As a project manager, you’ll know that your professional learning doesn’t stop after you pass the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. Every day is a learning day on some projects!
The skills you need to deliver successful projects also evolve over time, depending on the industry you are in and the type of work you are doing. If you asked your colleagues, or your peers at a Project Management Institute (PMI)® Chapter event, what makes a good project manager, you would hear as many responses as people asked. Being a successful project manager means developing a vast range of skills, competencies, and behaviors.
How do you do that? More importantly, what skills exactly are we talking about? The PMI Talent Triangle™ answers both those questions by providing a framework for your ongoing professional development. The PMI Triangle covers three distinct areas, and in this article, we’ll explain how it works, and how you can map your PDUs to the Talent Triangle.
What is the PMI Talent Triangle™?
The PMI Talent Triangle is at the center for the Continuing Certification Requirements System (CCRS). The Continuing Certification Requirements Handbook sets out the guidelines and policies for earning PDUs.
Therefore, if you want to earn PMI PDUs and continue your certification with PMI, you need to understand the Talent Triangle.
PMI created the Talent Triangle after consulting with many project managers and industry experts from around the world about what makes an excellent project manager. The Triangle reflects the broad skills and requirements for acting as a professional project manager. It represents the ideal skill set for someone in the role of a project manager.
The Talent Triangle reflects the fact that project management isn’t simply about the ‘hard’ skills of technical disciplines like scheduling or project financial management. To be successful as a project manager, you need to be able to draw on a wide range of business management and leadership skills, and that’s what the Triangle is all about.
Next, let’s look at the three sides of the Talent Triangle in detail.
Technical Project Management
PMI describes technical project management like this:
“Knowledge, skills, and behaviors related to specific domains of Project, Program, and Portfolio Management.”
Technical project management skills help you carry out your role and do the specific tasks that relate to keeping a project on track to deliver the desired outputs. For example, these include carrying out the risk management process. As a project manager, you know to identify risks, analyze their impact, select an appropriate risk response and create an action plan to manage the risk, monitoring your progress and changing your responses accordingly as the situation evolves. That is a part of the domain expertise required to deliver a project.
Many short courses in project management focus on helping you understand the technical skills required to work as a project management and will let you pick up Technical PDU credits. Another way to pick up Technical PDUs is to take a PMP PDU online course: that is, a course specifically aimed at helping you develop your technical project management skills once you have become a certified PMP.
Other examples of technical skills include issue management, estimating, creating a work breakdown structure, and scheduling. Without knowledge of these skills, you will not be able to manage a project successfully.
PMI describes leadership like this:
“Knowledge, skills, and behaviors specific to leadership-oriented, cross-cutting activities that help an organization achieve its business goals.”
Leadership skills are required because, as a project manager, you have to lead a team. And often, they will not work directly for you.
Leadership is about guiding and motivating others so that they understand the vision for the project and are able to carry out their work. There are many models for leadership, and as a project manager, you will select an appropriate approach for the situation you are in.
Leadership skills include brainstorming, dealing with conflict, influencing, listening, and team building. You can see how those skills will be important to help you successfully drive the work forward with an engaged project team. You can earn Leadership PDUs for any professional development that helps you build those skills.
Strategic & Business Management
PMI describes strategic and business management like this:
“Knowledge of and expertise in the industry or organization that enhances performance and better delivers business outcomes.”
In other words, this side of the Talent Triangle relates to business-oriented skills. These are skills that managers across multiple disciplines find valuable to ensure they are delivering the best results for their company.
PMI Talent Triangle PDUs in this category would include:
- Training on legal and regulatory compliance including health and safety
- Attending a webinar on customer satisfaction
- Attending a seminar on developing business acumen skills
- Planning and delivering a workshop on strategic planning for your colleagues.
They are important to project managers because, without knowledge of these skills, you will struggle to align your project to the business strategy. You will also find it harder to talk to the senior leadership team in your company because they have developed skills in this area and want to hear about project challenges and successes in terms that link to the wider business management.
