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Professional Resolution for a New Year

January 2, 2013

As recently as 140 years ago, it was argued that science was not a professional field and that teaching of sciences in schools or universities would have little value. The cognoscenti of the time believed that there was no merit in learning method or techniques; the advance of science depended on enquiring minds, which would best be achieved through training in the liberal arts.

As society has emerged from that narrowness of thought – and indeed arrogance of established experts – it has increasingly recognized the merits of ‘professionalism’. That is, the value of developing levels of expertise through a combination of research, universal and established techniques and a documented and teachable body of knowledge.

There are few today who would question the need for training scientists. But as we look at the field of contract and commercial management, it is at a similar crossroads to the challenge facing scientists in the 1870s (or indeed of professional accountancy in the 1880s or project management in the 1980s). There are acknowledged experts in contract and commercial management, but they have all emerged from a background in other disciplines and many still argue that this is the route to the future – that you become expert through an enquiring mind and ‘liberal’ training, rather than through specific teaching in the commercial discipline. Some go so far as to deny that contract and commercial management can be taught. Quite recently I attended a meeting where those who should be leading professionalization were instead insisting that this is not a field for undergraduate study.

Within this blog, I have consistently illustrated the case for improved contract and commercial management. As with science, a growing body of research increasingly points to the value that professional standards could deliver. A growing number of senior executives have grasped this point and they are frustrated by the the low quality of practice within their organizations.

The years ahead offer a time of great opportunity to the contracts and commercial community and in particular to those individuals who grasp the chance for professional leadership. For some, that may mean increased commitment to volunteering their time and effort in raising the profile of the community as a whole. For most others, the start point will be a resolution to raise their personal standards by gaining certification and operating in accordance with the methods, techniques and body of knowledge critical to any high-status profession.

 

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