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The Project Management Professional (PMP) exam and Military Basic Rifle Marksmanship!

At first read, the title of this blog probably looks like a mistake, as two totally unrelated subjects appear to be illogically associated together! But bear with me, hopefully I can sell you on their similarities, at least as far as the PMP exam and project management experience go.

I passed the PMP certification exam in January 2011, not necessarily because I’m a brilliant project manager, but because I answered the questions the way that PMI wanted me to answer the questions. The habits, terminology, and experiences I have accumulated over my career were helpful to a certain extent, but not the primary source of correct answers on the exam. The PMBOK is the instruction manual for passing most PMP questions, and in most cases, this resource should trump your “real world” understanding of project management.

This conflict between theory and experience reminded me of several years ago when I was a young soldier in Army basic training. The platoon was being briefed by the drill sergeants about Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM), where we would have to shoot a minimum amount of targets on the range in order to qualify and pass basic training. A drill sergeant asked the group how many of us had never fired a weapon before. Maybe 30 to 40 percent raised their hands. He then told everyone something that seemed improbable; that the soldiers with their hands raised would perform better than the soldiers with weapons experience! Of course no one risked contradicting him, but I can assure you that there were a lot of skeptics among us.

The logic was simple. The soldiers without previous firearms experience would not have to unlearn what they knew from the civilian world and relearn the military methodology of BRM. And of course, the drill sergeants were correct – overall, the inexperienced soldiers scored higher!

What does this have to do with taking the PMP exam? I would recommend going into your PMP studying regiment as an inexperienced soldier. Don’t be saddled by your experience, which may or may not have provided you with the necessary skills to pass the PMP exam. Learn the institutional method of project management; this exam is not going to conform to your interpretation of project management, even though your current understanding of project management has provided you with a lot of success over your career.

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