20 August 2009

Is Project Management a profession?

Is Project Management a Profession?

Below is a list of articles and opinion pieces on the topic of whether project management is a profession.

Is Project Management a standalone profession? (or will it ever be?)  What do you think?


Joseph R. Czarnecki; “They [PMI] they have helped to establish project management as a profession

Dennis Stevens; “By any definition, Project Management is a profession.

Josh Nankivel "We should be trying to improve the success of project management"

Will be

Hal Macomber; “Nothing is more important to the success of projects than the on-going upgrading of skills of the project managers.


Paul Ricthie; “perhaps we should never say never

Won’t be

Bas de Baar; “It shall be promoted as a core competency needed by all the personnel working in the organization so that they can successfully work in groups and help organization in achieving its goals.

Demian Entrekin; “Like most movements, the goal is always more disciples.

Dr Paul Giamamalvo “It is considered by the majority of its practitioners to be a process, methodology or system

Ed Naughton; “People who successfully complete MBA programmes do not consider themselves as part of the MBA profession.

Max Wideman; “[PM] is a very important discipline, one of several falling within the overall domain of general management.

Questions for you; Is management a profession? To what degree does this question matter to the way you conduct your work? Do you have a set of professional standards? Do you know the boundaries of your capabilities?

And a question for the business analyst community; Do the same arguments and conditions apply?

I'll wrap this up with a  quote from Glen Alleman; "I’ve come to the conclusion that the topic is a dead end with no benefical outcome to the business we work in other that to spur more debate."

Photo by Keith Allison via cc at flickr.


  1. Thank You Craig.

    And since you have Tiger as your lead, I rest my case. I would wager a $100 "Professional Golfer" is the title he uses on his 1040.

    Now let's let the topic rest in peace and everyone get back to the work of managing projects for the benefit of our clients.

    Big Smiley Face follows...

  2. It's not over till it's over Glen.

    Morris et al (2006)
    "Rethinking Project Management" International Journal of Project Management, Volume 24, Issue 8, November 2006, Pages 710-721

    Jones and Young (2009) "And Turf Wars: Is Project Management a Profession?" University of Melbourne.

    This last article comes up with recommendations for the PM community of it wants to become a profession, but wait. I feel another post coming on.

  3. Profession or not, the real key is that more business people understand the nature and the skill and the role of project management in order to support all PMs working out there on critical business projects.

    The whole world is challenged that is for sure!

    On one hand we face the Global Recession, with all the impact that this is having on people and business, and on the other hand we are a dynamic, resourceful and ever evolving world that demands change as part of its survival. And change demands projects and projects demand project managers.

    On the other hand we have a history littered with significant project failure, although there have been spectacular successes as well The Standish Report 2009 clearly shows that history may well be repeated in many cases.

    Now is the time that is even more critical to succeed, and succeed with a higher level of certainty than seen before since those projects that will be commissioned in the future, as well as the ones that are allowed to continue in the current climate, will be expected to deliver higher business impact, be under closer scrutiny from senior management and be under far more pressure.

    And guess what, who will be the one that is under the most pressure - the project managers!

    So surely now is the time that these project managers are supported in their citical work in the most effective way possible.

    And that comes through appreciation and understanding of the project management 'profession'.


  4. Peter

    I agree that the biggest area for improvement on projects these days is understanding of the processes and systems by stakeholders and customers.

    How do we do that? That's the new challenge.

  5. Fascinating discussion should unfold from this post. Whether or not our field becomes a recognised profession, the movement afoot to proclaim project management as a profession in the UK seems easier to ignore for the longer APM's application is delayed.

    We've followed this issue at Arras People, and have even conducted a survey on it with PMs.

    If you wish to read more about project management becoming a profession, check us out at How to Manage a Camel or at the Arras People web site.

    Read more here

  6. Craig,

    I'd say that the "processes" issue of one of education and competency. Depending on where we go, there are broad ranges of understanding and competency. Even in the Defense business.

    Most firms put their best Program Managers on the riskiest programs. This leaves others to work the lowest risk. And of course exposes the firm to trouble when those programs become higher risk.

    Our approach is to work inside out and have referencing successes using our method - Deliverables Based Planning (sm) - one program at a time.

    Our traction comes from internal references from within a firm - cross business units. And externally through speaking and bidding processes where past performance references are required.

    The great thing about US DoD procurement is "past performance" is critical to winning business. No academic blather about how things should or should not - "what have you actually done to increase the probability of success for a specially named program? Please attach phone numbers of people we can call."

  7. Not all the projects will visit every stage as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects do not follow a structured planning and/or monitoring stages. Some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times.

  8. Anonymous11:31 am

    Barrie Todhunter ran a session on this at the IPMA World Congress this year and it stirred up a heated debate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFVL2FQSrYU

  9. Anonymous12:20 pm


    These is one of these issues that the academics just love to bring out. They even write PhD thesis about this issue.

    In the end it is a moot point, either you are capable of successfully managing a project or not. The test is to produce successful outcomes.

    But like all academic arguments they go on without end. I couldn't hear the presenter. Biyt in the end can someone, anyone show a statistical credible connection between being a "profession" or not being a "profession" have anything to do with "increasing the probability of program success (PoPS)," for the project.

    By statistically credible i mean a cause and effect connection with what ever or whoever is making whatever claim they are making and increasing the PoPS