Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Higher Educated and Certified

First, my apologies for being off this blog for the past ten days. I've been engrossed with preparations for my PMP examination set for August 3rd, 2009. I'm taking the exam since I'm preparing to be employed by September 14, 2009. More on this latter point in the next blog.

Second, I'd like to expound on the whole idea of certification as a means to demonstrate expertise. It's times like this that I wonder whether my higher education helps or hinders my progress and reasoning. It's about midnight and I'm just now wrapping my day. I haven't worked continuously. I've taken breaks to read my emails, had lunch with my brother, who's also out in the market looking for work. These days "work" for me means searching for my next employer by meeting people, letting them know what I do and what I'm looking for, researching target companies, and...studying for my PMP certification exam.

In case you're unfamiliar, PMP stands for Project Management Professional. It's a certification program whereby the Project Management Institute, an international body, determines whether I have the experience and the knowledge to be considered certifiable. If you know me well, you know there's no doubt I'm certifiable, possibly even in Project Management, but I digress.

PMP certification seems to me just another barrier to entry into the management profession that some use as a measuring stick to determine whether you're qualified for a position these days. Mind you, I've nothing against barriers to entry. After all, how else can you reduce the number of applicants to a position and still insure knowledgeable people enter a profession? Or, how can you insure that someone understands a body of knowledge except through either an organization that tests a person's knowledge of the subject or by hiring that person and working with him or her for a number of months, if not years? The latter can be expensive both in terms of time and money for all parties involved.

Overall, I think certificates are a good way of showing knowledge, but I ask you this: how good is knowing what a wrench does and how it would fit a bolt to open or tighten it, unless you know how and when to use it? For that matter, when should I use a standard wrench or an Allen wrench?

Processes are just like these tools, but processes and our knowledge of them are only the entry points for mastery of a field. We live in a world that's nothing if not inundated with the "grays" with a few blacks and whites speckled here and there. Much of what we deal with in management has to do with judgement and decisions based on circumstances. It's really an art, not a black and white definition, binary or an on/off switch.

So, yes! We should values degrees, certifications, and knowledge, but give substantial weight to experience that often can short-circuit so called bodies of knowledge and deliver more robust solutions in shorter amount of time and, sometimes, even in a more orderly manner. I've seen many experienced managers with 20+ years of experience and no degrees "school" their younger counterparts with a few years experience and many degrees.

We must all remember that mastery is not just ownership of knowledge, but knowing the nuances that make for all the exceptions, knowing how to address those nuances, how to maneuver the waters of human psychology and emotions, how to negotiate and motivate, and too knowing when and where to keep quiet. Enough said!