Professionalism in Projects

EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently, we sought the opinions of leading project management social media personalities for their views on what constitutes a professional project manager. Responses were to be culled into an article for the May edition of Project Management Tipoffs, the newsletter from Arras People (due out Thursday). Many replies came back, one from today’s guest blogger Dr. Ed Wallington. If you want to learn more about project management and professionalism, subscribe today to Project Management Tipoffs, and your free edition will be in your Inbox tomorrow!

The Oxford English dictionary states that ‘professional’ is defined as:

  1. relating to or belonging to a profession;
  2. engaged in an activity as a paid occupation rather than as an amateur;
  3. worthy of or appropriate to a professional person; competent.

Belonging to a profession, ok, so we are managers, in the project management profession (be it projects, programmes, portfolios), that is straightforward, and we like to be paid for our efforts, so at least we aren’t amateurs!  Going well so far.. but I am not sure this alone resolves what being a professional is all about.  For me there is one core element – to be competent.

But what does being competent mean?  I believe there are a number of individual fundamentals (in no particular order):

  • Knowledge – having a good grasp of the basic project management tools, techniques and how these are applied.  May have a qualification, e.g. APM, PRINCE2 etc
  • Experience – demonstrate what you know and how you have used it.  Learning from experience, a mistake is not always bad, it is a learning tool.
  • Leadership – having the ability to clearly define a requirement, energise the team and to lead them to project conclusion.  Demonstrate ability to engage with stakeholders at all levels, selling the project benefits, and bringing folk onboard to aid project success.
  • Integrity – demonstrate consistency in project approach and delivery, following standards and ethics.
  • Team work – working as a team, knowing your team, knowing when to engage (interfere?) and when to leave alone.
  • Delivery focused – ability to control a project within the bounds of budget, time and quality, controlling project scope and delivering the project.  Do what you say you will by when you say you will do it.
  • Continuing education – intellectual capacity for ongoing continual professional development, and recognising the need for continual improvement and change.  Through qualifications, progressions, reading, meetings, seminars, conferences, webinars etc.
  • Responsibility – recognising that the buck stops with you, taking control of the situation.

Dr Ed Wallington runs EDW Business Solutions, having worked previously as a Programme and Business Development Manager. Ed has also undertaken research projects with the aim of understanding issues and requirements, investigating options and delivering solutions to support and enhance management and business decisions at strategic and operational levels. He has written a number of publications for academic and professional bodies, see his publications page for further details.


Image © kevindooley and used with permission.

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