Often called the “accidental profession,” is project management (PM) a tool or a profession? It seems that anyone running a project can be referred to as the project manager, regardless of their abilities, training or expertise. Are all they governed by ethics or professional standards? With such a variance in the ability of people who are referred to as project managers, a cynic may find it hard to believe that all of them are capable of regularly delivering the majority of projects they undertake, to time, specification and budget. If such an anecdotal perception of project management performance is correct, how does this stack up against the so called “professions.”
Similarly, there are many courses on management and many prestigious institutions around the globe provide an excellent education in management including practical examples of the application of management theory. But good or bad, training or no training, it seems anyone can be a manager. So if one is a manager, does that make a person a professional? or if that person is a member of a recognised profession, does that person then have a management function or skill set?
Unless there is a requirement for some form of legally sanctioned professional schooling, training and subsequent accreditation administered by recognised controlling bodies – similar to other recognised professions, that would ensure some kind of minimum standard or setting of grading of project managers – it is difficult to see how PM can rise above a skill set to be considered a “profession” in its own right, comparable with those other professions. I do not doubt the abilities of people who are professional at what they do, but just like management that does not equate that what they do makes project management a profession.
For sure across a number of different industries and occupations there are some people who specialise in PM and some of whom are exceptionally talented and well versed in the language and skill set of PM, with an enviable history of successful delivery of a wide variety of projects of differing levels of difficulty. But having said that, I firmly subscribe to the view that PM has some way to go before it can be considered as a recognised profession in the true sense of the word. PM for the time being is a very practical and useful business tool or skill set which some people have or are in the process of mastering and others have not and perhaps never will master.