Asian Association of Management Organizations

Management as a Profession

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a Profession is: a. A calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation b. A principal calling, vocation, or employment and c. The whole body of persons engaged in a calling. Increasingly management as a class of employment has come to be seen as a profession which qualifies on all three levels of this definition. Though there are ways into this particular profession that do not necessarily require years of intensive academic education, varying by industry and often pay scale there is a clear sense that those who engage in management as a vocational calling often require both years of education and years of internal preparation to hold the position (Crainer, 2010, pp. 12-16). Increasingly, the prerequisite to a management position is sought through formal education and a combination of formal education and provable experience in or out of the industry where the former organisation managed is seen as successful and profitable. Crainer states:

The last century witnessed the dramatic genesis of management — management emerged as a profession. It has moved from an unspoken, informal, ad hoc activity into one that is routinely analysed and commented on from every angle possible. Management has emerged from the shadows to be recognized as one of the driving forces of economic and personal life. Nothing — no organisation, no activity — now appears beyond the scope or ambition of management. (p. 13)

By varying degree of field and organisation management has become a much more formal ideation and practice, with higher standards of professionalism and higher standards of action for those who participate.

Management as a profession is the administration and organisation of people, resources and the business aspects of an organisation to optimize the conditions of profit and salability of a product and depending on the organisation a multitude of other things that make it possible for employees to carry out their various tasks. Managers as a group are more now than ever seen as a profession, defined by skill, education both on the job and in a formal setting and by their ability to lead and organize in a professional manner to meet the desired outcomes of the organisation. There are probably more works of non-fiction produced in the area of management than in nearly any other profession every year internationally and managers are increasingly expected to continue their education both formally and informally for the duration of their role as managers (White, 2012, p. 2). Crainer also points out the variation in management noted by organisation but then also poignantly addresses by pointing out the words of another expert the fact that regardless of the type of organisation the types of problems and/or concerns that managers face are often universal and universally challenging:

Management is all-embracing, and managers are everywhere. “There are, of course, differences in management between different organisations — mission defines strategy, after all, and strategy defines structure. But the differences between managing a chain of retail stores and managing a Roman Catholic diocese are amazingly fewer than either retail executives or bishops realize,” says Drucker. “The differences are mainly in application rather than in principles. The executives of all these organisations spend, for instance, about the same amount of their time on people problems — and the people problems are almost always the same. (p. 13)

According to Drucker, in Crainer the variations of work of managers in different organisations usually only amounts to about 10% of the work done, which according to some invites the opportunity for formal education to prepare managers for managing, while leaving the variations to on-the-job training. The challenge then become how to define and develop the role of business school and management training to assert management as a profession. According to Khurana (2007) in a highly acclaimed or much reviewed work: From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: the social transformation of American business schools and the unfulfilled promise of management as a profession, The varied purposes of business schools at their inception can lead to challenges of defining management as a profession: “providing graduates with the skills required for particular business roles, developing an academic science of management, instilling social norms of professionalism and meeting the demands of students and alumni.” (Beard, 2010, p. 93) While some of the intentions are seen as good, others are challenged as defining an enduring challenge, how to train managers to both develop and utilize innovation and support the status quo of demanding business to be as profitable as possible.

One expert Birkinshaw, stresses that the current face of management is a challenge to the profession and really to everyone as mangers are not well respected, employees are often unsatisfied with managers and there are few positive role models that illuminate the role as one that might be aspiring for a young person.(2010, p. 12) This is not to say that more than ever before individuals are seeking to educate themselves to manage businesses, often times with the eventual intent of entrepreneurship, yet to some degree the manager as a profession is still lacking its glorified role as something a child might blurt out as their current desired adult role. Birkinshaw blames this on the anomalous nature of the manager and yet aspiring to fall into the ranks of the fireman and the ballerina is not necessarily something that management as a profession should aspire to. Ultimately, though management as a profession should aspire to reinvent itself in such a way that it becomes inspiring. Birkenshaw stresses that as “leadership” has emerged as a scholarly endeavor management has fallen by the wayside and that merging leadership and management in ideal and task should be the goal of all those involved to raise management to the level it deserves. To better understand this thesis one must understand what Birkinshaw means by each; “leadership is what you say and how you say it, whereas management is what you do and how you do it,” (p. 12) compatible ideas in any circumstance without the unnecessary subversion of management as an inferior role to leadership. In arguing this point Birkinshaw details an argument in favor of reinventing or at least redefining management: “The argument here runs as follows: management as we know it today was developed for the industrial era, in which capital was the scarce resource. Today, it is knowledge. Firms gain advantage not by working efficiently but by harnessing initiative and creativity.” (p. 12) Therefore it goes without saying that management and possibly even its core business demands redefining to mature a new class of “management professionals” and management professional educators. While in Gill an editorial comment claims that management is not necessarily a position possible of becoming profession as it is to varied and regardless of the development of possibility of the development of a universal code of ethics, argued by some as a transformative goal, “the lack of a commonly accepted core knowledge, practice, and value base is what makes management a practice and not a profession. Eric M. Wall” (2009, p. 112) In response to the criticism of Gill and Wall to an earlier article in the same publication Khurana, & Nohria, argue in favor of certification to ensure the common core knowledge, practice and value base of Masters of Business Administration degrees, but they also contend that defining a “profession” as one the is elite and closed such as in the case of doctors and attorneys (arguable in this day and age) is limiting and that management should still allow membership by individuals who do not have MBAs but who have the knowledge and skill to manage. (2009, p. 113)

