Where Do All The PMs Go?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Project management seems to be facing a crisis of attrition. While perhaps not obvious, the signs are most assuredly there. Measuring this trend is a bit of a challenge as there is no overall count of how many project managers exist in the world.
Estimates have been made, but we don’t really know for sure. In 1994, the Project Management Institute made a guess of about 11 million worldwide and growing (published in the PMI Project Management Factbook). This was a number extrapolated from U.S. census data, and places project managers as representing about 1.5 percent of the population worldwide. So where is the attrition, you ask? Let’s take a look.
One measure of professional activity is membership in professional associations. Using membership in PMI as a proxy (and I do so only in that they publish their membership statistics on a monthly basis, making this analysis even possible), there is no question that the overall membership has been growing every year.
The new member statistics for the organization are in fact incredibly large. More than 90,000 people joined PMI in 2005, and another 33,751 have joined as of April this year. In this same period, however, the total membership size of PMI has only grown by 70,000. In 2005, one member left for every three that joined. This year, an average of two people are departing for every three new members. There are more than 52,…

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