The worst profession in the world?

FotoliaProject Managers often bemoan that “Project Management” is not accorded the status it deserves as a profession.

“Organizations just don’t recognize that project management should be a core competency they need to focus on!” it is asserted.

But does any other ‘profession’ have such a high failure rate?

Do engineers design buildings, 70% of which fail on one or more dimensions?

Do we catch planes with only a one-on-three chance of getting to our destination?

For all the training, standards, methods and software tools, project management success rates have not improved since 1991 when AD Little first measured them in the oft cited study.

Instead of bemoaning the business' short sightedness in not applauding project management, we need focus on improving its performance — dramatically improving it in fact.

We need to recognise the maturity spectrum with project management and project managers, viz:

  1. People with no project management knowledge or training (level 1)
  2. People formally trained in PMI/Prince2 or alike (level 2)
  3. People formally trained but have realized these approaches are not the answer (level 3)
  4. People who have been formally trained in project delivery processes that work — ie value delivery management (level 4)
  5. People who have been formally trained in project delivery processes that work and have integrated them into how they work on a daily basis (level 5).

Only when we get to level 4 or above can we see project management as contributing as a full partner to the business in delivering strategy And at that point, project management can be “the best profession in the world” in terms of the results delivered.


I'd like to hear your thoughts.

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© Jed Simms, Australia, 2008

Topics: Project Controls

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Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Dec 2008) as "The Worst Profession In The World?"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections