The Best Non-Project Management Training for Project Managers

Non-project management training

Non-project management training

Congratulations! You've put your PMP behind you and are reading this article to log PDUs. Or maybe you're waiting for the requisite years of experience to qualify you to take the exam. In the meantime, you may be wondering whether any of those other certifications out there are worth pursuing. To help you with your market research, I brainstormed a list of popular certifications that could feasibly complement project management. I then searched to assess the frequency of how often these skills appeared in job postings for U.S.-based project or program managers. Check out the ranked roundup of the best non-project management training for project managers:

7. Design thinking (.2% of job postings). According to Wikipedia, design thinking is a method for the practical, creative resolution of problems. Simply put, design thinking borrows strategies from the design world and applies them to solving complex business problems. It's especially popular in software, with its emphasis on appealing to the user experience.

  • Pros: Following a structured process for fostering creativity may improve your health and happiness.

  • Cons: In some circles, design thinking is considered no more than fancy consulting drivel--see here, here, and here. Very few of the job postings I researched named design thinking as a skill.

6. Lean six sigma (1% of job postings). This quality assurance certification is focused on eliminating waste from a process and has traditionally been applied to the manufacturing sector.

Products without the people?

Products without the people?

  • Pros: Unlike some newer training fads, Lean Six Sigma has stood the test of time and has been around for 30 years. And for good reason--eliminating waste from your team's internal or external processes may make the iron triangle of time, cost, and scope slightly more pliable.

  • Cons: In its pursuit of efficiency, Lean Six Sigma fails to consider the human aspects of a process.

5. ITIL (2% of job postings). ITIL is a framework that companies can use to align IT services to support their business processes. As IT projects become increasingly costly, ITIL can help organizations prioritize and justify their IT expenditures.

  • Pros: Aligning IT and business needs sounds logical but may be challenging to implement in practice. Having a trusted framework in place to defend decision making can be useful to PMs dealing with multiple stakeholders.

  • Cons: ITIL may be dated in the digital project era.

4. Change management (8% of job postings). Change management urges PMs to focus on an often neglected but nevertheless critical aspect of project management--people. If stakeholders don't buy into a change, it won't stick, and the project will ultimately fail.

  • Pros: Organizations are becoming more complex and will face more frequent changes across multiple interconnected domains. Having a toolkit in place to adapt to change may increase the odds of project success.

  • Cons: It can be hard to prescribe how to manage change given the unpredictable human factor.

Roll the dice on risk

Roll the dice on risk

3. Risk management (8% of job postings). Risk management is the practice of identifying, analyzing, monitoring, and responding to risks that threaten to derail your project. Think of it as a video game: how can you predict what enemies will crop up? What strategies will deflect, distract, or defeat them?

  • Pros: Risk management is a transferable skill within and outside of project management. Most employees will face risk at some point in their careers. It doesn't hurt to be certified.

  • Cons: Some of the more esoteric risk concepts, such as PERT analysis or Monte Carlo simulations, may not be useful for your specific project environment.

2. Agile (12% of job postings). This one is cheating a bit, since several Agile certifications relate to project management, whether directly or indirectly. But, for PMs that don't currently work in this space, I've included it on the list as a precaution.

  • Pros: Agile is supposed to speed up decision making, improve collaboration, improve quality, and decrease the need for rework by engaging stakeholders earlier and more often in the process.

  • Cons: Agile is a mindset. If your organization is reluctant to adopt Agile principles, you may not have the opportunity to apply what you've learned.

The lightbulb of innovation

The lightbulb of innovation

1. Innovation (13% of job postings). You're probably going--wait a minute, last time I checked, innovation isn't a certifiable skill. Well, you'd be wrong. The International Association of Innovation Professionals offers several innovation certifications, including one in design thinking.

  • Pros: Innovation skills are transferable within and outside of project management. You can innovate in environments ranging from large companies (with the luxury of sufficient budget, time, and people to innovate) to startups (that face greater urgency to innovate to survive.) The relative frequency of job postings suggests that companies are less interested in a specific breed of innovation (e.g., design thinking) than the overarching concept.

  • Cons: Innovation requires a supportive environment to use your newly acquired skills.

The results show that the vast majority of job postings do not reference professional certifications. For those convinced that these programs are nothing more than frivolous money making schemes, the data may bear out that hypothesis. That being said, even if only 13% of job postings cite innovation as a skill, I'd rather take advantage of a company-sponsored learning opportunity than discount myself from gaining an edge on future career options. Happy learning!