Tag Archives: Competency

What characteristics make a good project manager?

According to data collected from the supervisors of project managers in 11 different organizations around the world, effective project managers display a reasonably consistent set of personality characteristics. Whilst there is no single personality profile for an effective project manager, most effective project managers (from their supervisor’s point of view) are:
Conscientious – sticks to deadlines, completes jobs, perseveres with routine, and likes fixed schedules
Vigorous – thrives on activity, likes to keep busy, and enjoys having a lot to do
Controlling – takes charge, directs, manages, organizes, and supervises others
Socially confident – comfortable with strangers and likes to put others at ease
Evaluative – critically evaluates information, looks for potential limitations, and focuses upon errors
Persuasive – enjoys selling, changes opinions of others, convinces with arguments, and negotiates
Behavioural – analyses thoughts and action, psychologically minded, and likes to understand people

These traits that make a good project manager are quite different to the attributes of a competent planner and scheduler as defined in Mosaic’s core paper at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF/Attributes_of_a_Scheduler.pdf

There was considerably more consistency among the ratings for behavioural competencies than for personality characteristics. Competence is defined as a combination of knowledge, skills, experience, demonstrable performance and personal capability, which includes attitudes, motivation, behaviours and personality characteristics. For more on competency see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1056_Competency.pdf

The most important behavioural competencies deemed essential to a superior-performing project manager were:
– Planning and Organizing
– Delivering Results and Meeting Customer Expectations
– Deciding and initiating action
– Leading and supervising
– Persuading and influencing

The behaviours expected of project managers included:
– Identifying and organizing resources needed to accomplish tasks
– Consistently achieving project goals
– Taking responsibility for actions, projects and goals
– Initiating and generating activity
– Delegating work appropriately and fairly
– Gaining clear agreement and commitment from others

The research this blog is based on was undertaken by Alicia Aitken and Lynn Crawford of Bond University, Australia. To see more, read their paper on PM Perspectives at: http://pmperspectives.org/article.php?view=full&aid=33

Global Project Management Standard

The GAPPS Program Manager Standards have been released and can be downloaded from the GAPPS website. All GAPPS standards are available free of charge.

The Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards (GAPPS) is an alliance of government, private industry, professional associations and training/academic institutes working together to develop globally applicable project management competency based standards, frameworks and mappings. GAPPS standards and frameworks are intended to facilitate mutual recognition and transferabiltiy of project management qualifications.

Copies can be downloaded from the GAPPS website at http://www.globalpmstandards.org.

Program Management Competency Standard

The GAPPS Program Manager standard has been finalised and released in exposure draft for public review. The draft standard can be downloaded from, and details are on the GAPPS website at www.globalpmstandards.org. The GAPPS team would like as wide and varied feedback as possible in the period through to 11th October 2010.

GAPPS (Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards) is the world’s only independent body that brings together industry, PM associations, governments and academia to develop performance based standards for project management and map standards and certifications/qualification for project managers globally.

Feedback on the Program Management Competency Standard is in three parts
1.General Comments
2.Comments on the role description (section 3 of the exposure draft standard)
3.Comments on specific Units, Elements or Performance Criteria

You can submit as many comments as you wish. If you have more comments than the survey has room for, just come back and complete the survey a second time. If you have no comments for one of the sections, click the submit button to move on to the next step.

After downloading and reviewing the standard, to provide feedback go to http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22B6R5JG452

We will be reviewing the GAPPS standard with a view to enriching our PMI PgMP (Program Management Professional) coursework. For more on PgMP see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-PgM.html

Developing Competency

Knowledge alone is not enough! To be effective in any sphere of life you need to be capable of applying knowledge effectively to achieve an outcome; this is competency. However, to be really effective you not only need to be capable of being competent, you need to be willing to act, to use your capability effectively. Effective (ie, competent) managers need to know what should be done, have the skills to do the work and be willing to actually do the work.

Putting this into context, project managers agree that having an effective schedule is important and also know they need knowledge of CPM theory (summarised in Chapter 3 of the PMI Practice Standard for Scheduling) and their scheduling software to produce a realistic and achievable schedule. But simply creating a schedule is not sufficient – the project manager needs to make effective use of the schedule if it is going to add value to the project delivery process.

This makes measuring and assessing management competence difficult. Observing an artefact is not sufficient, it is the way the competent manger behaves that make the real difference. Fortunately, the definition and assessment of competency is based on a defined structure:

First, there are three basic elements within the project management competency framework,
technical competencies – what you do or produce,
contextual competencies – how you work within the organisation / environment, and
behavioural competencies – how you operate in the workspace and interact with people.

Then each element of competence is assessed in terms of:
knowledge (what you know – tested by CAPM and PMP exams),
skills (the capability to effectively apply the knowledge in the workplace and the artefacts produced) and
attitude (how willing or effective you are in applying the skills).

