Even though I was nervous about how my views might be represented (I am occasionally critical of organisations and the manner in which they are led), being interviewed by BRW columnist Leo D’Angelo-Fisher a couple of weeks ago was a great experience. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. As I’ve been telling my friends; if you haven’s seen the article it’s online and in this week’s (10-16 October 2013).
The interview prompted me to think hard about the role of industry bodies in promoting professional standards in project management, and I must concede that I am coming around to the idea that they have something to offer. But not so much in the area of professional standards, but in getting people together and promoting cross industry learning. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I think industry bodies have absolutely no place dictating what qualifications project managers have for their employment. Project management accreditation provides little assurance of quality, and is nothing more than a tactic for legitimising a profession identity and selling training programs. This is something for a future post, but suffice to say that professional standards are part of almost every job which should be decided by outside of the politics of groups of self-appointed experts staking their claim as a peak body.
In the course of my recent market reviews I’ve come across the outrageous situation where a Government job spec (no doubt written by an association member) included the completion of a propriety training course as one of the selection criterion. This a sneaky break for the business who have the “licence” run those programs and the association that validates credentials; but where does it leave the well qualified professional who doesn’t need the training and doesn’t want to fork out the dough to some business to attend their naff program? It’s a racket that protects the jobs of association members and lines the coffers of training businesses by strong-arming people into attending training that they may not need.
The aforementioned BRW article also features the CEO the AIPM, Margie O’Tarpey. To her credit Margie puts some balance into things by speaking against mandating professional qualifications for project management. Its a confusing message from AIPM though, as the organisation heavily promotes accreditation and as BRW reports, the AIPM “encourages employers to insist on accredited project managers when hiring”.
Exploring the websites of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) confirms my suspicion that the right to use status elevating post-nominals is a core offering of both institutes. The PMI landing page talks of “global credentials” and touts the opportunity for “earning certification and expand[ing] your opportunities”. The AIPM member benefits page has the “use of post-nominals” at top of the their list of benefits.
Putting aside the hype of accreditation for a moment, these groups are filling a vital gap in mentoring and peer support that many employer organisations have long abandoned. I think this is the most important role of professional bodies today. Fewer business are prepared to invest in the development of their staff, and the its the people in the early and middle stages of their career that are really missing out. The PMI and AIPM event calendars are full of development opportunities and their continuing education programs encourages participation. As industry becomes more fragmented and tenures get shorter, groups such as PMI and AIPM clearly have a role to play in supporting member’s development and in doing so they supporting vital knowledge transfer across industries.
So yes, I’ve come around a little bit towards appreciating the efforts of the industry bodies, who knows I might even join one one day. In the meantime I am happy to concede that some professional associations (not all) do add value to both their members and industry, but people should never feel compelled to join them in the fear of being overlooked for a job.
Have your say: Do you value your industry association and what do you gain from membership?