Rita’s PMP Exam Prep 8th Edition

As I mentioned in my last post I plan to take the PMP exam in November or December of this year and after doing a little research on how and when to start preparing I realized that this will be a process.  Most posts I’ve read indicated that the study period for this exam should be about three months, so I’m starting now.  There are many ways to prepare for the exam.  The first step is to get the PMBOK 5 and prepare for some serious memorization.  In addition, there are a number of boot camps, online prep courses and exam guides that you can purchase.  They are all expensive and all new, since everyone has had to frantically revamp their curriculum over the last eight months with the release of the new edition of the PMBOK.  This situation makes me a little uncomfortable since I feel like the guinea pig who will test out whether these courses are really aligned appropriately to the content of the new exam rolling out starting in August.  I’ve put that aside though, as there is no point in worrying about it.   The stars are aligning for 2013 and I won’t let myself get derailed.

In addition to the pay options I’ve also frequently seen the recommendation to try and get into a study group.  Hopefully I’ll be able to talk some co-workers into giving up some play time to form one.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

I will probably try multiple approaches and to start I’ve purchased the eighth edition of Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep.  The list price on this book is $99 but I got it new for $89 on Amazon.  Not a huge savings but not bad given it was just released.  

I didn’t spend a ton of time researching each different exam prep book out there, and I’m sure there are plenty of good ones.  I had an older edition of Rita’s prep book before and I liked it.  Rita and her books are also generally well respected.  The only hesitation I had was in knowing that since Rita had tragically passed away from cancer in 2010, this book wasn’t really written by her.  Instead the book was written by an eight person committee of contributors at the organization that she established, known as the RMC.  I’m usually pretty suspect of anything done by committee, but honestly it is probably the case that most books are written this way so I’m giving it a try.  

I just received the book in the mail on Friday and I’ve not really dived into it yet.  I have gone through it though to get an idea of what it has to offer and I’m going to summarize what I’ve found here in this post.

The book opens with the ‘tricks of the trade’, which are basically tips on how to study for the exam.  Chapter 2 & 3 outline the processes and framework from the PMBOK, which can be pretty overwhelming for the uninitiated.  These chapters also include different charts and exercises aimed at helping you try and get a handle on the overall paradigm that the PMBOK follows.  Chapters 4 through 13 each tackle a knowledge area in depth and include a short exam on that area at the end of each chapter.  Chapter 14 discusses the professional and social responsibilities of a PMP certified professional.  Finally, the last section provides more tips, this time for passing the exam.  The book also includes as CD with practices exam questions (1500+ according to the package).  A big selling point of the book is that the tone is written in a conversational style.  Compared to the dry and technical style that the PMBOK is written in, the conversational style is much easier to read.  The book purportedly also delves into nuances of the material that shows an experienced project managers interpretation of the PMBOK knowledge areas, a perspective necessary for harder questions that go beyond rote memorization of the knowledge areas and PMBOK framework.

I will try to let you know how things go once I actually start studying the book and using the exam prep CD.  Are you planning on studying, or are you currently studying, for the PMP exam?  What methods are you using and how did you like them?


Although it took me awhile to get into Rita’s book, I did end up finding it helpful in the end.  Although the CD ended up only having a handful of practice questions and not the 1500+ I thought I was getting, the end of the chapter questions in the book were very helpful.  To get the 1500+ questions I would have had to fork over another $300.  Instead I just used Exam Central which is free and one of the better banks of questions available online.   I didn’t end up doing the exercises in the earlier chapters as I found them more frustrating than useful, but that might just be me.  The exercises in the later chapters were more focused and helpful.


The Read: Social Media for Project Managers

A review of the book Social Media for Project Managers by Elizabeth Harrin:

Social Media is a term used to refer to the tools and platforms that are now online to allow people to connect and collaborate.  Popular social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and Pinterest.  There are a lot of options for using social media, and the popular platforms come and go, but most users of social media see it as a medium that is here to stay and is in fact, the way of the future.  Social media already has a huge impact on modern life and even though it has been slow to penetrate the corporate world it has made inroads there as well.

So how can Project Managers use social media to help with managing project teams?  Is it worth exploring?  If it is useful to Project Managers, are all aspects of social media applicable?  What might be worth implementing and how do you make this change?  These are all topics that are discussed in Elizabeth Harrin’s new book Social Media for Project Managers.There are challenges to incorporating social media into the traditional workplace and a lot depends on your team and your corporate culture, as well as your own commitment to incorporating social media into your management process.

In fact, there are enough pieces to evaluate and implement, and enough change to manage, that implementing an effective social media solution to project communication is a project in and of itself.

Once you’ve done the work, the hardest part of the process is adoption.  How do you get everyone to use it?  How do you get management to understand the importance and potential of it, not only to get it started but to also give it a chance?  It is a lot of work to end up discarded and unused.

But if you can get it working and set up in a way that works for your project team, it can be great.  Imagine one place to share and collaborate that is accessible to any team member, anywhere.  One place to update and store information.  This is really the way of the future in the workplace so learning this way of working early on, it can only help you.  Besides, managing communication by e-mail is unpleasant for everyone.  Technology has given us a better way, if we can leverage it effectively.

