What Price Professionalism?
There is much discussion of 'professionalism'
amongst project management people. Now, however, it appears that there is a sea-change
under way in North America and we are not at all sure we like it. Apparently,
a well-known project management association has seen fit to sue some of its own
most productive members. And the amounts are not trivial - we understand in the
millions of dollars.
We are not familiar with the details, nor is it our place to comment on the
specifics of the cases. What is legitimate, is a public discussion on the type
of environment that this creates, and its impact on our world of project management.
All of the associations with which we are familiar, whether registered, professional
or otherwise, are heavily dependent upon the efforts of volunteers. In these
days of extreme global competitiveness, long working hours and personal stress,
soliciting volunteer efforts is difficult enough. Those that do volunteer their
time, do so out of a burning desire to contribute their talents. Understandably,
there will be conflicting opinions, personality conflicts and a few damaged egos.
It goes with the territory.
In the new order, it seems that these conflicts are to be actively discouraged.
Thought processes, and even the content of project management itself are to be
mandated from the top. Everyone will sing the same happy song.
It is bad enough having to stay in line with one’s employer’s dictates - often
at odds with one’s better judgment, principles or code of ethics. One of the
great benefits of joining an association is that it provides an opportunity to
test ideas and skill sets without fear of jeopardizing one’s employment. But
the latent message of the new order is that volunteers not only sacrifice there
valuable discretionary time but may inadvertently put their personal assets at
considerable risk. What a chilling prospect for volunteers, their inspiration,
and progress towards professionalism!
Fortunately, many other associations think differently. They believe in the
subsidiarity principle of giving as much power of decision making as possible
to local groups, while providing a common and benign framework for global communication,
cooperation and contribution. Project management is supposed to be a discipline
in which non-adversarial facilitation approaches to problem resolution are the
norm, not the exception. Law suits in this context are not only expensive and
counter-productive but look foolish in international eyes. We sincerely hope
that the sea-change we are witnessing is reversed - before it becomes all-pervasive.
Footnote (July 2001): The law suits referred
to above have since been resolved, but not without considerable damage to the
collegial environment which prevailed previously.