Wednesday, January 27, 2016

PMP Success Story: Listening, Reading and Reflecting for PMP Success

Prashanth Balakrishna believes that you should not only aim to be PMP® certified, but prepare and succeed with the intention of becoming a better project manager. He successfully cleared the exam with the new exam changes effective from January 12, 2016 and found the experience to be intense.

Prashanth was part of my class in November, 2015. A calm and composed person with deep listening and attention throughout the class, his questions were to the point. In fact, he got certified in a short period time. He has outlined his experience on the ancient Indian tradition of "Sravana – Manana – Nididhyasana", which he has elaborated in this post and has noted in the end. It is a unique way of learning. 

Go on and read how he did it.


I have been a project manager (PM) for more than fifteen years but never really had the time to take up structured learning of PMBOK® guide and attempt to gain PMP certification. In hindsight I wish I had taken my PMP exam 5 years ago and avoided many pitfalls. In 2014, I started leading a US Healthcare project, where EVM was the mandated form of reporting. This made me refer to PMBOK guide and as I started learning more of EVM my interest peaked the idea of getting PMP certified came to me.

Coincidentally, there was an email in my inbox advertising the PMP workshop, and it seemed like a sign from the universe. I decided to enrol to the workshop, which was delivered by Satya. I used my year-end holidays to complete my preparation for the PMP exam. My approach to PMP was a 3 stage process *
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Reflecting
There are few things that worked well for me in each of the above stages. I have described them below. I hope my experience will help the readers of this blog. 

Listening - The Workshop
Satya’s workshop is interesting as he takes you through the grind, but makes it interesting with the anecdotes and challenges you with questions that make you think. He goes deeper into topics through numerical examples and used his own blogs to enlighten you on all the Knowledge Areas.

The best way to make use of the workshop is to come to it prepared. Pre-read the day’s topics from PMBOK guide so that your knowledge is supplemented through the workshop. And then revise the topics after the workshop so that knowledge gets solidified.

Remember, we tend to forget newly learned knowledge in a matter of days unless we consciously review the learned material. So my suggestion would be to go to the workshop when you have decided to take the exam in the next 3 months and then continuously review the material.

Reading - The Body of Knowledge
If you look at the first page of the PMBOK guide, you will see that PMI® calls it “A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge”. Project Management is a vast body of knowledge, PMBOK is a guide that will help you navigate it. So you really need to refer to multiple sources to gain the knowledge to become a successful PM. I chose to read the PMBOK guide and Headfirst PMP. Headfirst was a nice balance to the textual format of PMBOK. Both reinforced each other.

My advice is to read daily and reflect on the topic (See next section Reflection). I read the processes by Knowledge area and took tests at the end of each chapter to reinforce my knowledge. Just like a project you need to “Start with a Plan”, and track progress on a daily basis.
On certain key topics like EVM, contract types, quality, scheduling, motivational theories and some of the tools and techniques I referred to outside sources and the internet to reconfirm my understanding

Reflecting – Thinking like the PM
The PMBOK guide lists all the 47 processes that typically happen on a project. By truly getting into the spirit of a project and reflecting on the topics will help. These two things worked for me:
  • Using the data flow diagrams (DFD) in PMBOK and tracing through the inputs and outputs within a knowledge area helped me understand the relationships between processes. I did NOT memorize any of the ITTOs (Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs).
  • There are several topics where you need understand nuances between topics. Things like quality v/s grade, deliverables v/s tools & techniques, QC v/s QA, accuracy v/s precision, contingency v/s fall-back. Reading and reflecting on these nuances will solidify your understanding. There are at least 50 such topics which are mentioned in the PMBOK guide. Internet is a good source.

Final Prep and Exam
As the exam date approaches, it is time to take tests. Taking tests in an exam-like setting with timing is very important. PMP exam is quite tough and was tougher than any of the freely available tests that I took online. Use the tests only as timing practice and to reconfirm understanding of some of the key areas. The actual exam was an intense experience with many questions having close answers. I used up most of my time (I spent up to a minute on most questions) leaving me with very little time for a second pass. This meant that I had to get the answer right the first time. The strategy paid off, and “Congratulations” flashed on my screen.

Finally, PMBOK guide and the PMP exam truly gears you up to be a better PM - not just pass the exam. If you listen, read and reflect with the intention of becoming a better PM the exam will be a smooth sailing. Best Wishes.

* Note: I have respectfully borrowed the “Listening, Reading and Reflecting” terminology from the ancient Indian tradition of “Sravana – Manana – Nididhyasana”. It is truly amazing to see that we can apply the timeless wisdom of ancestors even today.

Brief Profile: Prashanth Balakrishna is a Senior IT leader, heading delivery in a boutique IT services firm.


Prashanth’s online PMP profile is available at PMI’s online credential registry. 

I am thankful to Prashanth for sharing his experience and I believe it you help my readers in achieving the PMP certification.

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1 comment:

  1. Congrats Prashanth... It is very interesting the way you have narrated your experience.


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