BMAN10991 Question 4) To what extent can the occupation of management be considered a profession and why? The standing of management occupations, especially in the field of business, is frequently compared to traditional and accomplished professions like accounting, law and medicine. It can be said, that this is due to the competence required in order to work in these occupations and their equal importance and responsibility in society. Like accountants or lawyers who need a qualification, managers can achieve a degree before they go out into the real world by going to an institution to get trained, but for them it is not mandatory. In recent years, an MBA has become a common example. Moreover, business schools and institutes are often considered ‘professional’ schools by many.
However, there is a lot of criticism concerning the statement of management being a profession (Spender, J.C. 2005), mainly because obtaining a qualification is surprisingly not essential unlike for the professions that management is compared to. Other criticisms are to do with regulatory bodies.
Therefore, in order to assess the extent to which management is a profession, I will explain the meaning of a profession in some detail and compare it to already established professions and their traits. At the moment I am convinced that management is not a fully-fledged profession even when taking into account the occupations that it is compared to. Louis A. Allen, who was known for his early work on management, called a profession “a specialized kind of work practised through and by the use of classified knowledge, a common vocabulary, and requiring standards of practise and code of ethics established by a recognized body” (Khanka, 2006). Even though there are many varying definitions for profession, Allen’s clearly states the main criteria or characteristics to distinguish if an occupation is a profession or not.
When people require knowledge or skill that they do not have, they turn to a professional who is specialized in what he or she does for help. Richard Barker, in an article (The Big Idea: No, Management Is Not a Profession, Harvard Business Review, 2010), gives an example of when doctors recommend medicine for an illness, there is asymmetry of knowledge. As the expert, the doctor has superiority in terms of knowledge, and therefore the patient follows their directions. So, a professional in my opinion is someone that we need to put our trust into.
But is this the same for management? As Allen’s definition states, a profession needs a recognised public association in order for us to be sure that a certain quality of service will be given (Hubpages, 2013). A recognised public body like the General Medical Council maintains the register of doctors in the UK. The body also regulates and approves of formal institutions providing the specialized knowledge in order to keep a reliable position, explains Barker. The question is, is this the same for the occupation of management? Nowadays there are several non-chartered management associations such as the Society of Business practitioners and the Institute of Leadership and Management.
The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM) is a professional chartered association, however there are very few similar bodies around the world and they have little dominance and awareness (Gov.uk, 2017). Many of the public bodies involving management have the function of coordinating research work in various areas of management, but it is false to say that a uniform system of entry and managerial behaviour standards have been established. In my opinion, the authority has to be able to give a license of practise to various managers. With regards to holding a professional recognised body like for medicine, management does not have one and therefore does not possess this vital characteristic of a profession. However, the occupation of management is making steps towards becoming a profession in this regard.
Maybe in the future there will be more established public bodies where managers will have to be registered. A key criterion that the World Council of Management has recommended, is the presence of a systematic/classified body of knowledge which is also mentioned in Allen’s definition. A professional must obtain expertise in what he or she does in order to carry out their job. A certification of some sort would also show consumers that the certified person has a certain degree of competence, that they can benefit from. Likewise, managers should make an effort to learn the science of management. In terms of management there is some sort of formalised body of knowledge that has been developed over several years by theorists and practitioners much of which has been taught in various institutions and universities holding high reputation like Harvard business school.
Notably, there has been research done that go as far back as the mid 1300s where an estate management programme was taught at Oxford University (Spender, J.C. 2005). The science of management can be taught as a subject to some extent which would improve the performance and quality of a person’s skills greatly.
Although there is no rigorous body of knowledge like there is for medicine the AACSB have tried to change this. In a hope to professionalize management, the association to advance collegiate schools of business (AACSB), founded in 1916, have been giving quality assurance and business education assurance to almost 800 business institutions worldwide, which have also, been accredited (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, 2015). However, even if there was a rigorous body of knowledge for management which could also be approved by recognised bodies, there is still no minimum number of qualifications necessary to go into a managerial job. Additionally, no matter how reputable the degree is, for example an MBA, is not mandatory but many employers still favour it. This is because many believe that the role of being a manager requires skill rather than just a degree. Anyone from any background or qualification is able to enter a managing role, as long as they are capable to learning the skill.
Consequently, because it is not vital to obtain a degree or MBA in management unlike for medicine or law, it is therefore hard to call the occupation of management a profession in this respect. Professionals serve society daily and their actions can influence people. Not only do they need to provide a certain quality service but also, ethical standards.
In every industry, professionals should have a certain degree of respect, fairness, honesty and integrity which are part of abiding to a code of conduct. Usually recognised bodies set these codes and there are consequences if workers do not adhere to them. Doctors, for example, incidentally need to swear a Hippocratic oath to promise that they will uphold specific ethical standards. As for management – because there are no well-known established recognised bodies – it has been hard to monitor if managers are being ethical or not.
In management positions, organizations put a lot of trust in their managers and expect them to behave morally (Universal Class, date unknown). Company’s set their own conduct and guidelines to ensure workers do not harm any stakeholders. It is important for managers to act professionally in their job which means having a certain level of respect, being ethical, keeping private life outside of work and being honest and positive. This is important because it encourages improvement, success and productivity in the workplace. In turn, keeping up these higher standards, society also benefits which is important.
This also goes for occupations in law for instance. To a great extent, managers are expected to follow a code of conduct making management include a trait of a profession. All things considered, having described the main traits of a profession, management clearly has a few aspects of established professions like medicine but it does not have certain features that constitute as an established profession. Most notably a vague code of ethics, usually made by an organisation, is required because there are other stakeholders involved in the occupation. There are some degree programmes acting as a systematic body of knowledge for the area of management science. Although, there are a few bodies acting as regulators like AACSB, there is no official recognised public body to regulate the developed body of knowledge which is often taught in universities. Furthermore, it is not currently a necessity to have a qualification before going into a managerial position meaning anyone with competence is able to do it.
This is because it is a skill used in various other disciplines. So, it cannot be concluded that the occupation of management is an official established profession.