A Rhetorical Question

Several times over the last few years, I’ve seen the same question asked in forums ranging from LinkedIn to various blogs, and most recently, on Reddit: “Is Project Management a skill-set or a profession?” Here’s my answer:

Project manager is a role.

Project management is a body of knowledge, skills, and common practices. It is also the application of that intellectual capital.

Those working in a project manager role who pursue the study of project management and work at achieving competence in practicing it, and expect to make a career of managing projects, while following ethical practices and mentoring others, can reasonably call themselves professionals.

But, project management is not a profession, in the classic sense. Project managers are not subject to malpractice suits, in that capacity. Hence, they are not regulated in the same way as practitioners of a learned profession, such as a doctor or lawyer. The New York State Education Department operates the Office of the Professions, charged with licensing practitioners in a lengthy list. From medical, dental, pharmacy, and related fields, to engineers, architects, and even interior decorators, New York maintains standards for licensing a number of professions. Project managers didn’t make the list. I haven’t checked the other 49 states, but I suspect the story would be similar.

So, how can those who do not practice a profession reasonable call themselves professionals? Because the dictionary says they can: a professional is one “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.”

Reasonable people can disagree, as can unreasonable people and even disagreeable people. If you are any of these, please add your thoughts in a reply, below.

Interesting New Site: Projects Gateway

Chris O'Halloran

Chris O’Halloran

Australian project management blogger Chris O’Halloran is starting up a new portal that will announce upcoming projects, so that project managers and team members can compete for them. It will be called Projects Gateway, and he expects to bring it live on February 1st. I don’t know whether the intent is for this to be a global marketplace or strictly for the folks in Oz, but I’m interested in seeing how this develops.

To receive an EMail alerting you when it launches, click here.

New PM Articles for the Week of January 6 – 12

News boy in bootsNew project management articles published on the web during the week of January 6 – 12. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! Recommended:

Ripped from the Headlines!

  • Patrick Gray wonders about the impact revelations of spying by the NSA will have on the IT industry in the United States.
  • Wally Bahny lists the top ten tech blunders of 2013.

PM Best Practices

  • Niel Nickolaisen gives the CIO perspective on integrating Cloud and data center legacy apps.
  • Nick Hardiman has put together a nice little dictionary of “Cloud” terminology.
  • Andrew Makar shows a governance pyramid diagram that can demonstrate how your stakeholder analysis led to your communication plan.
  • Tony Adams tells of a software deployment where the participants and stakeholders were treated like the audience to a performance.
  • Allen Ruddock quotes Bananarama, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way you do it.”
  • Elizabeth Harrin shares an infographic on how to balance development of your hard and soft skills.
  • Chuck Morton extols the benefits of constructive conflict.
  • Chris Tomich tells how he uses the issue-based information system (IBIS) diagramming technique to organize requirements (and so much more).
  • Dick Billows demonstrates how to develop a work breakdown structure, starting from high-level deliverables.
  • John Carroll: “The wise project manager understands the purpose of methodologies, tools and techniques and knows if and when to use them, but he allows them to fade into the background.”

Decision Making

  • Kailash Awati looks into how objectivity and ethics really work in organizational decision-making.
  • Luis Seabra Coelho explores choice architecture. Not a group of buildings, but the way you present alternatives to influence the decision. You know – marketing.
  • Ron Rosenhead presents an interesting scope change process, where the person who wants the change is required to arrange a “challenge” meeting.
  • Kenneth Darter talks us through building a business case for our project.
  • Glen Alleman explains what you have to be able to do in order to have a seat at the table when the important decisions are made.
  • Martin Webster shares his daily practices for time management (and actually getting things done).
  • Shim Marom reminds us that chaos is in the eye of the beholder, not (necessarily) the participant.

Agile Methods

  • Michiko Diby describes an experiment in clarifying user requirements, by re-stating them as features.
  • Jesse Fewell says we need to stop collecting requirements the way we’ve always failed at collecting them.
  • Dave Prior interviews David Anderson on how to apply Kanban as an evolutionary approach. Just 37 minutes, safe for work.
  • John Goodpasture looks at scaling Agile down – all the way down to one or two.


  • Lindsay Scott notes that, after experience and sector knowledge, hiring managers selected project managers based on personality and personal approach. Not in your resume? Well …
  • Michael Morrell explains how Big Data is impacting recruiting.