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TOPIC: Defining you own strategy

Defining you own strategy 1 year 10 months ago #5103

  • Norbert Paul
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Hello Cornelius, Hello Everybody,

yesterday (Jan. 23th, 2015) I passed on my first try with a reasonable outcome of 4 proficient and 1 moderate (closing). All in all not too bad, for a 1 month study tour with a deliberate decision not to take any "real 4-hours exams" during my preparation.

In the following I like to explain, how I did it and how I set up my learning strategy based on my personal goals, preferences and self-obtained constraints. From my perspective, is important to define for oneself which learning approach to go for. If you like, you can call this the "project management plan".

Preparation phase.
I am a freelance IT consultant and project manager from Germany with long time experience and project history in SAP consulting, e.g. mid-size to large implementations of ERP systems.

I was thinking how to improve project methodologies ever since and have thought about some certifications earlier on. In Germany a valid alternative to the PMI-PMP would be the IMPA/GPA (level C). Other methods like PRINCE2 are sometimes seens equivalent, although I think not so difficult to opain.
Although I have used English in many projects, I though it is a nice additional challenge to just learn "the PM language" in English. I decided not to use any translation tools, but just try to learn the vocabulary.
I checked for some PMP-Trainings and found many options starting from over 2000$ with good trainers to some 2-day boot camps for approx 600$. Just "by accident" I discovered the PrepCast, and thought, cool...this seems worth trying. As I had some good previous experience with a MOOC course, I decided I take that. This was Dec, 1st.
I started watchin the videos and in parallel prepare my PMI-application. At that time I was not fully committed to really doing it. Nevertheless I finished my application and as a nice Xmas gift, PMI told me on Dec 23, I was elegible.

I think, on that day I decided, ok, now that I am elegible, why not just do it?

My goals and contraints were the following:
- I wanted to really learn the stuff
- I expected that studying that stuff somehow helps me to improve my project management.
- I wanted to do this as fast as possible, to have that PMP on my profile for the next application
- I wanted to spend as little costs as possible, as I had to pay for it by myself.
- I wanted to have fun while doing this.

My work situation at this time was, I was just assigned as project manager for a new IT-project with approx. 50%. So I actually had the time available to combine studying and working / applying in January to make out the best synergy. So on Dec. 23 I had in mind, why not trying to have this finish by end of January, latest by the end of february.

As cost-related resources I only used:
- PMBOK
- PM Prepcast
- PMI-membership, applications costs etc.

In addition I used free question available:
- Free PM Simulation (from Cornelius)
- Questions from www.oliverlehrmann.com
- Free questions available within PMI (PMI BOOKS24/7)
- Some free apps just for playing around a bit.
- Read prep cast Forum experiences.

I deliberately chose not to buy or look at any additional prep-books given my cost-constrain.
(This is not necessarily a good advise, it was just my decision to try this way). I would recommend to everyone to get the simulator in the package.

1. Phase: Overview (2 weeks)
During the extend Xmas break I had 2 weeks where I basically studies the material mainly watching the prep cast, taking notes, following the presentation in the PMBOK, stopping, reading etc. The interviews I mainly listened while taking a walk. I used the check questions after each lecture. This phase is to give you an overview about all the knowledge areas (horizontally).
Then I took the questions againg, and I noticed…. I cannot do it ;-)

2. Phase: Integration & Testing (2 weeks)
In a second round I tried to review everythink in the vertical order, from the integration perspective, understanding the logical order of the processes. Trying to have the big picture about what is input and output to which process. Understanding the data concept (date, information, reports etc). During walking I tried to memorize all the processes with the main Tools and outputs.

In parallel I started with exam questions. A helpful shock was taking the 75 questions by Oliver Lehrmann. This showed my, I had to really go deeper and need to understand the stuff.
I this period I took about 15 mini-exams with 50 questions (4 from the free simulator and the rest from the PMI site). My priority was to exactly find out, what I don’t know, and why I didn know. If I did not know something, I really got back, studied it, wrote flash cards etc. (things like elements of WBS, quality tools etc.).

Another thing I found out, when trying to answer ethic-related questions I was constantly mislead by my intuition. While I tended more to “covering the back” of a fellow project manager, I had to learn, that PMI wanted me to “report to appropriate management”. Another thing is to almost always apply the formal change request procedure. (This was hard for me to take, having a more agile thinking…).
Generally, as many said before, it is really important to understand the concepts, e.g. you have to know, when you would use a pareto chart.

A great thing also was, to apply the learnings to my actual project. This way I could think through the processes, and how they are applied in the real world. This also helped my great having some additional thought in the project… so I felt, yes this exercise helped my reflecting and thus becoming more aware of what we are doing.

On the other hand when studying I quite often caught myself thinking that is PMBOK –System is overly formalistic and not realistic. As I lean very much in agil thinking, I was tented to critize the process presented here. At that point, I just tried to cut over my criticism and for the moment, just go with it (Cornelius helped me with all of his comments on that…).

Another learning about taking those 50 questions exams: I found out, I constantly needed approx. 50 min for 50 questions. Typically I had to take some time to read and understand, think about it and choose. Then I know, or I don’t know. I found out, when marking and coming back, normally I don’t have a better clou (sometimes even changed it to wrong). Therefore my exam strategy was, I just try to get through it with a constant pace, not necessarily having the need to come back later. At that time I was round 75-80% doing those middle 50 Questions-Exams. Then I just decided I make the appointment one week ahead, giving me another 3 full and 3 half days.

At that point I also decided I try without a full-time 200 question exam. I just did not want to take that pain, and also I wanted to focus on improving my knowledge and not relying on the statistics. You could say, “it is the approach: do it right the first time, not on inspection”.

My metaphor was, if you prepare for a marathon, you don’t actually do marathons runs, instead you do shorter runs and you do mental preparation. You go through the whole process mentally.

Mental preparation is the key. This is what I did very intensively:
- Listening to the interviews from the prep-cast. This helped my experience the process mentally upfront.
- I used Cornelius free exam simulator that gave the exact experience within the ream exam. (If I had not my greedy cost-constraint, I would have bought the full version, and would recommend to definetly buy the package prepcast+exam.
- Went through the process mentally: I work on constant pace, which should make 50 questions in 50 min; I check my performance, take a breath and continue in constant pace. I watch myself and try to re-focus my concentration, if I feel its going down.
- I was self confident I can keep my concentration for 4 hours if needed.
- I was relatively self-confident I know the 80% of the basic concepts, accepting there is always some details I just don’t know.
- I accepted the risk of failing on the first try, because I deliberately balanced it with the alternative of taking some pain-staking 4 hours exams, which I just did not want to do… ;-)

The two last day before the exam, I just continued to review my notes, my flashcards, browsed through the PMBOK again, did my braindump exercise etc. Just trying to take it as an nice sportive challenge.

3. Result:
In the actual exam I had to realize I needed almost 60 min for 50 questions, so I was a little bit in jeopardy to coming through. Noticing this very early I just kept focus on keeping my steady pace. At the end I just had 5 min left for the review, and basically I went back to one particular question, where I noticed during another question, I answered it wrong. This is an important take-away. You can learn a lot about the right answers, by the given options or text from other questions.
So lucky me, my strategy worked fine ;-)


I hope this is helpful to you. Just find out, what is the right approach for you.
Good luck on your journey!

Cornelius, thanks so much!
It was a pleasure studying with you so far.

Kind regards & until next time!
Norbert
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