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

Clear Implications

Figure 6: Definitions Plotted on an Interval Scale
Figure 6: Definitions Plotted on an Interval Scale

Figure 6 shows the data of Figure 5 plotted on an interval scale and this tells the story as clearly as any. By a significant margin, the ± 400 or so global respondents to the survey consider project management to be a "Process, Method or System" rather than a "Profession", the latter being ranked a distant 6 out of 8.

The combination of analyzing the 22 attributes plus asking respondents to rank order those definitions they feel "best describe" project management can only lead one to conclude project management is not a profession.

Interestingly, the results of this survey combined with the work of Zwerman, Thomas et al, make referring to project management as a profession somewhat ethically questionable. The ASCE Code of Ethics perhaps best summarizes the principle by stating:[3]

"Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner".

More specifically:

"Engineers should endeavor to extend the public knowledge of engineering and sustainable development, and shall not participate in the dissemination of untrue, unfair or exaggerated statements regarding engineering"


"Engineers shall be dignified and modest in explaining their work and merit, and will avoid any act tending to promote their own interests at the expense of the integrity, honor and dignity of the profession."

At worst, making unsubstantiated claims, especially in light of empirical evidence to the contrary, may well open up the potential for legal action for making fraudulent statements designed to mislead the consuming public under various consumer protection laws. However, even at best, given that a Code of Ethics and creating a Trusting Relationship were at the top of the lists, "puffery" in referring to project management as a profession should end immediately. Perhaps "emerging profession", "evolving profession" or similar descriptive terms would better reflect the reality of project management and, in the process, enhance its image.

Given research by Standish, Gartner, META and ENR indicating project failure rates of 30%, 40, 50 or even 60% are common in many sectors; this author is suggesting that the appropriate term to use would be the practice of project management. Let us generously define project success as being on time, within budget, while substantially satisfying the purpose for which the project was undertaken. So, until such time the process, methodology or system has improved to the point where it can consistently deliver better than 80% success, then referring to project management as a profession appears to be irresponsible, and a misfeasance bordering on fraud.

Implications of the Body of Knowledge  Implications of the Body of Knowledge

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