Gorilla Development Units

The sweat on my brow was threatening to swamp my eyes in their salty haze. Frantically wiping my face, I returned my hands to the keyboard. “Come on, there has to be something… Anything?” The screen updated and the information it offered up gave me no relief. “Ah hell! Come on, it can’t be that hard! There has to be something.”

By now I was getting well and truly desperate. If I didn’t find something soon, my house of cards was going to collapse. And then, like a shining beacon in the night, there was my salvation. I read the details and shuddered. A six hour webinar, starting at 1:00 AM my time. Cringing I signed up. I didn’t really have a choice, did I?
“Eight hours of planning can save eight weeks of work.”
My shoulders sagged and my head fell forward to knock my LCD screen over. (Sometimes I miss the old days of the glass CRT. At least when your head hit one of those, you felt it.) I let the monitor fall. There was no point in recovering it, I knew I wasn’t going to be using it for a while. Instead I let the impending feeling of doom over come me. That voice could only mean my own private gorilla had come to “enlighten” me on the errors of my ways.
“Oh come on,” said Hogarth. “It can’t be as bad as…” A leathery hand reached past me to right the monitor. “The use of fractal equation theory in the application of grid based project mapping scatter status charts.” Hogarth paused, “Presented by Hans Gibberish from his classroom in Belgium.”
Settling down on the floor, Hogarth pulled a branch off my fichus tree. With immaculate, white teeth he began to peal the branch free of its leaves and bark. “So why on earth are you registered for perhaps the most boring webinar in the world, that starts at o-dark thirty in the morning?”
I turned in my seat. Holding my hands defensively in front of me I said, “I don’t have a choice. I’m five and a half PDUs short of sixty and I have to file them by end of business tomorrow or I lose my certification. Last weekend I took a two day course on the history of project management, as interpreted in mime. And I even went to the consultants PM networking event yesterday.”
“You’re not a consultant.” Hogarth observed.
“I know that, but it was worth one and a half PDUs!”
Hogarth nodded. He was silent for a long minute, intent on rendering the last of the fichus branch to wood pulp. Finally he gazed at me with his deep brown eyes. “How long have you had to earn your PDUs?”
“Three years.”
“And how many PDUs did you need?”
Hogarth held a massive hand up, fingers working through the math. “So twenty PDUs a year. Just over 1.5 PDUs a month?”
I sighed. “Yes…”
“And in the first two years of your certification, how many PDUs did you earn?”
“None!” I shouted. “That’s why I’m scrambling now. I was to busy to earn them.”
Hogarth sighed, shaking his head. “Well first off, you did earn PDUs. And second off, eight hours of planning saves eight weeks of work.”
“Huh?” I said.
“Google it.” He replied, reaching for another branch.
If you are not a certified project manager, you might be a little lost. Most professional certifications require a certain number of “units” of relevant activity to maintain your certification. For PMI’s PMP certification, that is 60 Professional Development Units every three years. Failure to acquire the required PDUs will result in you being ineligible to renew your certification. If your certification lapses, you have to take the test all over again to recertify. 
About every three months I meet a project manager at some networking function. His eyes are glassy and its clear he’d rather be somewhere else. Only he’s there and eagerly looking for any other networking events. Why? Because he’s about to hit his three year limit and is short of PDUs. So begins the mad dash to get those desperately needed PDUs.
I’ve now been a PMP long enough to have seen this cycle repeat with the same people. When I first became a PMP I met people in the mad dash for their PDUs. Then they disappeared, sunk into the mires of their professional job. Only to resurface three years later, to once again make the mad PDU dash. Not unlike salmon swimming upstream, trying to dodge the bears of “too little time,” “not enough money,” “have to work my day job.”
And every time I meet someone on the mad dash for PDUs, I silently shake my head. It doesn’t have to be that hard.
I’ve got a good friend who absolutely tracks every single PDU he ever earns, even after he hit the sixty PDU limit. I believe he’s currently a full year from needing to recertify and he’s well over 130 PDUs. Me personally I’ve got at least ninety PDUs and a year until I recertify. I know for a fact I’ll make at least another thirty in the next year.
Earning PDUs is easy. And with only a little planning and a little “getting out of the office” you can easily earn 60 PDUs in two years. 
Some tips and advice:
Know the rules: PMI has several useful documents to aid you in understanding PDUs. Start with their “Maintain Your Credential” site for general overview. PMI offers its own suggestions for earning ways to earn PDUs and has printable PDU Reporting Form for offline documentation.
The real gem is easy to miss as it’s billed as comparison of the old and new PDUs (In March of 2011, PMI went from 18 categories to 6). The type of PDUs explained PDF breaks down the six PDU categories (A – F), including maximum PDUs you can earn for certain categories.
Do your job: You can earn 5 PDUs for holding a project management job. One quarter of your PDUs can be earned just by showing up to work each day. PMI is not explicit, but I’m pretty certain a volunteer job will apply as well.  This is Category F in the PDU chart.
Read a book – or listen to a podcast: Another 10 PDUs a year can be garnered in self directed learning. Two of the most popular are books and podcasts. I personally recommend Pam Stanton’s PDU for Lunch and the Cornelius Fichtner PDU podcast. I’m pretty sure Ficthner’s also qualifies in the continuing education category, so you can earn more than 10 a year. This is Category C in the PDU chart (Continuing education is Category B). [EDIT- I’ve since learned that Pam’s webinars are good for Category A (PMI Acredited training) if listened to live and Category B if you catch the recordings and Conelius’ are good for Category B. So read books or talk to PMs for your Catagory C and save Pam and Cornelius for A and B]
Talk to other PMs: Another way to earn Category C is to go to formal PM gatherings. But that costs money, right? No, not always. Many PMI chapters offer free networking events. Usually for the price of a cup of coffee or a cheap breakfast, you can spend an hour a month talking with other PMPs. That will get you your 10 PDU a year easy.
That’s forty-five easy PDUs right there. Register for two one-day PM workshops in your three years and you’ve just locked up your next recertification.
So like the gorilla said, “eight hours of planning can save eight weeks of work.” We project managers know this mantra, we preach it to engineers all the time. For us let’s change it just a little.
“Regular planning will prevent a mad dash at the finish line.”
So, do you PDU?
Joel Bancroft-Connors
The Gorilla Project Manager
Want me to talk to your gorilla? Send me an email
You can follow me on twitter, @JBC_PMP