The theme of PMSA's 2006 Conference was "Growth and Collaboration for a Project Management Profession" But is it a "Profession" in the publicly acknowledged sense of the word? What gives practitioners the right to make apparently unsubstantiated claims that project management is a "Profession"? Is it possible that like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, if we wish hard enough and "click our heels together three times" that project management will earn the respect and prestige accorded other professions? Or are we like the Emperor and his new suit of clothes, believing that if we willingly share in a collective ignorance of obvious facts, that it will become true? In the fall of 2004, in a study funded in part by PMI, researchers Bill Zwerman, Janet Thomas et al entitled "Exploring the Past to Map the Future" concluded that "project management is not now, nor is it likely in the foreseeable future, to be considered a profession".
So what is "reality"? As this author's research project was already underway when Zwerman and Thomas's findings were released, the next logical step was to answer the follow on question: If not a profession, then what is Project Management? Having already identified those Extrinsic and Intrinsic attributes that define a profession, a survey was created that would attempt to measure how a broad cross section of global practitioners perceived themselves. The expectation was that in comparing respondents who were project managers against the responses of those who identified themselves with already established professions (i.e. Law, Medicine, Accounting, Engineering) some conclusions could be reached. Perhaps this could resolve the discrepancy between claims that Project Management is a profession and academic research saying it was unlikely.
The survey was published on Free Online Surveys, and consisted of some 47 Questions. The questions included simple yes/no, rank ordering, and multiple-choice answers. But the most exciting questions were pair-wise comparisons. One of the major hypotheses of the research was that determining a profession is not a yes or no, black or white determination, but one of perceptions and degrees. Hence, the survey was designed to enable the statistically valid creation of a true ratio scale, rather than merely ordinal scale comparison to see where project management lies vis à vis licensed occupations commonly perceived as being either "trades" or "professions".
As South Africa contributed extensively to the data collected, it is only fitting that the results be shared with this segment of the global practitioner community. As Figure 1 indicates, responses from Africa (mostly South Africa) comprised 16.4% of the responses.
Figure 1: Respondents Area of Origin
2. Giammalvo, Paul D. Defining a Profession- Where Does Project Management Fit In? Proceedings of the PPBA, Anchorage Alaska, June 2004.