CM and QBS

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Construction Management is broadly recognized today as a professional service suitable for procurement using Qualifications Based Selection. Owners in both the public and private sector have adopted this view, and the insurance industry has reinforced it by providing Professional Liability insurance to CM practitioners.

What Makes CM a Profession

CMAA defines Construction Management as “a professional service that applies effective management techniques to the planning, design, and construction of a project from inception to completion for the purpose of controlling time, cost and quality.”

The United States Office of Personnel Management, in its Job Family Series documentation, offers this description of a profession:

“Professional work involves exercising discretion, analytical skill, judgment, personal accountability, and responsibility for creating, developing, integrating, applying, and sharing an organized body of knowledge:
•    Uniquely acquired through extensive education or training at an accredited college or university;
•    Equivalent to the curriculum requirements for a bachelor’s or higher degree with major study in, or pertinent to, the specialized field; and
•    Continuously studied to explore, extend, and use additional discoveries, interpretations, and applications to improve data quality, materials, equipment, applications, and methods.”

In his book The System of Professions (University of Chicago Press, 1988), author Andrew Abbott defines a profession as “an occupational group with some special skill.” Abbott further identifies universities as “legitimators of professional knowledge and expertise.”

Standards of Professionalism

In practical terms, a profession can be identified by these qualities:

•    Its practitioners exercise independent judgment in response to conditions that vary and are not easily predicted or controlled.
•    This judgment is shaped by rigorous and specialized education, coupled with a broadly accepted system of Standards of Practice.
•    The Standards of Practice and related Body of Knowledge undergo continuous review and improvement.
•    The professional practice is governed by a Code of Ethics and represented by a single nationwide association.

Definitions of professionalism tend to focus on three elements: Specialized education; an organized, broadly accepted body of knowledge; and discretion or judgment in executing the work.

In addition, according to Abbott, it is critical that the profession itself determines what skills and knowledge it requires of newcomers. To be successful, a profession must be able to control who can claim membership. In this regard, Abbott says, “a single, identifiable national association is clearly a prerequisite.”

Rigorous specialized education has long been recognized as an essential element of professionalism. Efforts to develop curricula and course content for CM (as distinct from other engineering or architectural disciplines) can be traced back at least a half century. Particular progress has been made in the last 25 years, as university degree programs in Construction Management have proliferated at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Most recently, in 2013, ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technologies) created a distinct accreditation path for CM undergraduate programs. ABET is the pre-eminent authority providing accreditation to engineering-related educational programs. As part of this effort, ABET, with extensive industry involvement, has developed both general and program-specific criteria for Construction Management, and university programs have begun applying for these accreditations. This initiative reflects the broad national consensus on the correct content of a professional Construction Management education.

Beginning in the 1980 with the leadership of the Construction Management Association of America, the industry has developed, maintained and updated formal Standards of Practice, a Code of Ethics, and an extensive Body of Knowledge.

How the Standards Apply to CM

If, by doing a job in a workmanlike way, a practitioner can be expected to deliver the same product to the same specifications every time, then the standard by which the work is judged is the creation of a “defect-free” product.

Because of the prominence of individual judgment in delivering professional services, and the high variability (and uncontrollability) of job conditions, professionals are judged by a different metric, namely, a “standard of care.”

Under this doctrine, each professional is expected to deliver “the same level of care employed by reasonably prudent professionals practicing in the same field in the same area.”

The professional’s ability to exercise informed judgment in changing and unpredictable conditions is becoming more critical. Increasingly, CMs today are called upon to manage stakeholder relations, sustainability issues, and a whole gamut of other tasks. Business acumen is often as critical to CM today as technical ability, and effectiveness in financial management, communication, and leadership often makes a decisive contribution to project success.

Similarly, today’s CM is often called upon to advise owners about many aspects of a project that fall outside of the traditional construction stages, from site selection and development to operational management over a facility’s entire life cycle.

Credentialing Professionalism

Professional credentials, as long as they are recognized as being fairly earned through demonstrated mastery of an accepted Body of Knowledge, can serve as a reliable indicator of professional accomplishment. Continuous improvement and enlargement of the Body of Knowledge through research and practical experience are essential to gaining this recognition.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standard 17024 provides the means by which personnel certification programs can assure their transparency, consistency and equity. The American National Standards Institute is authorized by ISO to accredit certification programs that comply with ISO 17024, and has granted this accreditation to the Certified Construction Manager (CCM)  program administered by the Construction Manager Certification Institute.

As of mid-2015 CMCI had granted the CCM credential to approximately 2,600 professionals. Maintaining certification requires a commitment to continuing professional education and to the ongoing advancement of the profession of Construction Management.

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