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The PMI Talent Triangle

Updated: May 11, 2020

The Project Management Institute has always placed its emphasis on the skills necessary to be a successful Project Manager.  Previous focus was set specifically on ensuring that Project Managers had exceptional technical project management skills.  This was explicit and tacit knowledge that Project Managers held such as understanding the various project management processes and how to employ them beyond the certification test. After several research studies, PMI® found that being able to plan and control the project processes was not enough to generate overall project success.  It was an all too myopic way for Project Managers to function in their organizations.  Thinking linearly about your project does not guarantee organizational commitment or success of a final product, service, or result.

Enter the PMI Talent Triangle…

The PMI Talent Triangle

Introduced in 2015 by PMI, this new model shows needs for additional skills to be used by the Project Manager to ensure they are successful in projects AND as a member of the organization.  It focuses on more than just understanding project management processes and requires an understanding of business skills and strategy along with the ability to lead a team effectively.  Previously, the focus was on the light blue upper-left leg of the triangle; Technical Project Management.  This leg is focused on the methodical and process-based aspects of the Project Managers job.  With the introduction of the PMI Talent Triangle, certification and recertification efforts require a more robust understanding of the business landscape.

We understand the Technical Project Management leg.  This is the 49 processes from 10 Knowledge Areas and 5 Process Groups.  The ability to Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, and Close a project.  But what are the other two legs requiring of our focus?

Leadership Competency

The ability to lead, develop, and manage a team becomes more important to our projects as they become larger and more complex.  Leadership competencies allow the Project Manager to effectively negotiate, resolve conflicts, develop the team and individual team members, and influence stakeholder decisions.  Essentially, it means that the Project Manager must display appropriate decision-making techniques in all project situations and, when necessary, affect organizational change.  The ability to negotiate with stakeholders for resources, apply ethics, and influence project decisions are all aspects of the Leadership leg of the PMI Talent Triangle.

Strategic and Business Management Competency

Strategic and business management skills include the ability to understand the role of your project in the ultimate goals and strategies of the business.  This means that Project Managers need to understand budgeting and financing, process improvement methodologies, contract selection and negotiations, strategic planning, global markets, and sustainability.  Focus in this area deal with the top-down view of your project and its place in the organization.  Being able to think “big picture” about your project and how success or failure of your project will impact the organization holistically, ensures that your project is executed in alignment with the goals of the company. It also ensures that the lessons you and your team learn on the project can be relayed to the entire organization for improvement.

What does this mean for you?

As a Project Manager in today’s market, your Project Management Professional certification can allow entrance into virtually any industry in any region of the world.  Increasing your knowledge in line with all three legs of the PMI Talent Triangle means that you can be successful.

For PMP® certification efforts, your chosen curriculum should focus on teaching not just the 49 project management processes, but also how they are used in realistic situations.  Curricula that include Case Studies should be considered over those that just focus on memorization of the processes, their inputs and outputs, and the tools and techniques.  The justification for this is that PMI will test you using a 200-question test with scenario-based questions.  Over the four-hour time limit, you will be challenged to understand the situation and retrieve the necessary information to answer the question, just as you would in real project situations.

In efforts to re-certify or establish currency for your PMP certification, PMI will require you to show growth in all three areas of the PMI Talent Triangle.  This is done by generating Professional Development Units (PDUs) in two distinct ways; Continuing Education (minimum of 35 PDUs over each 3-year cycle) and Giving Back to the project management profession (maximum of 25 PDUs over each 3-year cycle).  The PDUs from your Continuing Education are broken down further into 3 distinct areas (Technical, Leadership, Strategic & Business), each requiring that a minimum of 8 PDUs are earned.  This ensures that over the 3-year cycle, Project Managers continue to develop proficiency in each of the legs of the PMI Talent Triangle.  These PDUs can be earned from attending live training, computer-based training, webcasts/webinars, instructional videos, or on-the-job training and are reported to PMI using their Continuing Certification Requirements System®.

Your responsibility as a Project Manager is to more than just your project and project team.  It is not enough to create “successful projects that finished on time, in budget, and within defined scope.”  This is no longer what being a Project Manager means to an organization.  Instead, the title ‘Project Manager’ carries preconceived notions for your organization that you have the necessary and demonstrated knowledge, skills, and aptitude to incorporate Technical Project Management skills with Leadership capacity and Strategic and Business Management skills in simulated and real situations.  This makes you an invaluable member of any organization, in any industry, anywhere in the world!

The PMI Talent Triangle (Large)
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