Is the Project Management Institute (PMI) changing direction?

I raise this question “Is the Project Management Institute (PMI) changing direction?” to generate some discussions on whether PMI is indeed changing its direction of it is being a follower or a leader for project management?

Initially, we posted this article without offering much of our opinion in order to generate discussions, which it did on some online groups. A respected colleague suggested that we offer our views here, which we will do in this updated version – using blue font.

No one can denies that PMI has been actively promoting project management for many years and growing the domain across the world but the real question is how much of that growth has been value added or maybe a better question would be – did PMI practices offers significant contribution and significant value addition to organizations? Notice the emphasis on significant.

Our views are quite critical of PMI as an organization. As a long term volunteer and volunteers leader with PMI – I have lost interest in PMI as an organization since we see its focus is on marketing, numbers of members and certificate holders, rather than true value added contribution to project management. Yes, PMI publishes numerous standard documents but on the first page of these standard it hit you with statement like PMI does not validate, or endorse, or … or … or … PMI only coordinates the works of volunteers. Will add more below on some suggestions so this is not a critique.

Let us start with some history

  • PMI was established in the 1960’s; about 50 years ago
  • PMI launched the PMP (Project Management Professional) certification in 1984; 30 years ago
  • Since then PMI has launched 7 other certifications
  • There are more than 600,000 PMP in the world
  • The first official copy of the PMBOK Guide was published in 1996
  • According to PMI there are more than 4 million copies of the PMBOK circulating today
  • PMI assets exceeds 200 million US$ and its annual revenue exceeds $50 million

OK with all of the above, what do we know?

  • For many years PMI, its chapters, and training providers have been promoting project management and certifications, primarily the PMP as the answer to ?
  • Some organizations promote the PMBOK as the holy book for project management
  • Some promote the PMP like the holy grail of project management
  • Some say come and “Master Project Management” in a 4 or 5 day course
  • PMI publishes numerous Salary surveys that shows PMPs, on average make more money than non-PMP.
  • Numerous PMI organizations promote PMO – but they fail o mention the numerous studies (including those supported by PMI) that show that many PMOs fail within 2 years.
  • When PMI launched the Agile certification it was like this is the answer – even contradicting some what they used to say about the PMP.

OK great – so let us ask more questions

  1. Have PMI EVER – EVER published a study that shows the true value of the PMP? We are not talking about salary surveys that shows differences in salaries for many factors. What we are asking is a study that shows when organizations (or individuals) investing in a PMP did indeed see a substantial or significant enhancement in performance; individual or project performance?
  2. Did PMI EVER – EVER published a study showing how many organizations implementing the PMBOK Guide and whether that led to enhanced projects performance?
  3. Did PMI ever published a study showing the true value of PMO?

We can ask more questions but let us summarize the key point here – with all of the money that PMI makes, one would think that there will be studies that demonstrate how the PMI products that they push in the market (books, standards, certifications) actually contributing to project success.

The previous points build on what we said earlier – although PMI annually publishes salary surveys that are far from being conclusive, they have never published:

  1. A listing of organizations that have truly adopted PMI approach
  2. Stories from these organizations – successes or failures
  3. The true value of a PMP or any other PMI certification for that matter
  4. Lessons learned from organizations and individuals who have invested into certification
  5. Organizational project management maturity of leading organizations
  6. Practical guide on how to truly convert books like PMBOK into practical approaches

Recent Changes

In the last year or so, PMI has been publishing a series of articles under the titles “Pulse of the Profession” and “Thought Leadership Series” among others. What most of these reports and studies shows that project management is strategically valuable.

Well we know that.

However, are there clear indicators how can the PMP, PMBOK, and other standards have actually contributed to close the gaps of practice? Refer back to the earlier comments.

Organizational Project Management

In the past, we have published numerous articles about the PMP and the PMBOK! Refer to various posts on this blog site. We ARE BELIEVERS that these are valuable but we say there are limitations.

  • We say the PMBOK is good but it is not enough – and PMI loyalists will jump on us like we have committed a sin or a crime.
  • We say the PMBOK has gaps – and the responses are accusations that we are criticizing.
  • We published books on the need for a methodology – and people jump to say we are violating the holy book – not realizing the PMBOK does mention the need for a methodology.
The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™)

The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™)

The SUKAD Way™: Organizational Project Management Approach

The SUKAD Way™: Organizational Project Management Approach

 Well, finally PMI published a guide on Organizational Project Management 

What does PMI says in this guide?

  1. “More organizations are starting to realize that project management means more than having good project managers”. Well, we thought with the PMP one will “Master Project Management” – now PMI is saying “good project managers … are not enough?” page 3 of the OPM Guide
  2. “Project management, in terms of simply focusing on scope, time, and budget, is not sufficient …” Is not this what the PMBOK is all about? The processes for managing cost, time, scope … and other topics? Also page 3
  3. “… a tailored OPM methodology that evolves …” page 6

So is PMI changing?

