Turning professional potential into social impact


the new mission for project management




By Reinhard Wagner


In recent months, societal challenges have become increasingly apparent around the world, be it the devastating wildfires in the western parts of the United States or in the Mediterranean region, the floods in Germany and areas of central Europe, the Taliban taking power in Afghanistan and the refugee movement that has been triggered, and much more. The American President Biden even declared a “Code Red” on climate and the implications for his country. And that is just a small sample of what is happening right now and which further challenges are awaiting us in the future. This raises many questions, especially as to what role project management (Pells 2020) and project management associations (Stretton 2021a) actually play or should play in this context.

The recently deceased Peter Morris wisely wrote back in 2013 that the “challenge now surely is to focus on impact, which is why Reconstructing Project Management calls this the ‘Age of Relevance.’ This is particularly apt as mankind is currently facing some of the biggest, most serious and dangerous issues in its history, yet project management is almost totally silent on how to help address them” Morris (2013a).

Without a doubt, project management can make a valuable contribution to our ability as a society to better cope with these challenges (Wagner 2021b). These developments are even a driver for the increasing number and importance of projects, or what we nowadays call “projectification” (Wagner 2021a). However, Pells (2021) and Stretton (2021a) rightly call for greater engagement and transformation of project management associations.

Project management associations were formed in the second half of the 1960s and began to develop standards for project management (Morris 2013). The main focus was on engineering projects and how to manage them as efficiently as possible. Thus, it was primarily industry that gladly accepted qualification and later also certification offerings from the project management associations, which enabled them to significantly increase their performance over the past decades. Although project management associations have differentiated themselves further with their offerings in recent years, they are still primarily focused on the business sector and the professionalization of companies in project management.

This, of course, also earns the money that project management associations need to statutorily reinvest in their not-for-profit activities. However, there is increasing criticism that project management associations are meanwhile merely focused on the business of qualification and certification, concentrating too strongly on the business sector and showing a rather low interest for the rest of society (Wagner, Huemann, and Radujkovic 2021). At the same time, project management associations are losing members and the certification business is also increasingly under pressure. In this respect, the question arises as to the future orientation of the associations. This does not only affect the project management associations on a national level, but also the globally active associations such as IPMA and PMI…


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How to cite this article: Wagner, R. (2021). Turning professional potential into social impact – the new mission for project management associations; Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue X, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/pmwj110-Oct2021-Wagner-turning-professional-potential-into-social-impact-commentary.pdf

About the Author

Reinhard Wagner



Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. Reinhard Wagner has published 36 books as well as several hundred articles and blogposts in the field of project, program and project portfolio management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in a range of leadership roles (including President and Chairman) and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of several IPMA Member Associations. He was named an IPMA Honorary Fellow in 2021.

Reinhard is Senior Lecturer at the Alma Mater Europaea and is currently finishing his doctoral thesis on the topic of Project Society. He can be contacted via reinhard.wagner@tiba.de.

To view other works by Reinhard Wagner, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/reinhard-wagner/