Here are some social media technologies that you might find helpful.  Microblogging consist of short updates and messages that are much like chat but are visible to everyone.  These are great for quick updates.  An example of a microblogging tool is Twitter.  Blogs are a great way to provide more comprehensive project updates.  Instant messaging is like e-mail but happens in real time and allows you to see who is on, as well as to chat with multiple people at once.  This is handy when not all team members are on site and something can be addressed quickly.  Wiki’s allow your team to compile the teams collected knowledge in once place.  Topic entered here can link to other related knowledge and allows users to search for the topic needed instead of opening and searching through stored documents.  There are others tool as well that are covered in the book.

I think this book has helpful information in it, especially if you have little knowledge of what options are available to you.  The book also gives you fair warning of the challenges and pit falls that you can run into, especially when dealing with managers or co-workers.  The book is small and it is not a total slog however it isn’t an exciting read either, so it took me a little longer than it normally would to get through it, because I kept getting bored and putting it down.

This is a worthwhile book if you are looking for some sound ideas on how to start incorporating social media into your projects, as the author is level headed and has some good advice.  Don’t think that this book will be all you need however.  It doesn’t really help you choose specific software.  It doesn’t have any detailed help for setting up a solution that will work for you.  This book is at a high level and is really just an introduction to the possibilities and some advice on change management.  So just keep in mind that there will be a lot you have to figure out for yourself.

The Read: The Power of Scrum

In my previous post, “The Scrum Master”, I spoke about how the Scrum Master recommended the book “The Power of Scrum” by Jeff Sutherland as a must read for anyone that needs an introduction to Scrum.  That same day I purchased the book and the Scum Master was correct, it was an easy and absorbing read, and I finished it that same night.

The book is written as a story, almost a novel in form, about a CTO whose software development project is still not done after going over schedule twice.  His clients are ready to fire his company and he just barely manages to get a final three-month extension.

The story quick moves on to him meeting a Scrum consultant in a bar and than follows the process of the CTO transforming his traditionally managed software development team into an Agile team using Scrum.

The book format manages to both be engaging and informative because the story format is compelling and easy to envision, but there is also a summary section at the end of each chapter starting in chapter two, that outlines the key learning points from the chapter.

There are a lot of summary points, but you only realize it once you are done.  They never seem overwhelming in the context of the book.  I cannot outline all of these points but here are a few key ones for me as I either hadn’t picked them up in other reading or they clarified details I was fuzzy one:

1.  (#4 Pg 17) Scrum supports a development team by becoming completely flexible regarding the work in the next spring.  In return the team needs to be completely inflexible regarding the work in the current spring, thus guaranteeing  that they complete each Sprint.

2. (#8 Pg 17) It is the customer’s responsibility to make the developers understand what is needed.  That requires frequent and intense contact.  If a customer is not willing to make such and investment, then the project apparently does not add enough value for them to take it seriously.

3. (#3 Pg 28) The scrum team should be seven people, plus or minus two.

4. (#2 Pg 41) Using Scrum, the product is always ready.  You are able to deliver a version of your product that is at most one Sprint old.

Another development that I found interesting was that the traditional Project Manager in the story had to take on a new role and had to abandon all of the traditional project management tools.  The project was driven by the team members performing the work.  The argument against traditional project management tools was that the planning process drove the project rather than communication with the customer and that there was an avoidance of true communication because it might jeopardize the carefully crafted project plan and create more work for the Project Manager.  The PM was turned into the Product Owner.  He was responsible for understanding the customers needs and wants and then for transforming them into the stories in the Product Backlog.

Overall, I got a lot out of this book and I would recommend it.  I would like it if the other members of my team read it too, but if nothing else I feel that I can begin to explain the process.

Here is a little bio on Jeff Sutherland from QCon:

Jeff Sutherland, Scrum co-founder

 Jeff  Sutherland, Scrum co-founderDr. Sutherland is a Certified ScrumMaster Practitioner and the inventor of the Scrum development process. He has been VP of Engineering and/or CTO for 9 software product companies, developing Scrum in 4 of them and introducing today’s standard Scrum methodology to 5 of them.As CTO of PatientKeeper and IDX, he used Scrum to capture industry leadership for mobile/wireless/web application platforms in healthcare, enabling physicians to enhance revenue, reduce cost, and improve patient care. Recently, he has evolved automated Scrum tools for real-time management reporting, while reducing Scrum project manager overhead to 10 minutes a day and developer administrative overhead to 1 minute a day. This is an order of magnitude more efficient than traditional approaches to project management.In recent months, Dr. Sutherland has been a Scrum consultant to Microsoft, Yahoo, Ariba, Cadence, Adobe, GE Healthcare, and M3 Media Services bringing PatientKeeper Scrum practices to the broader software industry.

Any other thoughts on the book?  Any Project Managers out there who disagree with the way the Project Manager of the piece is portrayed?