New PMI-ACP Workbook

PMI-ACP WorkbookI am pleased to announce the availability of my new PMI-ACP Workbook. This new workbook focusses on a smaller subset of 50 key topics.   My original PMI-ACP Exam Prep book distilled all the relevant content from the 11 books on the PMI-ACP recommended reading list in a common voice. The workbook is also different by providing lots of exercises and many situational questions like you will find in the exam.

So, while my PMI-ACP Exam Prep book covers all the background and theory – ideal for a comprehensive coverage of everything in the exam, the new PMI-ACP Workbook is a practical, hands-on study tool that focusses on the core topics needed to pass the exam. If you already have your CSM credential or 3+ years of agile experience you likely know the agile mindset, values and principles material already. However, you may not have the lean, kanban, and team development knowledge needed to pass the PMI-ACP exam so the workbook can fill those gaps.

To help determine which book is best for you I created the following flowchart:

PMI-ACP Workbook Flowchart

Hands-on learners and people who do not want to read all about how the approaches fit together will find the 50 key topics of the new workbook a simpler way to navigate the material. Also, since the content is arranged by topic alphabetically you can easily jump around and create your own study plan based on just the topics you need.

While the workbook coverage of topics is less than the prep-book, the emphasis on exercises and situational questions is much higher and accounts for the slightly higher page count (457 pages). There is white space for writing notes and the whole thing is spiral bound so it lays flat when you are working in it. The content changes are summarized by these rough page count graphs:

PMI-ACP Book Contents

I think it fills an important need. A workbook for hands-on learners looking to build their own study plan and gain access to high-quality situational questions. It also provides access to a free online quiz. Readers can order and get an early-bird discount from RMC here.

 

 


Tapping the Base of the Talent Triangle for Hidden PDUs

Hidden PDUsWhen it comes to renewing your PMI credentials it can sometimes be a challenge to find the full complement of Professional Development Units (PDUs) you need. Now the PMI Talent Triangle has been introduced, PMP credential holders need 8 PDUs from each of the skill areas. I often hear of people mention that finding 8 PDUs in the “Strategic and Business Management” area at the base of the triangle seems the most difficult.

PMI Talent Triangle

This might be because some training providers struggle to generate content for this category. There are mountains of existing material for “Technical Project Management” and “Leadership”, but “Strategic and Business Management” seems a little more specialized.

However, once you dig into what it contains, not only is it relatively easy to get the minimum requirement of 8 PDUs, but it is also a fertile source for collecting the maximum 19 PDUs in this category. This article examines the “Strategic and Business Management” area and provides some examples and suggestions for work and study that qualifies here.

Let’s start by getting a better understanding of what “Strategic and Business Management” actually means. Put into other words, it means all the business and industry interactions on the boundary of your project. I like to think of it as the zone immediately surrounding the project you are managing.

Strategic and Business Management

Before your project became a project in your organization there was (hopefully) an idea, discussions around opportunities, feasibility, ROI, and maybe competitive analysis. All these models, interactions with sponsors and advisors fall within the PMI realm of “Strategic and Business Management”.

Then, as the project progresses, anything you do to track performance against these models (financial analysis, benefits analysis, competitor product tracking) and all the interactions with the people in your organization (or client) that are involved with this information also fits into this category. During execution, anything to do with regulatory compliance, legal or market place interactions like trade fairs or journals also fall under “Strategic and Business Management”.

A critical principle for maximizing your PDU eligibility in this area is understanding that any training you undertake to learn more about how your industry interacts with strategy or benefits management fits the “industry knowledge” criteria. So, if you are in the medical profession, medical courses that link to strategy and benefits management count towards this category. If you work in the automotive sector, then training that relates to market share and competitive analysis qualifies towards “Industry knowledge”.

Projects deliver benefits to customers so anything relating to customer relationship and customer satisfaction either during or after the project fit right in. So too does benefits management and benefits realization during and after the project.  Once you appreciate that this category spans all the “Why?” we undertake projects and “How?” we assess their viability, performance and benefits, you begin to realize it’s a treasure-trove of PDU opportunities rather than slim-pickings.

Here are some categories of work, published by the PMI as elements of the “Strategic and Business Management” talent triangle, along with suggestions for how to translate them to claiming PDUs:

  • Benefits management and realization – Training courses, reading and discussions around how we identify, categorize, and measure project benefits. This could include financial benefits, regulatory compliance needs, market share growth, and industry reputation.
  • Business acumen – Any courses, reading, discussions, listening to podcasts, etc (here after called “Learning”) about financial or strategic elements of your business or industry.
  • Business models and structures – Learning about how to assess, select, prioritize and track projects in your industry, company or business unit.
  • Competitive analysis – Learning about feature comparisons, products and services, pricing structures, market shares, sales volumes, growth rates, profit ratios. - Perhaps you can get PDUs for attending those monthly sales meetings!
  • Customer relationship and satisfaction – Learning about customer surveys, satisfaction scores, kano analysis, prototype feedback reviews, Niko-Niko charts, etc.
  • Industry knowledge and standards – Learning by attending industry conferences with strategy content. Site visits, and field work also improve your industry knowledge and exposure to standards.
  • Operational functions (finance, marketing) – Learning about interacting with these business units and functions in your company. Taking internal courses about them and expanding your skills.
  • Strategic planning, analysis, alignment – Learning about these processes and tools in your company and industry.
  • Market awareness and conditions – Learning about trends, markets, new technologies and opportunities.

