PMI Issues New Exam Content Outline

PMI issued a new Exam Content Outline in June, 2019 which provides the rules for exam questions effective June 30, 2020.

Exam Content Percentage Question Source
Current Post June 30, 2020
Domain % Domain %
Initiation 13% People 42%
Planning 24% Process 50%
Execution 31% Business 8%
Monitoring & Control 25&    
Closing 7%    

What does it mean for the exam?

The 6th Edition PMBOK was the most significant change since I studied the 3rd Edition for the exam. When the exam aligned with the new edition in 2017 the questions remained very similar. The older questions needed only to be updated to be in accordance with the new PMBOK with deletions and additions for several sub-process and concept changes.

To prepare students for the exam I emphasis 2 principles, thoroughly understand and know the PMI system, and train like you are going to run a marathon. The way you train is to systematically cover all the material multiple times, lay your hands on as many questions as you can, practice like you are in the timed testing environment; and when you get a question wrong nail down why. If you do that, you should never get it wrong again. There is no silver bullet for the exam, no short cut; the test is very challenging.

The 6th Edition added a great deal of leadership and soft skill material. This was a precursor to the Exam Domain changes published last June that are effective next June 30, 2020. I don’t believe that to be problematic. But, there will be more leadership soft skill emphasis to questions that the existing practice resources do not yet capture. PMI also provides an Agile Practice Guide as a companion manual when you receive your 6th Edition PMBOK. Before June 30, 2020 the exam will continue with a few questions that test that the PMP candidate recognizes an Agile/ Adaptive life cycle environment when they see one. That was new in 2018 and also a precursor. The PMP exam is not an Agile exam. The new exam formats will present half the life cycle scenarios as Predictive and half Hybrid and or Agile. It also means you can’t ignore the Agile Practice Guide. This shouldn’t be problematic either; again the existing practice test material will contain few examples of this format in the near term.

Some believe the current type questions will be compressed into the 50% Process Domain. There are plenty of current exam questions that are compatible with the new content outline in all three of the new Domains.  I believe that any student that learns and understands the PMI systems and studies hard will pass their exams after June 30, 2020.

Available Venue

The Central Ohio PMI Chapter is sponsoring a Boot Camp from 30 September through 3 October, 2019. The class includes a 950 slide handout book for lecture note taking and a Rita Mulcahy Exam Prep 9th Edition system. In addition to the 380 exam questions from Rita there are 2 x 100 question practice exams and 10 Knowledge Area quizzes. The Chapter is also sponsoring a 10 week, Tuesday evening prep course beginning  1 October and concluding  3 December, 2019. The fee has been lowered to $1325.00 for members, $1525.00 for non-members. The total training cost for 35 contact hours, membership, and exam for members is $1,884. Go to the Chapter web site at 2019 Events for more information and application.        

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Communication and Human Factors

A fundamental Project Management principle is that 95% of the Project Manager job is communication. The success of every project is directly related to the Project Managers ability to communicate. This principle is not unique to Project Management. It applies to every occupation requiring human interaction.

I was flying BK117 helicopter N65J 26 years ago. It was a hot summer afternoon and we had completed 2 back to back medical transports. I landed at Grant Hospital to pick up the crew after refueling. A dispatcher radioed me with a request from Fairfield Medical Center back to Grant Hospital; he asked if I could take the run. I was yellow for weather which meant the pilot had to make a weather decision. I had just received a weather briefing and update from Flight Service while refueling and was aware a line of thunderstorms just reaching Dayton 80 miles off to the west. I asked the dispatcher what the radar looked like and he confirmed that weather was arriving in Dayton. The crew was boarding the aircraft, I accepted the run and we took off for Lancaster. If we had no problems this mission was a milk run. Despite consciously knowing better; given the approaching weather I subconsciously resented having been asked to make that decision. There was always the chance the medical crew would run into problems at the sending hospital and we could not complete this run.

The patient packaging process had taken nearly an hour, so far. This process normally takes about 20 minutes or less; under normal conditions we would have all ready landed back at the receiving facility. The medical crew was powerless to impact the situation because the sending doctor had sent the patient to radiology and ordered several new test. I was nervously watching the western skies for signs of approaching weather and called the flight service station weather briefer again for an update. He told me the Thunderstorms were on a line between London and Marysville and was moving east about 25 miles an hour. I reluctantly decided to inform the dispatcher and the medical crews that we could not fly to Grant Hospital until after the weather had moved through; estimating an hour and a half delay. The crew completed the trip by ground with a local ambulance company and I flew the aircraft back to base after the Thunderstorms had passed. The patient did well.

I was convinced that the crew was angry with me, they were not. I convinced myself that the dispatcher had pressured me in to taking the run. The next day I complained to the Director. He pulled the audio tapes and listened to them with me. There was nothing there. The Dispatcher had neither done, nor said anything remotely inappropriate. There was no pressure. I just sat there thinking, but,.. but,.. but? I learned something that day; the mind is a terrible thing and we really need to stamp it out in our life time. My self image meter fell two rungs and the regenerating, sometimes bitter self evaluation process began.

Anything that interferes with or disrupts understanding of a transmitted message is noise. Noise is not just static or poor quality sound waves; noise can be any number of things. It can be language, cultural, or semantic differences. It can be our emotional state influencing our interpretation. A reputation, whether accurate or not; can preconceive what the message receiver expects to hear regardless of the senders intent or content. A lack of information interferes with understanding. That is where trust is so very important to us. Incompatible objectives can interfere with communications. That is why our Mission, Vision, and Value statements are so important. When organizations members do not have the same objectives they are all in trouble. Liberals and conservatives these days automatically “assume message content” and don’t really listen to each others message. All they hear is blah, blah, blah, noise. Authority figures can have the same problem with some receivers who have a problem with authority.

