First published as an editorial in the Project Management World Today E-zine of the PMForum web site. Published here January 2000.


Musings Index

Project Management for the New Millennium

Management excellence is vital for the success of a nation, but project management excellence is vital for the future advancement and prosperity of a nation. The converse, if it needs to be stated, is that a series of seriously flawed projects can bring a sector to its knees, whether public or private, and with it the whole economy. Thus, it is essential to enhance program and project organizational effectiveness, efficiency and success.

It is interesting to note that management as a profession is only just gaining the recognition that it deserves. For decades, management has been regarded as an additional skill accumulated progressively through one’s career, typically within a functional specialization. In some countries, nationally recognized standards of competence for management have been set up and this has helped enormously to change that perception and establish it as a specialization in its own right. Indeed, the demand for qualifications against such standards underscores the growing popularity of management as a chosen career.

Can the same be said of project management? In North America, a profession is typically thought of as a body underpinned by statutory regulation, to which so-called ‘professionals’ must belong in order to practice their respective arts. Unfortunately, the term ‘professional’, like ‘engineer’ is a word widely used with other implications.  We will not dwell here on the ‘oldest profession’, but the word is often used to refer to the behavior of anyone working in a service industry. It simply means that those people behave in the way the public expects them to behave and has little bearing on their skills or competence.

In the case of project management, there is no widely held standard of competency or skill, let alone standards with which practitioners really do comply. Consequently, project management can hardly be considered as a profession. While we, in the practice would like to aspire to becoming a profession sometime in the future, let us not kid ourselves. There is an enormous amount of work to be done before that goal is achieved. Meantime, let’s face it - project management still ranks only as a discipline.

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