The Impact of Continuing Education

on the Performance of Project Managers



By Steven J. Kopischke, PMP, MSPM

Florida, USA




The concept of the half-life of information and scientific facts brings us to the conclusion that, for the professional project manager, becoming a lifelong learner is imperative. The exponential advances and proliferation of technology only make the problem appear faster. There are many learning approaches to lifelong learning that a project manager can adopt. Selecting the most effective approach to learning depends on the project manager’s self-knowledge as much as an awareness of what is available. Soft skills are paramount, though difficult to teach and learn. A closer match between education and practice is needed, thus requiring education systems to keep pace with the demands in the field. While organizations have found success in bringing ongoing education to their project management teams, academic research in the area lacks the fullness of other, more studied topics. This examination of existing literature notes limitations in current research, but bright points for the project management lifelong learner.


In 2012, Samuel Arbesman published “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date.” There he established from a scientometric perspective that facts or information grow stale and become obsolete, much like radioactive particles decay. Coupling that concept with Moore’s Law, which impacts the Internet, airplanes and dishwashers (Mack, 2015), and the march of progress seen between versions of PMI’s PMBOK (PMI, 2008; PMI, 2013b; PMI, 2017a), leads to the conclusion that project managers in every field and around the world have difficulty keeping up with the information, tools, and techniques they need to do their jobs competently and confidently.

This literature review considers these ideas and seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the half-life of the knowledge owned by project managers?
  2. What lifelong learning approaches should project managers consider?
  3. What skills should project managers seek to learn and maintain?
  4. Does a lifelong learning approach to professional project manager development have a positive impact on the project managers’ organizations?

What is the half-life of the knowledge possessed by project managers?

Arbesman (2012) examined studies conducted on various arenas of knowledge and discovered that over centuries, different arenas see a doubling of knowledge at different rates. This doubling, and the resulting replacement of outmoded facts and concepts with those newly discovered or devised, is what Arbesman calls a “half-life.” These rates were measured by noting the number of contributions in each field. In a 1947 study, Mathematics saw a doubling in 63 years, whereas Chemistry saw a doubling in 35 years (Lehman, cited in Arbesman, 2012, p. 14). A 2008 study measured the half-life of scholarly books published in various fields; here Physics had a half-life of 13.07 years, and Math had a half-life of 9.17 years (Tang, cited in Arbesman, 2012, p. 14).

The Project Management Institute is a driving force behind project management methodologies throughout the world.

Every three to four years, the Project Management Institute publishes an updated Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (PMI, 2008; PMI, 2013b; PMI, 2017a). These guides form the basis for project management methodologies throughout the world and in every industry. These publications further serve to document the baseline information every Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification candidate must know and master to pass the rigorous PMP® certification exam. At a high level, we can say that this knowledge has a half-life of approximately three to four years (Kopischke, 2018, pp. 6-7).

Knowing that all information or knowledge has a half-life leads to the conclusion that every worker must contend with the expiration of their knowledge.


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How to cite this paper: Kopischke, S.J. (2020). The Impact of Continuing Education on the Performance of Project Managers; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Kopischke-impact-of-continuing-education-on-project-manager-performance.pdf



About the Author

Steven J. Kopischke

Florida, USA


Steven Kopischke is an IT Infrastructure Project Manager and Team Leader with 24 years of project management experience, having earned the PMP certification in May 2012, and having been conferred a Master of Science in Project Management in May 2019. Mr. Kopischke is currently Senior Manager, Consulting for Deltek in their Tampa, Florida office. He may be contacted via steve@kopischke.us.