This is normative competence and is the structure of PMI’s Project Manager Competency Development Framework and virtually every other professional competency framework including those developed by the AIPM, IPMA and GAPPS. However, the framework dates back to the industrial age where task repetition was common and one could learn the best-in-class approaches and emulate these to deliver new tasks.

In the ‘age of knowledge’ this is probably not sufficient, competent project managers in the 21st Century need to grow beyond normative thinking and embrace transformative practice. Project management competence is shifting from a process view towards autonomy; self reference and group self organisation. These qualities empower professional project managers to perform well despite prevalence of complexity and rapid change. They develop customised solutions for each new, unique, occasion; implementing the new solution requires the use of existing knowledge but will also generate new knowledge.

This constructivism theory has a basic assumption that each time you perform a new activity you build on your existing knowledge to acquire new insight and competence, and consequently engage in continuous learning. To be really effective, the organic ‘on-the-job’ learning should also be reinforced with the acquisition new information from journals, innovative courses, discussions with colleagues and participating in communities of practice.

Consolidating the new learning into tangible and useful knowledge needs reflection (to understand what has been learned) and possibly the assistance of a mentor to help unlock the complex factors needed to grow within yourself, develop creative solutions, and find new ways to succeed.

Yesterday’s competence is the foundation on which you can build tomorrows, but relying solely on yesterday’s skills is insufficient! Competent project managers know they need to keep learning and developing.

The Value of your PMP Qualification

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion on the value of credentials such as PMP; frequently triggered by the failure of a ‘qualified’ person to perform in the workplace.

There are essentially two ways to assess a person from a credentialing point of view. Testing what they know or assessing what they do. Competency based assessments (what they do) tend to assume knowledge based on performance. You cannot perform a complex task such as managing a project without knowledge. However, competency based assessments have two disadvantages:

  • Competency is demonstrated in a specific a time and location. There is no guarantee the competent person will perform as well in a different setting with different people, cultures and relationships.
  • The assessment of interpersonal competencies tends to be subjective and project management is very much focused on directing and leading people. Assessing behavioral competencies goes some way towards solving this dilemma but the assessment is still subjective.

Knowledge based assessments are empirical. The person had sufficient knowledge to pass a defined test at a defined point in time. However, the passing of a knowledge based assessment such as PMP or for that matter an MBA only shows the person has a predefined level of knowledge. The disadvantages of knowledge based assessments are:

  • There is no indication the person can apply the knowledge effectively in the workplace.
  • The knowledge tested in any exam is only a portion of the overall domain knowledge.

Given the problems with either assessment process, assessing the value of a qualification is complex and is differs depending on who is making the value judgment, an employer or an individual. The value of a qualification to an individual can be measured in at least three areas:

  • The advantage it offers in the job market;
  • The recognition governments and other licensing authorities give to credential holders and
  • Its recognition by other entities offering higher qualifications through credits or advanced standing.

The value of a qualification to an employer is in part a function of the credentials reputation and in part, what this tells the employer about the credential holder. Whilst the PMP is a uniquely valuable industry based credential, no single assessment is ever going to provide a guarantee of a person’s suitability for employment in a particular organisation. Being a PMP provides one point of assessment; the PMP holder had the knowledge needed to pass a difficult, quality controlled exam. However, employers also need to look to other aspects of a person’s overall capabilities as well.

My feeling is the lack of undergraduate/baccalaureate degree courses in project management has given PMI’s PMP and other similar project management certifications a solid value in the job market. This is quite different to many other credentials issued by professional bodies. The UK based Chartered Institute of Building’s MCIOB credential requires a degree, several years experience, an examination and a professional interview; in most respects at least equal in its rigor to PMI’s PMP requirements. Both credentials should be assessed as being at a higher level than a degree but at least in the Asia Pacific region, the construction industry and governments focus on building managers holding a University construction degree, not MCIOB.

Similarly, higher degree courses in project management routinely offer some level of advanced standing for PMP holders. I am unaware of any advanced degree in construction or the built environment that offers similar advanced standing for MCIOB, although some other professional credentials do achieve a level of advanced standing in some higher degree courses.

This unusually valuable status of PMP as been built up over many years; however, the value also creates a number of challenges:

  • Employers may have expectations of PMP holders not supported by the credential.
  • But, credential holders need to live up to the reasonable expectations of their employers, and current credential holders also have the challenge of maintaining the worth of the credential for future generations of PMs.
  • PMI needs to ensure the examination process remains both credible and effective.
  • Training organizations such as ours need to ensure their PMP courses are relevant and interesting.

We have chosen to focus our training on the PMI range of credentials because they are a defined package, we know if we have done a good job as soon as a trainee passes their exam. The subjectivity of competence assessments lacks the clarity of pass/fail. However, look 5 to 10 years into the future and I expect the credentialing process will have change substantially to blend aspects of workplace assessment (competency) with the formal testing of knowledge. The Program Management Professional (PgMP) credential is a start along this route, my prediction is most other credentials will follow.