Is Management A Profession?

Basic Business Cents

Debate rages in academic circles on whether management is a profession similar to medicine, education,and law. Managers like to think of themselves as professional but there are many different characteristics. Management as a profession does not have a certification examination or barriers to entry like law and medical. It has no code of conduct; it has no yes-or-no criteria.

Business management is not expertise in a narrow field but ability to integrate excellence in a number of fields such as finance, marketing, engineering, production, quality, inventory control, and personnel. This raises the interesting question, “How does one prepare to become a professional business manager?”

Three areas should be integrated into a manager’s preparation, formal education, learning from others, and experience.

Although education is provided in individual fields as listed above, the most popular formal program is the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Most MBA students have prior work experience. Each is building on a different base, learn different things, and go on to different careers. The universities recognize and build upon their experience and knowledge and use collaborative learning so the students can learn from each other. Harvard is noted for their case studies of real world situations and has been the leader in this group analyses and development of approach for solutions.

The London School of Business sent teams of students to analyze my company for several years.  We welcomed their scrutiny because we learned much from them. They expressed their views strongly and caused some discomfort to some of our people with their critique, but it was a very beneficial process and only made us better. Hopefully, they also gained some knowledge.

Another preparation step is to learn from others. This learning can be done informally by helping friends and acquaintances analyze their business problems and offering solutions or in a formal setting like SCORE®. This is a national organization that provides mentorship to small businesses at no charge. Consultants always learn from their clients so volunteering to help has dividends.

Collaborative sharing of experiences can also be informal or in a formal setting like the CEO Roundtable. This organization charges a modest fee and has a paid moderator for groups of about twelve heads of non-competitive organizations. They have monthly meetings and discuss a problem at one of the organizations, which the moderator selects from interim one-on-one meetings with each CEO. They focus on one problem each month but all gain because problems are often common from organization to organization.

Experience is the third step in preparation is experience. Always take time to analyze what you learned dealing with a problem. Develop your own theory on the best solution and compare it to what actually worked. Do not report a problem without a proposed solution so that you appear to be part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Volunteer for assignments so that you can learn. Identify the next desired position and prepare for it.

The profession of business management is indeed different than that of law, education, and medicine. Certification of qualification for business management would be problematic and arbitrary. It would be counter-productive and dysfunctional because it would inhibit cooperative learning. Management preparation must be a collaborative effort in each of three steps: formal education, learning from others, and experience.