Smart people who study communications say the 53% of meaning is lost when you separate yourself from the non verbal cues that exist in a face to face communication. Nearly every communication that takes place between dispatch and transport teams is conducted over the phone and without the benefit of the non verbal communication cues. “Don’t they know we are working as fast as we can”? “Can’t they see I have an anxious requestor on the line trying to make a decision?” No, as a matter of fact “they” don’t. What percentage of your organizations communications are conducted over the phone without the benefit of non verbal cues. Work stresses of your jobs, high operational pace, and tough operational decisions, are all noise that can derail a vital communications. The higher the noise level becomes, the more aware you have to be of what they are, and how they may interfere.

There exist, a certain degree of tension between the dispatch centers of every police, fire department, EMS, trucking and cab company in the country. These phenomena exist to some extent at business as well; a phone call equals work of which at any given moment may be unwelcome. Tension is an innate natural challenge that always has to be managed. Even the most enthusiastic professional is in the end human and subject to frailties of our species. Remembering that keeps us grounded.

A lack of trust in the first tenant of dysfunction. Providing grace and patience to those making decisions is basic respect. Both message sender and receiver have a responsibility to achieve a successful communication exchange. When competing objectives arise internally we have to fall back on the organization’s Mission, Vision, and Values. We all, from time to time must throw our own personal objectives up against those of the organization; if they don’t match we need to go in to that bitter self evaluation process and realign or move on. Trust and respect are necessary for healthy communications. Healthy communications are required to become a learning organization. You need to be a learning organization to grow, prosper and survive.

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Cliff Notes or 30,000 Foot View of the PMI Way

PMI started in 1969 with a conference and a white paper and has grown to publish the 6th edition of its standard, the “Project Management Body of Knowledge guide” commonly called the PMBOK. The PMI system divides the 49 identified processes related to projects into a matrix of 5 process groups by 10 knowledge areas. See table 1-4 in the PMBOK. The processes interact with one another in a Plan, Do, Check, Act, iterative manner as they progress from project initiation to closure. The PMBOK also contains a rich collection of tools, concepts, and nuances that influence the use of process input and results of the outputs. Not all 49 processes are applied to every project, but every process should be given consideration. A fundamental principle of PMI is to do what is necessary.

Project Management also uses a principle called Progressive Elaboration to deal with early project information deficiencies. It basically says, don’t be paralyzed by it; plan, and then improve the plan iteratively, as more information becomes apparent and available. The PMI way is Planning, Direction, Adjusting, and Controlling in a fluid and flexible non rigid manner tailored to the customers’ needs. Dwight Eisenhower once said “In preparing for battle I have always found plans to be useless, but the planning to be indispensible.”

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So…, Why use a PMI PMP? (Project Management Institute, Project Management Professional)

Over the year of 2002 I attended night school and passed the test to earn the “Certified Manager” course from the “Institute of Certified Professional Managers”. It is a wonderful, thorough, and challenging process. Unfortunately, no one I ever came in contact with had heard of it. The value, aside from the tools and knowledge I gained, in terms of career, was low.

In 2006 I took the PMP Certification Course, studied and applied for, and passed the test earning my PMP. Everyone I come in contact with knows what a PMP is. The PMI way is a standardized set of processes providing the industry at large, a common langue known quantity and focus tool, for creating in the most economic way. There are many other systems for project management that work. But only PMI has achieved the ANSI, “Approved American National Standards”. The ANSI approval makes PMI the 800 pound gorilla in the PM world. The ANSI approval provides organizations a widely recognized quality differentiation and competitive advantage.

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Projects are not Rocket Science – Like Opinions We All Have Them

The course work for a business degree at Ohio State eventually required specialization. Specialization coursework involved about 25 hours of three and four hundred level courses in a specific business disciplines like Marketing, Human Resources, Accounting, Logistics, etc; I chose Production and Operations. One of my course books dedicated a 40 page chapter and nearly a whole week to Project Management.

I surmise that many other discipline course works provided a similar introduction to Project Management. Project Management must be introduced to other disciplines like Engineering, Computer Science, Health Care, and most other fields. Every functional area and discipline has projects. I saved my College books when a new edition was published and the book had no resale value. My career matured and I used that 40 page PM chapter college book as a blueprint for the projects that I ran as a functional manager.

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Who is the contract Project Manager?

A project is by PMI definition is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product service or result.” The word temporary carries over to the career. The PM usually has training in a core discipline which may be anything from computer science to construction. Becoming a PM is a result of significant project work in their discipline and the desire to run quality projects through the study of project management process. In my case the ANSI approved Project Management International PMI PMP Certification.

The PMs Career often involves frequent job changes. As a career path the project manager often pursues the benefits of full time, more stable employment based on life choices and need. The more entrepreneurial PMs will work for years as an independent; then take full time employment somewhere during lean periods or when life situations dictate. A contract PM once told me that “he had been a contractor for years;” he then went on to say that “no one wants to hire people full time our age.” Ouch! HR people squirm when I tell them that story but, you will find a significant number of contract PMs in this situation. You will also find contract PMs who like the independence that being a contractor provides.

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Why Use a Contract Project Manager

Many organizations don’t initiate the volume of projects to employ a full time Project Manager, at least not long term. Larger organizations with continuous project work often augment their PM workforce with contractors. The contractor PM serves four purposes for them.
1. First the obvious, they fulfill a pressing labor force need.
2. Second, PMs on contract avoid the disruptive painful process of layoffs.
3. Thirdly contractors provide an influx of new ideas and an opportunity to drive before you buy future full time staff.
4. In house PMs may not have specific skill sets or experience in a particular area.

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