2015, PMI publicly acknowledged the need to address the evolution of project management into something more attuned and responsive to the current project management environment. The 2021 PMP exam updates are a great starting point. The previous PMP exam aimed for certain types of projects while the new exam focuses on a tailoring approach based on three core domains: People, Process, and Business Environment. The exam content brings the lifecycle of projects into the full spectrum of team building and value delivery. While the process is still a big part of the new 2021 PMP, it only supports the bookends of providing servant leadership with organizational focus. This updated material provides a better foundation for managing change (or chaos) versus constraining it (scope creep); building a team and shared understanding; and the full value delivery spectrum (internal and external). The revised exam will serve Project Managers who need approaches to choosing a methodology, providing servant leadership to the project team, and helping organizations find value in projects while focusing on the change impact.

The bottom line: half of the 2021 exam covers predictive project management approaches and the other half is agile or hybrid approaches. ¹ This means most of the pre-2021 PMP exam was heavy on the Process domain; but today, that domain only comprises about 50% of the new 2021 PMP exam. The new 2021 PMP forces the Project Manager to understand their leadership role within the project team and the project (change) impacts on organizations. This is a significant and long-overdue enhancement to the Project Manager’s toolkit.

Stay tuned for Part II of this series that discusses why PMP certification is still important and how to prepare for the new exam.


Connie McKissack is CANA’s Director of Programs & Project Management and is responsible for driving excellence in program management practices and delivering project management activities to clients.

Did you happen to catch our CANA Connection Podcast on Project Management and the New 2021 PMI Certification? In this episode our host Rob Cranston talks with some Project Managers and fellow CANA team members Connie McKissack, Jason Fincher, and Hannah Wallace about Program/Project Management, and the Project Management Institute's (PMI) PMP 2021 Certification. (CANA Connection Podcast Link)


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