Certified Managers Bill 2021
To be in a profession that is not identified with a specific career is like being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. [ PHOTO / FKE ]

Certified Managers Bill: The recent publication of a Parliamentary Bill to establish the Institute of Certified Managers (ICM) has rekindled the longstanding debate on whether or not management is a profession. And if it is, does it warrant formation of both a professional body and an examinations board?

For an occupation to become a profession, it must have a common body of knowledge; a certification system of the knowledge; methods of using the knowledge for the public good and mechanisms for enforcing an ethical code of conduct. Notwithstanding these tenets of professionalism, here are critical issues that the mover of the Bill, Hon. Gladys Wanga, needs to address before it becomes law.

Clarity on Profession: The brief title of the Bill does not indicate the name of “the profession” for which standards and practices will be regulated. Neither does the statement of the objects and reasons for the Bill specify “the profession” in question. This lack of clarity on the “profession” will be a recipe for interpretation problems especially in the absence of a recognised management profession.

Section 31 and 33 of the Bill have not provided the meaning of a “Certified Manager.” Without a specific interpretation of “Certified Manager”, the Bill assumes that all managers regardless of their profession would be eligible members of ICM. A blanket eligibility to a “professional” body is a mockery to any worthwhile profession.

Membership of ICM: The Bill proposes a membership classification consisting of fellows, full member and associate member. Membership criteria for entry into an unspecified “profession” would disenfranchise many people who consider themselves as managers. For instance, on which type of membership will an owner-manager of a small business be classified.

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There are employees at different levels of management hold designations such as general manager, departmental manager and operations manager. On what basis will such employees be “Certified Managers”? Potential ambiguities on membership criteria of “Certified Managers” would make ICM a non-starter in Kenya’s sophisticated market economy.

Functions of ICM: Section 5 of the Bill states that one of the functions of ICM is to develop and regulate the management profession. To regulate a “profession” which is not recognised as a legitimate profession is putting the cart before the horse. Using the phrase “Certified Manager” does not professionalise management for regulation purposes.

Section 5(b) of the Bill makes reference to management professionals who are not defined in the context of the proposed “profession”. A professional is associated with a particular specialised area of expertise. For instance, a doctor practices medicine while an accountant pursues a career in accountancy.

From the Bill, the career of management professionals is not mentioned. To be in a profession that is not identified with a specific career is like being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

Professional Examinations: A professional examinations body like KASNEB meets certification needs of the accountancy profession. HRMPEB certifies HR professionals. To establish a Certified Managers Examinations Board (CMEB), which is not linked to a particular profession is to denigrate the purpose of professional examination bodies.

Section 20 (1) (b) of the Bill states that CMEB will prepare syllabi for professional examinations in managerial practice. Since boundaries of the body of knowledge and skills in management do not exist, it will be foolhardy to develop and implement a curriculum for “Certified Managers”.

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Professional education in any discipline is intended to enable students to master a body of specialised knowledge. Management practice is so diverse and problematic that its essential skills cannot be assessed standing alone. Nor would management professional examinations predict managerial ability of “Certified Managers”.

Students registered for CEMB examinations will become a laughing stock because the certification cannot be cashed in the labour market. Entry and promotional jobs for “Certified Managers” would not feature in schemes of employment service. For instance, a fresh university graduate with a “Certified Managers” qualification would not yet qualify for a managerial position.

Practising Certificate: Since the title and position of ‘Manager’ cuts across all functions of an organisation, the Bill may be construed to require all managers to become ICM members. Managers in different professions are issued with a Practising Certificate by their own professional bodies. To require managers to obtain another Practising Certificate from ICM will be an unnecessary duplication of licensing.

Management practice does not qualify the test of professionalism to demand issuance of Practising Certificates. Requiring employees or consultants who are engaged in managerial activities to apply for a Practising Certificate would be redundant. Neither will such management certificates show possession of employable competencies.

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