Project managers who have strategic and business management skills can really make a positive difference to their organization.
Important note for those who have multiple certifications: Leadership PDUs or Strategic and Business PDUs automatically counts toward ALL your certifications. But a Technical PDU only counts toward your specific certification. There is an exception for “specialized PDUs” (for example, for Agile training). These will count towards both your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® and also your PMP certification. The same goes for “specialized” PDUs in scheduling. However, it doesn’t work the other way round – “generic” topics can never count towards your specialist certifications.
How to Determine Where Your PDU/Course Falls on the Talent Triangle
While the Talent Triangle describes skills and competencies, you can also think of it as a “PDU Triangle.” You need to gain PDUs that fit into each side of the Triangle.
When you log your PDUs, you have to specify how they relate to the Talent Triangle. Therefore it’s important to know where your PDU or training course falls on the Talent Triangle.
The easiest way is to consider the content covered during the session and align it that way.
Note: You will need to evidence your professional development if you are selected for a PMP renewal PDU audit. Make sure that you keep copies of all the PDU certificates and notes from your PDU learning.
The table below covers types of topics and the side of the Triangle that PMI considers they fall into.
Strategic & Business Management
For example, if you attended a two-hour seminar that covered the latest updates in your industry with regards to regulatory compliance, plus information on how to make use of that and communicate the information effectively to your team, ensuring they knew how to put the regulations into practice, you could claim PDUs in both Strategic & Business Management and Leadership. The split would be based on the time each topic got during the seminar. If it was an hour on the industry changes and an hour on supporting your team to adopt the changes, you would claim 1 PDU in each category.
Overall, you will need 60 PDUs for PMP renewal, which equates to 60 hours of professional development split across the Talent Triangle areas.
Tip: Plan on earning your minimum Leadership and Strategic & Business PDUs first. For most of us, it’s easy to earn technical PDUs, as there are a lot of sources to gain these from. The other two categories are harder, so focus your efforts on those and get them out of the way first.
Why is it Important to Know How PDUs Fit on the Talent Triangle?
It’s important to know where PDUs fit on the Talent Triangle for two reasons.
First, you need to earn a minimum of 8 PDUs for each side of the Triangle, and a minimum of 35 PDUs across all sides.
Second, if you want to become a rounded project professional who makes a difference in your business, then you need to develop rounded skills. The Talent Triangle helps you do that by making sure you undergo broad professional development across a range of topic areas.
How The Talent Triangle has Changed PDU Reporting
The introduction of the Talent Triangle has changed how PMI certified project managers can track and monitor their professional development.
One positive effect is that you can now earn PDUs from a much wider range of interesting and relevant topics. For a PMP, the Triangle’s focus on broad professional development which means that you can make use of training from a wider range of providers too.
There is also a positive effect on the way you can earn PDUs. PMI now allows you to claim PDUs from learning across a broader range of delivery mechanisms. It’s no longer just in-person courses – now you can claim PDUs for learning carried out by online webinars and online PMP PDU courses. Not only are these permitted, but they are positively encouraged as they have their own categories in the PDU reporting system.
- The PMI Talent Triangle is a way to categorize project management professional development.
- You need to earn PMP PDUs across all three sides of the Triangle.
Download the CCRS handbook and review the Talent Triangle to take your next steps to earning your PDUs.
As a PMI certified project manager, you need to demonstrate your commitment to professional development by earning PDUs. The PMI Talent Triangle describes the technical, leadership, and strategic and business skills that project managers need to deliver projects successfully and the PDUs you earn have to map to that framework. This article shows you how to do it.
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the President at OSP International LLC, a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.). He is the founder and owner of The Project Management PrepCast, a regular show in the format of a traditional radio show, which teaches project managers the foundations for passing the PMP Exam. Cornelius and his team have coached over 27,000 project managers on their way to becoming PMP certified. Cornelius writes about project management training and certification.