The Profession of Project Management?

Project management has taken another significant step towards becoming a profession.  After several years of debate and decisions in the UK High Court (see: Project Management is a Profession), the Privy Council considered the application by the Association of Project Management (APM) at its meeting on 12 October 2016 and has now issued an Order of Grant, which has triggered a process which will see the association awarded a Charter.

apmcharter-3523This process combines a modern assessment of the ‘worth’ of an organisation and the members it represents, their value to society, with the traditions of the UK Crown going back centuries. In keeping with history, the Charter will be printed on vellum and have the Royal seal attached.  In keeping with the modern age the APM will then need to reconfigure its structure, and how it qualifies project managers.

Once the Charter has been sealed APM will implement the procedural, legal and accounting transition to re-constitute itself as a Chartered body during 2017 including transferring the assets and liabilities of the existing charity to a new Chartered Body Corporate. The new body will then conduct a public consultation on the criteria for admission to its planned register of Chartered project professionals, placing project managers on the same professional level as other professions in the UK.

Achieving Chartered status on behalf of the project management profession is expected to:

  • raise standards through a robustly assessed register of project professionals who are committed to professional development and a code of conduct;
  • enhance the status and recognition of project management as a means of delivering effective change that improves our economy and society;
  • facilitate continued collaboration and research with other professions to develop the practice and theory of delivering successful change across sectors and industries.

Whilst this process is very UK centric, and based on the traditions of the Royal Courts, it has much wider implications. When the transition is complete in 2017, project managers, or at least the newly designated Chartered Project Managers will be on the same professional standing as Architects, Engineers and Surveyors.

Whilst there will still be on-going debate of the nature of ‘professionalism’ in the 21st century in at least one major jurisdiction the concept of placing project management in the same frame as other ‘modern professions’ is close to becoming an accepted fact.  The challenge will be to drive the change in behaviours needed to allow project managers to live up to the code of behaviour and ethical standards expected of a professional – as many of my other posts on ethics show, this will not be easy.

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8 responses to “The Profession of Project Management?

  1. Sorry Linda but putting lipstick on a pig does not make it beautiful…… Underneath, it still remains what it is….

    In the case of project management, unlike law or medicine or teaching, it is not based on a “body of knowledge” which is in any way “unique, esoteric, complicated or special” which is the basis for all existing professions. Not only is our “body of knowledge” not unique we cannot control who can access it…… (which is why law and medicine were based on Latin and Greek)

    The ONLY “accomplishment” the Privy Council achieved is going to result in a “restraint of trade” which Elliott Friedman pointed out when he stated “the only difference between the trade unions and the professional societies lies in their sanctimoniousness…..”

    While your words sound very nice, in practice I just don’t see it playing out the way you propose….

    “raise standards through a robustly assessed register of project professionals who are committed to professional development and a code of conduct;”

    [PDG] AACE has been around since 1956, and both PMI and IPMA since what, the mid to late 1960’s? And given they all have “Codes of Ethics” don’t you think that if that was a determining factor that by now we would have seen significant improvement in project delivery?

    “enhance the status and recognition of project management as a means of delivering effective change that improves our economy and society;”

    [PDG] Not to make light of it, but Dilbert captured the very essence of “project management as a profession” in this cartoon- http://dilbert.com/strip/2011-11-22

    “facilitate continued collaboration and research with other professions to develop the practice and theory of delivering successful change across sectors and industries.”

    [PDG] Honestly do you really believe this? As evidenced by the taming of fire, invention of the wheel, the Pyramids of Egypt, Great Wall of China along with all the wonders of the ancient and modern world, there is plenty of evidence that the “practice and theory” of project management is not only well established but one could argue that the propensity to “do” projects is somehow hard wired into the human psyche- that if we as humans don’t have “projects” to keep us occupied, that we INVENT them….

    Bottom line- project management is part and parcel of what makes us “human”- one of those traits which distinguishes us from the animals….. Why not just accept it for what it is and not try to make it into something it is NOT?

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

    • You raise some interesting arguments Paul… 🙂
      A few counterpoints – if ancient practice and innate drives exclude a ‘profession’the practice medicine cannot be a profession either.
      The Dilbert cartoon highlights the problem of not being a defined profession.
      The modern underpinnings of a professional include demonstrated knowledge, a commitment to continual learning and subscribing to a code or practice.
      The missing element for project management is recognition (highlighted in the Dilbert).
      Pat.

