The following Guest paper is an update of the conclusion to a PhD Research project previously presented at the PMSA International Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2004. It is republished here November 1, 2009, with permission, © Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo.

Introduction | Background | Findings: Is Project Management a Profession?
Implications of the Body of Knowledge | Clear Implications 
Where do Project Managers Rank in the Pecking Order? | Summary and Conclusions

Implications of the Body of Knowledge

Perhaps the most significant obstacle to project management being accepted as a profession lies with the Body of Knowledge. To test this parameter, a list of 27 of the most common words relating to project management was selected from the PMBOK Guide 2000®. As can be seen in Figure 4, practitioners ranked those terms most commonly associated with project management as being at 3.78 out of a possible 5.00 in terms of being "unique".

A core element of both the extrinsic and intrinsic attributes of a profession is that a Body of Knowledge must be "unique, esoteric, complicated, secret or abstruse". This can hardly be said of the Bodies of Knowledge propounded by project management associations. Therefore, project managers can hardly lay claim to their work being a profession. This is surely even less likely considering that project management forms a core element of almost all existing professional occupations.

For example, in medicine, each operation or medical procedure fits the definition of a project. Similarly, project management clearly forms an integral part of architecture and essentially all of the engineering disciplines. Even commercial airline pilots are in essence, project managers, with each flight easily meeting most definitions of a "project". That is, a unique one time event, with a start and a stop and that consumes resources to produce a measurable deliverable. Indeed, a pilot has to file and close out a flight plan at the beginning and end of each flight, an absence of which risks triggering a search for a missing plane.

Figure 4: Project Management Body of Knowledge tested for
Figure 4: Project Management Body of Knowledge tested for "Uniqueness"

To verify or substantiate the analysis on the 22 attributes, another question in the survey asked respondents to rank order some 8 definitions, taken almost directly from the Encarta Dictionary. These definitions were:

  1. Discipline
  2. Method
  3. Procedure
  4. Occupation
  5. Profession
  6. Vocation (Trade)
  7. System
  8. Process

The results of this analysis can be seen in Figure 5, which shows the actual data collected from the survey instrument.

Figure 5: Definitions Rank Ordered
Figure 5: Definitions Rank Ordered
Findings: Is Project Management a Profession?  Findings: Is Project Management a Profession?

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