Published here April 2008.


Musings Index

A Little Bit of PMI History

It happens to all project managers, sooner or later. The stuff from past projects that you collect in boxes stored in the basement, garage, closet shelves or wherever, eventually gets out of hand. We collect this, of course, because we need to be able to refer back to who said what to whom in case of an argument over what the project delivered, or how it was delivered. And so we have to do some "de-cluttering". (Translation: Getting rid of clutter.) As with anything, this can be made incredibly simple: just go through your stuff, one file in one box at a time, and get rid of everything that isn't absolutely likely to be useful in your present field of work. (Even so, I guarantee, that one of the pieces you throw away, you will need in the next few weeks.)

But in fact it is not as simple as it sounds. Your eye will inevitably fall on some masterly letter, report or text that you wrote and you marvel at just how insightful you were at the time - and you agonize over whether to keep it or throw it away. (Special recommendation, adopt the motto: If in doubt, throw it out!) In my case, in this soul-searching process I came across the following. Exactly two decades ago, as Chairman of the PMI Board of the day, I wrote the following piece:

April 30, 1988

From The Chairman of the Board

"... building professionalism
in project management ...

I should like to take this opportunity to elaborate on what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of the recent deliberations of the PMI Board, in San Francisco last March. As was briefly reported in the April issue of the PM Net, the Board devoted a four-hour session entirely to developing guidance for the Long Range Planning Committee so that they can finalize a current Long Range Plan.

As a part of this process, a major commitment was made to the central concept of PMI through the adoption of a formal Policy on Professionalism. It reads as follows.


It is a belief strongly held by the Institute and its members that the project management profession is a new and evolving area of management knowledge and expertise that is of vital and increasing importance to the economic growth and prosperity of business, government and academic communities throughout the world. For the decade of the 1990's, it is a fundamental goal of the Institute to promote and develop a true sense of professionalism in the practice of project management in all its areas of application. To that end, the Institute is now committed to a number of strategic objectives specifically aimed at the establishment of a project management profession that is both widely known and highly regarded in North America and around the world by the year 2000!


Professional Standards:
To establish and maintain a precise set of standards and requirements that defines entry-level qualifications for a competent project management professional.

The Profession:
To establish and maintain broad based public awareness of the meaning and scope of the 'Project Management Profession' and the opportunity for the application of project management expertise to virtually all types of business, government and academic endeavors.

The Professional:
To establish and maintain a broad based public awareness of the meaning of the 'Project Management Professional' credential, in terms of the standards, training, knowledge, expertise and skills to be expected from members holding that designation.

Professional Organization:
To establish and maintain a professional organization within the overall framework of PMI to achieve recognition and support of the project management profession and the PMP credential.

To coordinate and administer the certification process required for Institute members to prepare for, obtain and maintain the PMP designation.

Education and Research:
To provide the leadership and support necessary to allow universities and other institutions to respond to educational and career development needs in project management at all levels, and to promote academic and industrial research in all aspects of the project management profession.


In addition to adopting this policy position, the Board further resolved that it should be implemented directly as a fundamental management guideline for all Institute initiatives and activities, that it should be published in the PMJ on a regular and repeating basis, and that any PHI projects that are specifically and directly in support of this 'Professionalism Policy' be given the Board's highest priority.

Thus, PMI has taken a very strong position, which we hope will govern our priorities and direction over the coming years. This future course for PMI is perhaps best exemplified by the PMI slogan which is quoted at the head of this article, and which was also adopted at this Board meeting.

The future of PMI looks exciting and challenging indeed!"

Readers may judge for themselves how far this twenty-year-old vision of the future has come true. In particular, note that at that time under "Professional Organization" we envisaged that professionally qualified members would form a separate but semiautonomous body within PMI. This is particularly interesting in the light of current trends for project management to merge into general management in the area of project portfolio management.

1. Visit to see the original article (site accessed 10/22/07).
2. Ibid.
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