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

Summary and Conclusions

When asked to weight the 22 attributes of a profession as defined by sociologic[5][6][7][8][9], legal[10][11][12][13], economic[14][15][16][17], and semantic[18][19][20] criteria the respondents clearly identified and prioritized those elements which are the most important. First and foremost, is the need for a Code of Ethics. Secondly, practitioners (and those organizations that represent them) need to focus on building Trust. Third, having a body of Knowledge which is "secret, complicated, abstruse or esoteric" is probably the leading obstacle which will prevent project management from becoming a profession, combined with the fact that project management is effectively a life skill, embedded in all existing professions. At some point, it is quite possible that technical organizations (e.g. Civil Engineers claiming Construction Project Management) are going to lay claim to project management as it applies to "their" area of specialty.

In the work of Zwerman, Thomas et al, they concluded that: "It is highly questionable whether Project Management does now or ever will qualify as a "Profession". This survey, designed as a follow up to their research, clearly supports similar conclusions. It appears that, on average, Project Management practitioners perceive that what they do is "hands-on" execution of a processed based methodology or system. They do not evidently see project management either as a discipline within management or engineering, nor do they perceive project management as a profession.

Having made that point however briefly, there is a difference between an occupation being a profession, and doing work in a professional manner. As Project Managers we (and the organizations which we select to represent us) need to be focusing our efforts on doing what we do as professionally as possible, and thereby building trust, and worrying less about what we do as being seen as a profession.

Therefore, some recommendations that come out of this research include:

  1. Immediately stop referring to project management as a profession on the grounds that this is irresponsible at best and a misfeasance, bordering on fraud at worst.
  2. Start referring to project management as an emerging or evolving profession OR better yet, referring to what we do as a "practice".
  3. If project management is to move up the pecking order, practitioners (and those organizations which deem to represent them) need to be focusing all efforts on those non-traditional or Intrinsic attributes:
    • Building the image of those who do project management as trustworthy individuals
    • Focusing on our Fiduciary Responsibility to the consuming public, and
    • Creating a methodology that will consistently deliver "successful" projects in excess of 80% of the time.

Only by focusing efforts in these areas can practitioners earn the right to move up the professionalism continuum.

Where do Project Managers Rank in the Pecking Order?  Where do Project Managers Rank in the Pecking Order?

5. Shimberg, Benjamin. Occupational Licensing: A Public Perspective. Princeton Educational Testing Service, 1982
6. Young, David S. The Rule of Experts: Occupational Licensing in America. Cato Institute, 1987
7. Kimball, Bruce A. The True Professional Ideal in America. Rowmand and Littlefield, 1995
8. Maister, David A. True Professionalism. Simon and Schuster, 1997
9. Zwerman, Bill L. and Thomas, Janice L. Professionalization of Project Management: Exploring the Past to Map the Future. Project Management Institute, 2004
10. Polelle, Michael J. Who's on First and What's a Professional? University of San Francisco Law School Review, 1999
11. Spaulding, Norman W. Reinterpreting Professional Identity. University of Colorado Law School Review, Winter, 2003
12. Gawley, Christopher J. Protecting Professionals From Competition: The Necessity of a Limited Antitrust Exemption for Professionals. South Dakota Law Review, 2002
13. Breitel, Chief Justice, in re: Matter of Freeman, 40 AD 2d 397
14. Cox, Carolyn and Foster, Susan The Costs and Benefits of Occupational Licensing. US Bureau of Economics, Federal Trade Commission, October, 1990
15. Donaldson, T. Corporations and Morality, Prentice Hall, 1982.
16. Finnochio, L.J, Dower, C.M., Blick, N.T., Gragnola, C.M., and the task force on Health Care Workforce Regulation. Strengthening Consumer Protection: Priorities for Health Care Workforce Regulation. Pew Health Care Commission Report, San Francisco CA, 1998
17. Anonymous. An Economic Review and Analysis of the Implications of Occupational Licensing Brief #467, Frontier Economics, DfEs Publications, Nottingham UK, 1999
18. Marutello, Frank. The Semantic Definition of a Profession. SRPA Journal, Fall, 1981
19. Haga, W.J. "Perils of Professionalism" Management Quarterly, Sept.1974, pg 3-10
20. Goode, W. J. "The Theoretical Limits of Professionalism" in The Semi-Professions and their Organizations, Etzioni, A. (ed) 1969, New York: Free Press
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