Many years ago I got into a discussion with a colleague regarding how we can define the field of project management.  This was within the context of services that the SIGs (PMI’s virtual communities) offered to their members.  We were trying to understand how these services added value and how they can be improved.  I was operating with the assumption that the majority of these members considered themselves to be part of the project management profession.  I was surprised to learn that there is a sizable minority within the field of project management that does not consider itself to be in the profession.

These individuals may be consider themselves part of another profession, such as engineering or law, however, they utilize project management skills/tools/standards in carrying out their day to day activities.  This presented an interesting challenge as the next point in the dialogue was whether the needs of these professionals are different from those individuals who consider project management as their primary profession.

Historically, project management standards such as the PMBOK Guide have been applied by both sets of groups.  In fact one of the reasons that the PMP certification was not launched as a “project manager” certification was to be a bit more inclusive and allow greater flexibility in who could certify based on role.

I wonder if most of us who go through the PMBOK Guide we read it with our “project management professional” hat, as opposed to an individual who does not consider project management as their profession? Perhaps there is an opportunity to expand the body of knowledge by segregating the standard and maybe even consider developing a role based standard that takes into account the role an individual might play on the project/program/portfolio.

There are two reasons that have prompted this thinking.  First, the fact that even today we have a significant gap in the marketplace between what is expected of the project executive sponsor for instance and the role this person plays on projects. This remains as one of the weakest areas in organizations.  Second is the fact that so many “non-project managers” look to standards to help them better facilitate and lead initiatives.

I don’t have a specific opinion on this point but am curious about it and thought if others might have ideas on this topic.  Feel free to share your thoughts.