Certification Outputs Versus Outcomes

PMI Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

You have probably heard the saying “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” While a little harsh, it illustrates that it is not the output of planning (the plan) that is most valuable, but instead the outcome of undertaking the planning.

The process of understanding the steps involved, discussing alternatives with stakeholders and determining an approach is extremely worthwhile and uncovers critical information. The output of the process, the plan, is likely today’s best guess of an approach—but since circumstances change daily, will be flawed tomorrow, questionable in two weeks and worthless in three months.

I believe there is a similar relationship with certification and certificates. The process of learning a topic to the point of being comfortable and capable of successfully passing an examination on the subject has more value than the output of receiving a certificate. Often, people focus only on achieving the end goal, that certificate, and then attach too much value to possessing one. It is easy to see why;: People want the credential for career progression or believe it will help boost their salary.

There is a strong correlation between credentials and salaries, but is that the cause? The PMI Annual Salary Survey, now in its ninth edition, reports “those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on …

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