Taking these many controversies into consideration it is also good to look to the industry itself to define what is and what is not important about defining and fulfilling the ideation of management as a profession. For instance the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) an independent international university which is considered a leader in management education, website there are bullet points that stress the various aspects and tout the schools innovative character. These bullet points include, “industry recognized qualifications, high academic standards, diversity in the learning environment including staff and fellow students, among others. These ideals are mentioned as essential to the transition of management into the status as a “profession” and are recognized as universal needs of a business profession education ( Similarly the website for the Australia Institute of Management stresses the ideals of standardization and review of capabilities through self-conducted research, that is then published on their website, the competencies or capabilities are more or less universally recognized as fundamental to management professionalism. The brief description of the outcomes of the research indicate that Australian managers are operating at close to the same level of capabilities as their international counterparts but that they need to beef up their skills in two areas, innovation and understanding global markets. This professional organisation can in turn be thought of as a kind of networking think tank where ideas about trends and needs are proliferated through informal and formal education and seminar opportunities as well as concepts and challenges that define and redefine the professionalism of management over time. ( Finally, the Asian Association of Management Organisations (AAMO) a collective of national management professional organisations which include 17 member nations including Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mongolian, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Taiwan, offers particular information and networking among members regarding professionalization of management, further education and trends in the region. The organisation is a leader in the region, particularly for their work in developing the capability index (the basis for the earlier AU research data) which clearly develops those core elements or as they put it, major drivers in management capability to provide profitable business growth or other defined success in non-companies. The eight major drivers with corresponding rankings are: Visionary & Strategic Leadership 15%, Performance Leadership 10%, People Leadership 10%, Financial Management 10%, Organisation Capability 5%, Technology & Knowledge 5%, External Relationships 5%, Innovation-Products & Services 10% and then the data area Results & Comparative Performance 30%. These various areas are well defined and determined by the index and it is difficult after having looked at management as a profession in a general sense not to notice the fundamental areas as reflective of the desire to develop many of the aspired standards for management, i.e. A core set of knowledge that is accepted and recognized by all, integration of leadership and innovation in general and several other facets that detail the growing trend of professionalizing the management field. (Though this organization also seems to recognize that the question about granting authority in the field should continue, as is stressed by Khurana, & Nohria as well as others should still remain to be within the discretion of the organisations themselves, i.e. no ultimate plan to nationally or internationally license or certify managers as each individual organisation should retain the right to seek those they believe have the best fit for the job. (


The vast number though relatively constant challenges of management are thought of by many as core sets of characteristics associated with management as a profession. Though theory and practice can vary the reality is that the managers of tomorrow need to redefine and reassert both the importance of their role and the demands of both continuing formal and informal education. Though there are movements within the management theory sector to license/certify management and business programs and even test individuals leaving them most experts would like to see individual organisations continue to be allowed to choose individuals with or without formal education, as per the needs of their organisation. Most importantly this work has detailed the need to redefine and even raise management to a new level of respect, i.e. recognizing that like any profession there are both good and bad practitioners and constantly strive to demand the former to fill important management roles, thus ensuring the rise of management as a recognized and respected profession.


Asian Association of Management Organizations website at:

Australian Institute of Management website at:

Beard, SS 2010, ‘What is the point of management education?’, Journal Of General Management, 36, 2, pp. 92-94, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Birkinshaw, J 2010, ‘Reinventing Management’, Ivey Business Journal, 74, 1, p. 12, Regional Business News, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Crainer, S 2010, ‘HOW IN THE WORLD?’, Business Strategy Review, 21, 1, pp. 12-16, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Gill, T 2009, ‘It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession’, Harvard Business Review, 87, 1, pp. 112-113, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Khurana, R, & Nohria, N 2009, ‘It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession’, Harvard Business Review, 87, 1, p. 113, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Pfeffer, J, & Fong, C 2004, ‘The Business School ‘Business’: Some Lessons from the U.S. Experience’, Journal Of Management Studies, 41, 8, pp. 1501-1520, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

Singapore Institute of Management website at:

White, H 2012, ‘HR professional classes held in Lancaster’, Central Penn Business Journal, 28, 1, p. 2, Regional Business News, EBSCOhost, viewed 30 April 2012.

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