Professionals embody much that is good about modern society: they become expert in their chosen field, they adhere to standards of behavior, they study and expand the field of knowledge and expertise in their specialty, they expose shoddy work, especially that done by persons who are not certificated professionals.

By working hard to improve their field of endeavor, they better their own compensation and status while defending against those who try to do the work without obtaining professional qualification.

There are some ways one may complain about professionalism. Some tasks have been cloaked in the garb of professionalism as a means of keeping out those who don't pay the entry fee, which is regrettable. People should be free to work as long as they're not harming the public.

But the most serious complaint, in my opinion, about professionals, is one you don't hear very often. It is that professionals process.

Ordinary people foolishly confuse substance with process. They confuse health with health care, learning with schooling, public safety with arresting criminals, fire prevention with firefighting, justice with legal services. Whereas it is greatly in the public interest to achieve the substance, the response, nearly universal, of professionals is to apply more process.

Professionals should be forgiven for this bias; after all, professionals are effectively members of a trade guild, and quite properly seek to enhance the business opportunities for their profession.

It is the public that should be blamed for believing that by pouring more money into process they will achieve the substantive gains they desire.

The solution? In my view it's a matter of seeking the truth. We must measure the substance, and test whether things are improving. If they are not, we must alter our assumptions and understand that applying more professional process may not be achieving the public goals. We may have to alter the rules of the game.