Is what we list above an indication that PMI is changing? We say maybe – but too soon to tell; maybe we lost trust, or faith!

Is it that despite 50 years of PMI and 30 years of PMP and more than 600,000 PMP and projects are still failing —- are these indicators that the old approach is not working, or in our view is NOT ENOUGH? Well – for years we have been saying the PMP is not enough – PMBOK is not enough and maybe only now people are starting to realize this. Even PMI is indirectly admitting this but does the PMI leadership have the courage to come out and say in the headers of their marketing instead of the small fine prints?

Are we moving from the focus on individuals and certifications to the need that for project management to be an organization enablers must be tailored and follow a systematic organizational approach? Here again the answer is clear – we need systems – systems consisting of people – process – and tools/technology.  We have been told by executives “we have 50 PMPs here and they still do not know how to manage projects”. Yet we also here an executive saying “when this engineer become a PMP will put him/her in charge to build a PMO”. Can a young PMP build a PMO or even know how to determine the proper type of PMO for a given organization? 

Closing Comments

We realize that we post here push the limit and is highly controversial but we raise it to open the discussions. As a long term volunteer with PMI (although not volunteering anymore), PMP for close to 20 years, REP for more than 10 years we would love for PMI to focus on TRUE value additions instead of too much focus on numbers and revenues. Organizations need practical approaches – not more and more certifications that does not create real value!

In this closing comments section, if I were to offer one suggestion to PMI, I say – allocate 10% of your profit (not revenue) to have a team of thought leaders rotate through a PMI “think tank” to truly assess:

  1. The best approaches to transform PMI into a true service organization
  2. What does the market – global market (not N America) needs
  3. Ensure consistency of PMI products
  4. True research – soul searching research – on achievements, gaps, challenges …. etc.

More in the future


6 thoughts on “Is the Project Management Institute (PMI) changing direction?

  1. drpauldgiammalvo

    Mounir, the only reason I don’t like your SUKAD model is you are, IMPO, repeating the same mistakes PMI has been making- that you look at projects as a stand along function rather than integrating them into the organization as AACE and the Guild of Project Controls has…..

    Explained another way, in order to improve project delivery, we cannot look at projects alone. We must look at them in the context of being the DELIVERY METHOD to acquire, create, modify, maintain, expand and eventually dispose of ORGANIZATIONAL ASSETS. This means INTEGRATING Asset, Portfolio, Program (Operations) and Project Management into a single, comprehensive METHODOLOGY or PROCESS. To see this illustrated, go HERE and scroll on down to Figures 1 and 2……

    But there is even more……. To be of any value, you must differentiate between the OWNER perspective, where a project is a COST or INVESTMENT center and the perspective of the CONTRACTOR, where the project is a PROFIT center. Failure to make clear these different perspectives is essential as the OWNER is looking at the PRODUCT of the project to generate a RoI or RoA, while the CONTRACTOR is expecting the PROJECT itself to generate his/her RoI/RoA. Unfortunately, the objectives of these two primary stakeholders are often mutually exclusive which is why we see so many CLAIMS being filed by contractors against owners and so many disputes ending up in arbitration or court.

    Bottom line- PMI’s model has not worked to improve project delivery in the past 45 years PMI has been around and I don’t see how your model, until/unless it is expanded to include Asset, Portfolio and Program (Operations) management will work either…..

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

    1. Mounir Ajam Post author

      Dr Paul;

      Our model integrates with the organization – it does so through (1) the stategic alignment test at the start of the idea and (2) incorporates project – objectives success that would be done by the organization. Also throughout the approach there are links.

      In other words, the focus is on creating beneficial assets that adds value to the organization.

      The Asset Management Full Cycle is huge and we are coovering part of it.

      We also separate between the view of project owner and service provider and in our book there is a dedicated chapter on this in addition to refering to it throughout the book.

      We are doing most of what you are looking for but by zooming in on the project part of the asset.

      Hopefully, the publisher will approve the book and you will see the whole picture.

  2. Kevin Archbold

    As you know, the root cause of many of these issues is that there isn’t anyone within PMI “corporate” who knows much about project management. And there isn’t anyone on the PMI Board who knows about running an organization like PMI.

    Have you reviewed these sources of information? (I have not, in depth)

    I am seeing some small changes in terms of PMI’s attitude to chapter support/tools, and to member value. I also see the recent PMI focus on organizational change as being useful. However this progress has been frustrating slow in coming and still leaves vast areas in need of improvement.

    1. Mounir Ajam Post author

      Hi Kevin – Long time

      I agree with you and this is why one of my recommendations is for PMI to put some of its money into a “think tank” or similar structure so we can have people within PMI that know project management.

      I have not looked at the links you shared but i will.

      In term of the recent publications by PMI and focus on OPM – my view it is too little – too theoretical – and too late. I see them more marketing than substance!

    2. Mounir Ajam Post author

      A correction- I have seen the research in the links you shared but it has been a while. I even have the book and papers on this subject. However, it is unfortunate that even though PMI paid for this research they do not truly follow it or accept it.


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