Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tornado Diagram-PMP Exam Tips

One of the more obscure terms that you need to know for the PMP Exam is the "Tornado Diagram". Basically, the tornado diagram is a typical display format of the sensitivity analysis.
Let's look at this in more detail.

A Tornado diagram, also called tornado plot or tornado chart, is a special type of Bar chart, where the data categories are listed vertically instead of the standard horizontal presentation, and the categories are ordered so that the largest bar appears at the top of the chart, the second largest appears second from the top, and so on. They are so named because the final chart appears to be one half of a tornado. This diagram is useful for sensitivity analysis - comparing the relative importance of variables. For example, if you need to visually compare 100 budgetary items, and identify the largest ten items, it would be nearly impossible to do using a standard bar graph. However, in a tornado diagram of the budget items, the top ten bars would represent the top ten largest items.

This is applicable to wide range of project domains – Financial, Constructions, Software, Sales, Services, etc. Tornado diagram can be used for analyzing sensitivity in other project constraint (cost, time, quality and risk) objectives also. The longer the bar the greater the sensitivity of the project objective to the factor. The factor that have the greatest impact is located at the top, and the bar ends indicate the low and high value of the factor. It assists the project manager in focusing on the most critical variable of the project, sort and prioritize the variable according to their impact on the project objective, realize how much the value of the project is impacted by the uncertainties of the project, and decide where you need to invest any additional efforts.

You can find the Tornado Diagram in the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition starting in section as part of the sensitivity analysis.

Until next time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

Monday, April 16, 2012

Understanding The PDU Category Structure And Policies

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

If you are a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)®, then you know that the acronym PDU stands for Professional Development Unit. Every PMP needs to earn 60 PDUs every 3 years in order to keep his or her certification. Why? The idea behind PDUs is simple: the Project Management Institute (PMI) wants every PMP to continuously learn. Just like doctors or pilots who have to take classes regularly and practice new skills in order to keep their license, PMI wants credential holders to learn new project management skills so that we can be the best project managers possible.

This article is based on an interview with Rory McCorkle, Product Manager Credentials, from PMI, and you can listen to the full interview for free at The Project Management Podcast website:

The rules around PDUs changed in March 2011, but many people are still confused about the new structure. Let's look at the main changes.

One hour equals one PDU

When Rory and his team were benchmarking PMI against other organizations, they realized that it would be useful to standardize the amount of PDUs individuals get for the time they spend on activities. "We're truly global and dealing with a global audience has challenges," he said. "That was something we found an important learning: regardless of whether you are sitting in a classroom, giving a presentation or volunteering, we have rewarded you appropriately for the investment of your time and what you were getting out of that."

As a result, nearly all activities are now credited on the basis of one hour of activity equaling one PDU.

PDU divisions and categories

The old system had 18 different PDU categories - not including the sub-categories. The new system divides PMI PDUs into two broad areas: education and giving back to the profession. This makes it much easier to understand, but there was another reason for the change too. "The other important thing division enabled us to do was to ensure that through their recertification cycle every practitioner had at least some hours in the education area," Rory said. "That gave us the assurance that everyone would continue to invest in their lifelong learning."

In the new structure both divisions have 3 categories.

The Education division

Category A: Courses offered by a PMI Registered Education Provider (REP), Chapters or Communities. "Most of these activities are stored in the Continuing Certification Requirements System already," said Rory, "so all you need to claim them is simply to enter that activity number and demonstrate that you were there if you're audited."

Category B: Continuing Education. This covers any training that you undertake at a college, university, or with any other training provider that is not a REP. Training in your workplace counts as Category B too. Rory advises that you keep proof of attendance in case you are audited. "That could be a certificate of completion," he said.

Category C: Self-directed Learning. "This is really a great place for folks to be able to get learning that you don't have to go to a classroom for," Rory said. "It captures a lot of the things that I hope certainly that professionals are doing, if not on a daily basis, certainly monthly". This includes being mentored, webinars, podcasts, reading and so on. You can only claim a maximum of 30 PDUs in this category.

The Giving Back to the Profession division

This division has a maximum of 45 PDUs. Any PDUs earned in the following 3 categories counts towards this cap.

Category D: Creating New Project Management Knowledge. "This is a whole number of different things that all are looking to create, develop, expand and communicate new project management knowledge or perhaps augment existing knowledge that might be out there in the field," Rory said. It ranges from authoring a textbook to giving a presentation at your Chapter dinner about a topical issue in project management, and can include writing articles. "At PMI we have a lot of publications that you can get knowledge pieces produced in," Rory said.

Category E: Volunteer Service. You don't have to be a PMI Chapter officer to claim these PDUs. "This can be volunteer service for any project management organization," explained Rory. "We know there are other project management organizations out there. They do have to be non-profit in order to count here, so volunteering for your company isn't going to count because that could be your job." Another opportunity to earn PMP PDUs in this category is by providing project management services to non-profit organizations.

Category F: Working as a Professional in Project Management. This is the only one of the 6 categories where the "1 hour of service equals 1 PDU" rule doesn't apply. "This is essentially an amount we give for working as a professional project manager," Rory said. "As on your original application for your certification, we recognize experience as part of the eligibility requirements." As long as you work a minimum of 6 months within the 12 month period you can claim the PDUs relevant to your credential.

Learning more

"I'd encourage folks to look at the handbook for their certification," said Rory. There is no longer a separate handbook just for continuing certification requirements, as the rules are embedded in the handbook for your credential. While the new guidelines are much clearer than the old system, Rory recommends asking for help if you are unsure.

"I would encourage folks if they have a question about specific activity to reach out to Customer Care," he said. "We'll make sure we get an answer for you because the categories can encompass a lot and sometimes can be a little confusing as to what counts and what might not."

Earn PDUs regularly
Why not get started on your PDUs now via a subscription and get your PDUs regularly? The PDU Podcast ( is a convenient way for you to earn unlimited PDUs in Category A, and you don't have to go to a classroom. Get project management webinars delivered to your portable player like an iPod, Android phone or Blackberry and earn at least 1 PDU every month, which is a really convenient way for PMPs to earn PDUs for your renewal.

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 16,000 students prepare for the PMP exam with The Project Management PrepCast and he is the host of The PDU Podcast.