Is there any “science” in project management?

“Project management as profession” remains a fraught subject (initial post here, survey here, survey results here).  I doubt it ever will, at least not fully like law, medicine, or academia.   Furthermore, I believe that because project management is essentially a social science — i.e., a discipline about human action — we will have persistent trouble in trying to settle debates with evidence and experimentation.

To that end, Jim Manzi provides a useful summary of the epistemic challenge faced by social sciences — what they do, don’t, and could (eventually) know.   He sets up the problem in this excerpt below:

[W]e have no reliable way to measure counterfactuals—that is, to know what would have happened had we not executed some policy—because so many other factors influence the outcome. This seemingly narrow problem is central to our continuing inability to transform social sciences into actual sciences. Unlike physics or biology, the social sciences have not demonstrated the capacity to produce a substantial body of useful, nonobvious, and reliable predictive rules about what they study—that is, human social behavior….

As they say, read the whole thing.

Is forensic science isn’t a science, can PM be a profession?

I enjoyed this Popular Mechanics piece on the problematic foundations that underpin forensic science — CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics.   Per the piece’s header:

Forensic science was not developed by scientists. It was mostly created by cops, who were guided by little more than common sense.

In fact, I was reminded of the debate that we’ve had about project management as a profession (here, survey here, survey results here).  The article reinforced just how far we have to go to true professionalization.

While we have many common sense PM practices, how many of them are demonstrably linked to project success?  Which are the most important and why?  The Value of PM is still pretty fuzzy

Closing up the PM “professional” survey

I’m trying to tie up some loose ends, especially follow-ups promised in earlier blog posts (here).  In particular, here are the top two answers from the “Is Project Management a Profession Yet?” survey (survey here):

  • 38 percent: Yes, but second-tier — like engineering or non-university teaching (33 of 86 answers)
  • 26 percent: No, not yet — could reach at least second-tier profession (22 of 86 answers)

I’m with the “No, not yet” crowd.  I can see project management achieving some of professional attributes, but I see few in place now.   For example, certifications are all well and good — and the PMP is becoming more universal — but they are a long way from licensure.  Take a look at the some of the requirements, benefits, and documentation for the Professional Engineer license (here).

PM Profession Survey Answers — Fully Yes & No/Never

I’m starting the long-promised review of the answers to my survey: Is Project Management a Profession Yet?  I’ll ignore the “undecided” answers (8 percent) and start with the two extremes.

First the “nays”: five percent answered No — and it never will.  I’m not sure how one can be so confident that PM will never have any sort of professional status.  Project management already exhibits early markers of an emerging profession — certifications required for some jobs, graduate programs at respectable universities, professional associations — so “no and never” is a hard position to sustain.

That said, the “yeas” have a far tougher chore, IMO.  Yet 16 percent answered Yes, fully — like law, medicine, or academia.  Wow… now those are some rose-colored glasses.  If you think PM is a full-fledged profession, I suggest that you ask yourself these questions:

  • Does PM have a legal or regulatory framework underpinning it? 
  • Has anyone been arrested for practicing PM without a license?
  • Do you have to go to a accredited “PM School” to even be allowed to take a PM “Bar” Exam? 
  • Is there a “theory of projects” akin to the theoretical constructs that underpin even “soft” disciplines like history and economics?

More on the other answers in the next days.

Poll Results: Is Project Management a Profession Yet?

Here are the first results (31 responses) from my latest poll “Is Project Management a Profession Yet?”  (BTW, if you haven’t given your two cents, centavos, etc., the poll link is here.)

For now, I’ll note that my answer is “No, not yet”.  I do believe that PM will eventually be recognized as a profession of sorts.  However, per a comment by Craig Brown, I’m not sure that “professional” status will be central to the identify of the field.

More about the results and my take over the next few days.

Poll Reminder — Is Project Management a Profession Yet?

Don’t forget Crossderry’s latest poll question: Is Project Management a Profession Yet?  Please enter your answers and comments on Crossderry’s right sidebar (or you can use the direct URL here). 

I’ll blog on the results once we get a reasonable number of responses (we’re at 22 now).

New Poll — Is Project Management a Profession Yet?

The recent spate of comments have inspired my next poll question: Is Project Management a Profession Yet?  Please enter your answers and comments on Crossderry’s right sidebar (or you can use the direct URL here). 

I’ll summarize the results after we get a reasonable number of responses (FYI, my last poll had 59 total).

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