Over at projectmanager.au.com they have a provocative post about whether project management is a profession, should be one or if it matters at all.
I’m going to jump into the fray, but first let’s have the Aussies set the stage:
Last week I attended The 2011 Walkley Media Conference. Delegates comprised news reporters and journalists from the realms of print, radio, TV and online. I am a journalist. I completed a media degree and I am a member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance—but neither of these attributes makes me a journalist.
What does is that what I write is understood to be factual, and I follow the media Code of Ethics (yes, journalists have ethics! And some of them actually practice ethical behavior too!).
But that’s a simplistic way of describing what makes a journalist, just like ‘someone who manages time, cost and quality’ is a simplistic way of describing a project manager. And like journalism, project management is not recognized as a profession, neither requiring qualifications, deference to a core body of knowledge, mandatory registration or licensing, a code of ethics and legal status for people to practice. You can see that project management is almost there, but not quite.
Well, I think it is not quite there and may never be. We need to consider several things here (inspiration from Mintzberg’s book Managing):
• What is the definition of a profession?
• Does project management fit the definition?
• Do you need a profession to be ‘professional’?
• Does any of this really matter to the quality of service provided from project managers?
What is the definition of a profession?
A profession assumes a codified body of knowledge that can be taught with predictable retention and skill development on the part of the trainee. This means that trained people generally always outperform the untrained ones.
This is the case for accountants, engineers and medical doctors.
Does the definition fit project management?
It does not. Sorry, but there it is. There is no theory of project management and no codified body of knowledge that yields predictable outcomes when applied on the order of math and science. Management is not a science nor a profession so project management can’t be any different.
Practitioners of project management learn from experience. This makes project management a practice. The lack of a codified body of knowledge means that simply taking some project management courses or even getting a PMP certification is no guarantee that this person will outperform someone without these credentials.
There is nothing wrong with project management being a practice vs. a profession. The work needs to be done and there are plenty of good people to do it.
The physics are against us so to speak if we try to elevate project management to a profession. It won’t happen nor should we try, it’s a waste of time.
Do you need a profession to be professional?
Well, no, not in the common use of the term professional. The common use means someone doing something for pay. Sometimes the implication is that performance is at an elevated level of performance, but not always.
It is perfectly valid to say one is a professional without having to be part of a bona fide profession in our definition of that term (see above).
Does any of this matter?
Some of it does. However, we do not need to be part of a profession to do good and useful project management. We need to make sure we learn smart things, though.
While opinions differ, I feel the arguments go along the lines of “project management is important, so important that we should make it a profession” (e.g., The Profession of Project Management).
Who’s to argue? The goal is admirable. The problem is that until we argue with the same definitions, we will get nowhere. I have provided, or more accurately passed on, a definition that covers other recognized professions. We need to apply the same standards and definitions to project management and then we’ll see where we’ll end up.
In the mean time, project management can be properly considered a practice. And the practice of project management still has a way to go before it can say that it knows what and how to teach people so it makes a difference. We over focus on the 20% of time spent planning and budgeting and pretty much ignore what do do about the 80% of time spent delivering the plan (which incidentally falls apart on day one and is a struggle from that point on).
It is true you need a plan, it is a necessary condition, but just having a plan and a list of risks it not a sufficient condition for success. It’s no guarantee at all.
The reason is we do not typically understand nearly enough about variability, risk and uncertainty. Consequently, we plan poorly and inadequately for anything but small, very simple and straight forward projects. We often go with the wrong approaches and fail to adjust for the actual risks and uncertainties we are faced with because we have inadequate models for analyzing risks and uncertainties and how to respond to the conditions we discover.
This is, in my opinion, the single biggest reason why projects fail: viz. failure to select a delivery approach that is consistent with the risk and uncertainty profile of the project.
Before we get too depressed, all is not lost, we are making strides in the right direction.
As the old masters were wont of saying:
All learning requires time.
Time requires patience.
Patience teaches us to progress wisely.
Original Author : Preben Ormen
Courtesy : http://www.pmhut.com/