When you tap into industry knowledge and market awareness you soon realize that training does not have to be about just project management. How projects add value and contribute to a company’s success and strategic vision also counts. You become more useful and valuable as a project manager when you better understand your industry. The PMI knows this and recognizes many forms of professional development in your domain of work.

This is the key to unlocking the base of the talent triangle, the “Strategic and Business Management” component. You just need to connect your training for work with the “Industry Knowledge” and “Market Awareness” hooks in the base of the talent triangle.

Everyone with a PMI credential (except CAPM) must maintain their credential through participation in the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program. Now you know that the “Strategic and Business Management” portion of the talent triangle allows for a wide range of learning opportunities the whole process should get much easier.

 

(I first published this article on projectmanagement.com here)


Agile DNA Webinar

Agile DNA 2This post is a follow-up to my Agile DNA webinar I hosted a couple of weeks ago. This was my first webinar for RMC and we had a great attendance with over 2,000 people registering for the event. The recording is available now,  see below for details of how to access it.

The webinar was entitled “Agile DNA, the People and Process Elements of Successful Agile Projects” and the DNA theme came from the twin strands of People and Process guidance that run through all agile approaches and make agile uniquely what it is.

Agile DNA 1

In case you have not noticed it before, Agile approaches weave people elements and process elements together through the agile mindset, values and principles. For simplicity of understanding we pull these elements apart to talk about them individually, but in reality, they are inextricably linked and self-supporting.

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New Role with RMC Learning Solutions

RMCLS LogoI have taken on an exciting new part-time role with RMC Learning Solutions as their Agile Practice Lead. I worked with RMC to create my PMI-ACP Exam Prep book and their ACP training offerings. So, I am really looking forward to working with them further. Previously, as a one-person company with a full-time contract job, I had more ideas for books, web sites and articles than I ever had time to develop. Working with RMC who have dedicated production staff, web developers and editors, I hope to get a lot more content available for a larger audience.

For the last 16 years, I have been pursuing my agile writing in my “free” time. I moved to Canmore a few years ago, and love the location, but the commute to Calgary further ate into that time. Working 50% of the time for RMC from home will free up more time for writing and occasional training and consulting. My challenge will be to stay focused and not use all the extra time for biking, running and skiing.

For RMC, my year kicks off with an introduction to agile webinar called “Agile DNA”, sign-up here. Then an e-learning course and a new book I have been working on will be announced with more to follow. Stay tuned for updates and more articles; heck I might even upgrade my LeadingAnswers.com website to be responsive and searchable – or go fat biking.


The True Cost of Free Exam Prep. Questions

Free QuestionsMost people taking a project management certification exam use sample tests. Whether it is a PMP exam, ScrumMaster, CAPM, PMI-ACP, PgMP or many others, there are plenty of online options for getting familiar with the format and determining if you are ready to sit the exam proper.

Unfortunately, like all things found online, the quality and relevance varies considerably. If we are just looking for funny cat videos, the occasional shaky video filmed in portrait mode is annoying--but easily skipped and not the end of the world. However, bad exam simulators can give a false sense of security--or a false sense of insecurity--and generally do not prepare you at all for what the actual exam will really be like.

Before getting trained and involved in question writing for PMI and professional training companies, I had no idea about the science behind good multiple choice questions. Now, I cannot help but notice poorly written questions. Even if the test is free, if it tests material not in the exam, it can generate unnecessary anxiety for people studying--and so is bad value. More frequently, people get used to poorly written questions (because these exams are free, they consume a lot of them), and then find the real exam very different--and fail.

So how do you ensure you are taking good, quality sample exams? The simplest and most effective way is to only trust questions from a reputable training company. They have writers that have been trained in how to create questions that meet ISO/IEC 17204 requirements. This is the standard that PMI and many other reputable certification bodies use, such as doctors and teachers.

Ask yourself how much your study time is worth, what are you giving up to get this certification? Given the sacrifices made so far to study, investing in an exam simulation from a reputable source makes good economic sense. However, I understand not everyone can afford or justify paid content, so let’s at least understand how to assess questions to make a judgment call on if the exam simulation is useful or a dud.

Multiple Choice Questions: A Primer
First, a primer on exam question design. This is useful information for everyone taking a test. Understanding how questions are designed helps you answer them more successfully. We will also uncover why you might be good at acing free online tests, but then trip up on the real deal. It all comes down to your online question writers often not knowing this theory.

Multiple choice questions (MCQ) are deceptively simple, so people underestimate them. It seems pretty easy--there is one right answer and three wrong answers. As a test taker, you just pick the right one; as a test creator, you just write the questions and think up a few wrong answers to catch out the guessers.

Let’s start by examining the anatomy of a question and learn the lingo. First of all, questions--along with their correct answer and incorrect options--are called “items”:

 

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