PMP

Most important things for PMP exam preparation

I often got questions on how to prepare for PMP exam, what are the most important things to consider. Here  is my view on the topic, I summarized the important factors in the order of their importance:

Mindset: you need to understand PMI mindset. Every single exam question needs to be answered having the right mind-set. Ask yourself what would PMI answer/do and not what I would do in such a situation

Strategy: for exam preparation you need to define and follow a strategy that works best for you. For me it was reading one of the PMP exam preparation book(there are a few good ones on the market) and PMBOOK in one month timeframe just before the formal exam preparation training, taking the course and then go to the exam in one month (my target was two weeks). During this time, re-read the preparation book, take as many  practice exams as possible and study the areas with the lowest  score

Exam preparation course: Find a good provider. This could help also with the strategy and mind-set (it did it for me)

Determination and persistence: this should be really straight forward. As with everything in life, determination and persistence is a key ingredient. PMP exam is a difficult exam

Again, this is my personal view on the topic. I do not claim it is universally valid, however, as PMI would say, I believe it works for most of the people most of the time

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Dilemma

Hard or soft skills?

If you decide you need to improve your skills, what is the area where you will focus first? One answer (best answer) would be to analyze your strong and week areas an start from there. But this is not the purpose of my dilemma. What change in your skill set would have the most dramatic impact? What is more important to have as project manager? To have excellent project management technical skills, to know perfectly all processes, tools,methods, framework and to be able to apply them flawlessly or to have outstanding soft skills, to be a leader, motivator, communicator? 
 
In my view the soft skills are the focus area. They have the biggest impact on the performance of the team and the support you get from upper management layers.

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Knowledge Base

Change management

The key message here is to never allow a change that is not controlled to creep into your project. Changes will come, that is a natural process. But you need to make sure the change is needed, all implications are understood and the change is documented. You need to make sure that your stakeholders understand your change.

Changes can come from different sources and you can not simply ignore them. Could be that the goals of the organization do not match anymore with the goal of the project. Other times something was change in the environment of the project. You can even have changes generated from inside the project in case something was forgotten or if someone has a better idea how to do things.

Regardless of origin of the change, you as the project manager has to do a few steps every time a change occurred:

Understand 

You need to understand the change, the reason the change was generated and what are the benefits. You also must understand what is the impact. At minimum you need to see is the impact on the time, budget and scope. This is the minimum and for significant changes you need to see the impact on all project area, including human resources, communication, procurement, quality and risk management.

Decide 

Only after the change is completely understood, you need to decide if the change will be included in the project or rejected. If the change is approved, it will be part of the project

Document 

Make sure that al changes are documented (even the rejected changes) and ensure that relevant stakeholders are informed.

As a general recommendation, change should be avoided as much as possible, as they are a potential risk to the project success. Whenever the change can not be avoided, it needs to be included in the proper way into the project, to keep the risk as low as possible

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Knowledge Base

Risk Management

Put it to simple words, risk management means preparing for the bad things that can happen. You think about what can go wrong and find ways to minimize the probability or the impact or you make plans for what to do in case that thing will hit the fan, It is one of the area in project management with one of the greatest impacts on project success as it put you one step ahead of the game. So you  need to put the right focus on this activities.
Of course it is difficult to anticipate all the risks and to always find the  measures. But it always pays the price. If you are constantly learning from your projects, you and your experts will get better at this in time.

Plan Risk Management 

Have at least an idea when and how you will do it, who is involved and how will you track it. Decide how you will prioritize the risks, what is your risk tolerance level and what kind of measures will you be able to define

Identify risks 

This should be a continuous activity and should be done by everyone n the team. Best source of risks are the project assumptions and lessons learned from similar projects (your own or others). Allocate sufficient time for this, at the end it will pay its price.

Prioritize risks 

You do not need to have something fancy. Just rate the probability and the impact and make sure you keep the same scale for all risks

Prepare responses 

Should be done for high priority risks. You could try to avoid it, minimize the impact or occurrence probability or you can transfer it. You can also accept the risk, but this should be done consciously (it does not means to ignore risks you do not like)

Monitor risks 

You need to monitor the risks continuously to make sure the probability or the impact is not changing. You need to see if new risks are generated

Key takeaway 

The entire team should keep an eye open on identifying risks. Constantly monitor them and define appropriate actions.This will give you a better chance to achieve project objectives

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