  2. Hi Pat…… I usually do…… 😀 (Raise some interesting arguments….)

    I didn’t say that ancient practice PRECLUDED a profession….. What I said (and what I stick by) is that unless we OWN and CONTROL the body of knowledge then we CANNOT build a profession around it. A good example is becoming a commercial pilot…… Flying the plane it not a whole lot more difficult than driving your automobile and with “fly by wire” it actually is even less difficult. The real challenge is to “learn to speak the lingo”……. If you are unable to communicate with the tower or with other planes, you will most surely die…… Along with your passengers…..!!!! THAT is what is “missing” in trying to “professionalize” the practice of project management….. There is no “common language” much as PMI tried to create one….

    And how can you explain that the PROCESSES of project management are already part and parcel of all EXISTING professions?

    Law- isn’t each case a PROJECT and isn’t doing several cases for the same client a PROGRAM? And isn’t specializing in say Real Estate or Divorce an example of a PORTFOLIO?

    Medicine- Isn’t each procedure a PROJECT? And couldn’t you characterize the family doc as being a PROGRAM manager? Or how about a specialist? Doesn’t he/she have a PORTFOLIO of professional services being offered?

    Teaching- Isn’t each class we develop and teach a unique PROJECT? And supposing we teach the same class to many different clients- isn’t that a PROGRAM?

    Engineering- Isn’t each design a PROJECT? And isn’t designing more than one project for the same client a PROGRAM? And isn’t specializing in a specific area of Engineering a perfect example of being a PORTFOLIO manager?

    Need I go on……..????

    And speaking of engineering, even construction management, which was born of two EXISTING professions- Architecture and Engineering- has never been able to get recognized as a “profession”.

    Bottom line- much as so many people would like it to be, there is no way to build a profession around a PROCESS or series of processes, especially when those processes are already embedded into all EXISTING professions, the trades and even into many OPERATIONS…. (Think your local mechanic, AC repair person or anyone else who works on “job orders”) I think this is nothing more than a “restraint of trade” ploy by APM to try to limit the problem Dilbert portrayed, which is doomed to failure……. Now that the UK and Australia are getting to be almost as litigious as the USA is, wait until the first “professional negligence” suit is filed for a project running late and/or over budget…… THEN we will see how many people want to be “professionals” and put their assets and life savings on the line for clients who have no clue what they want, other than they want it done yesterday and they want it done CHEAP…….. 😀 😀 😀

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

    • Keep on dreaming, Patrick…. 😉 Project management is nothing more than a PROCESS or series of processes and those processes are already embedded in all existing professions, the trades and even into our day to day personal and professional lives.

      This is nothing more than a ploy by certain “professional societies” to limit or otherwise restrict those who can practice and while it MAY work in some fields (IT? Telecommunications? Government?) most people are starting to see through the “professional credentialing” scam and are starting to push back against it.

      Just wait until the first “project manager” is sued for malpractice and we will quickly see a rethinking of this strategy.

      In closing, I leave you with the words of Elliott Friedman- “The only difference between the trade unions and the professional societies lies in the latter’s sanctimoniousness.”

      BR,
      Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  3. There is a difference between a small ‘p’ professional approach to program (or project) management and a capital ‘P’ Profession. But most things a Professional does involves the skilled implementation of a process.

    • I don’t know, Pat….. I’ve heard the APM folks use that same argument but I don’t think the “consuming public” is aware of that nuance.

      The very fact that PMI fought it tooth and nail says it all……. That PMI perceived “Chartered” status to be a threat to their global hegemony….

      Mark my words……. Sooner or later someone is going to sue a “Chartered” project manager for malpractice and then let’s see what comes of it…..

      Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukkah/Happy Holidays to you and yours….

      BR,
      Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  4. On 6th Jan 2017, the Association for Project Management (APM) received its Royal Charter following notification from the Privy Council Office in October that Her Majesty The Queen had approved its application. The Charter represents a significant milestone in the development of the profession and completes the final phase before the association transitions to a full Chartered body in April 2017.

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