No one-size-fits-all competencies for project management

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Because project management is a relatively new profession, there is no consistent picture of what a project manager is.
Because project management is a relatively new profession, there is no consistent picture of what a project manager is.

There are no one-size-fits-all competencies required for operational project management (OPM) in today's era of digital disruption.

This is according to Jacques Gouws, principal PPM consultant at ProjectLink Synergy Designs, speaking at last week's Gauteng PMO Forum in Sandton.

He told delegates it was important for project managers and PMO executives to understand the context in which projects were taking place in order to determine the competencies that would be required.

The PMO Forum is an interest group that falls under the umbrella of Project Management South Africa. Sponsored by Project Portfolio Office, it provides an opportunity for project management office (PMO) executives and leaders to network with peers across industries, and share knowledge and experience.

Gouws said because project management is a relatively new profession, there is no consistent picture of what a project manager is, and what competencies individuals filling a project management role should have.

Nevertheless, there are certain important behavioural and personal competencies that should always be taken into consideration when appointing a new project manager, or looking at the competencies an already-employed project manager would require in order to advance his or her career prospects.

"However, something like being able to communicate well is a general management competency. Competencies that are unique to OPM are often more difficult to define," he said.

"Determining what the required competencies for OPMs are in your specific environment should be a collaborative effort between project managers, PMO executives, the HR department as well as line managers if it is to be done properly."

The Project Management Institute, in its Project Management Body of Knowledge Guides and Standards, lists 10 core and eight contextual competencies that could be regarded as being essential for OPM.

The 10 core competencies:

  • Integration management
  • Scope management
  • Schedule management
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Resources management
  • Communications management
  • Risk management
  • Procurement management
  • Stakeholder management

The eight contextual competencies:

  • Benefits management
  • Governance management
  • Financial management
  • Programme integration management
  • Strategic (portfolio) planning
  • Portfolio performance management
  • Portfolio and business risk management
  • Strategic or business management

However, Gouws emphasised that depending on the context in which the project manager will operate, the balance between these core and contextual competencies would shift.

PMO executives and managers need to consider which of the competencies are needed in their specific environment, as well as the level of detail required: should the individual merely have sufficient prowess to be a participant or a contributor, or whether a higher skills level is needed?

"Project management domain-specific or core competencies, and contextual competencies, are not equally applicable in all project settings. In a world in which you have fewer resources, nuances can differ, and how they differ is affected by variables such as project management maturity, organisational structure, the needs of the environment and the nature of the projects," Gouws concluded.

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