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Project Management Partners-Improving organizational performance through better project management

Competency Model for Professional Project Managers

The Project Management Partners Competency Model was developed from the observable behaviors of successful, professional project managers in a variety of application areas. It provides a consistent, coherent structure for assessing the capabilities of current and prospective project managers. The Competency Model can be used to:

  • Guide a training needs assessment to help optimize the use of scarce training dollars by identifying gaps between job requirements and incumbent skill levels.

  • Perform individual competency assessments to evaluate current project managers or to screen prospective project managers.

  • Conduct an organization-wide competency assessment to ensure that the most skilled project managers are assigned to the most critical projects.

The Project Management Partners Competency Model identifies nearly one hundred observable behaviors grouped into thirteen discrete competencies:

Leadership Staff development
Customer relations Perspective
Project planning Negotiating
Performance measurement Risk management
Communicating Problem solving
Organizational effectiveness Decision making
Team building  

Although all thirteen competencies are useful on most projects most of the time, the relative importance of each may vary. For example:
  • Risk management may be more important when the core technology is unproven.
  • Perspective may be more important in a large organization.
  • Project planning may be more important when stakeholder needs are in conflict.

Leadership means motivating and inspiring people to keep the project moving toward successful completion even in the face of the physical demands of aggressive project schedules and the emotional demands of discouraging developments. Successful project managers:

  • Have people volunteering for their projects
  • Establish and communicate their vision for the project
  • Speak of "our project" rather than "this project"
  • Exhibit a "can do" response to problems
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude
  • Stay calm under pressure
  • Command the respect of the entire team
  • Accept responsibility for failures

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Customer Relations
Customer relations involves managing the interactions between the customer and the rest of the project team. When the customer is external to the performing organization, it also involves managing the interactions between the customer and the performing organization. The result of good customer relations is that both parties are enthusiastic about both the relationship. Successful project managers:
  • Work to understand the customer's point of view
  • Advocate appropriately for the customer to others
  • Advocate appropriately for others to the customer
  • Are accessible, available, and responsive to the customer
  • Seek customer feedback about project performance
  • Create mutual interest in repeat business
  • Show respect for the customer at all times
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Project Planning
Project planning means devising and maintaining a workable scheme to accomplish the need that the project was undertaken to address. Successful project managers:

  • Develop written plans for all significant undertakings
  • Document and distribute the project plan
  • Update and revise the project plan as needed
  • Insist on clear, complete statements of both product and project scope
  • Know what the project will really cost, how long it will really take
  • Use available planning tools effectively
  • Get the team actively involved in the planning effort
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Performance Measurement
Performance measurement involves collecting and analyzing project information to determine where the project stands and to predict future status and progress. Successful project managers:
  • Actively monitor project status
  • Insist on constructive analyses of variance
  • Use the plan to manage the project
  • Hold regular status review meetings
  • Encourage an attitude of "no surprises"
  • Measure (and report) performance against the plan
  • Submit status reports on time
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Communicating is the exchange of information. The sender must make the information clear and unambiguous. The receiver must make sure the information is complete and understood. Communicating has many dimensions: written and oral; listening and speaking; internal and external; formal and informal; vertical and horizontal. Successful project managers:
  • Send clear messages
  • Choose the form and timing of the message for their audience
  • Create communications that look professional
  • Use language carefully
  • Confirm the accuracy of information sent and received
  • Explain things well
  • Listen carefully to others
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Organizational Effectiveness
Organizational effectiveness is the ability to "get things done." It requires an under- standing of the formal and informal structures of all the organizations involved. Successful project managers:
  • Know who to go to for help
  • Win approval of requests for support
  • Show respect for individuals regardless of position
  • Maintain a network of contacts from whom to get assistance
  • Know which resources are scarcest and manage them most carefully
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Team Building
A team is a group of individuals who depend on each other for success ("no one succeeds unless we all do"). Team building means encouraging and enabling people to work together as a team to accomplish the project. Successful project managers:
  • Define the team to include all the stakeholders
  • Share management responsibilities with the team
  • Talk about process as well as results
  • Work hard to achieve consensus on all major decisions
  • Insist on the best the team can do
  • Call attention to team achievements
  • Develop good team players
  • Build teams that perceive themselves as teams
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Staff Development
Staff development is the process of encouraging personal and professional growth among the members of the project team. It includes training your replacement as well as encouraging growth in an individual's chosen functional area. Successful project managers:
  • Insist on the best that each individual can do
  • Demonstrate knowledge of team members' personal and professional goals
  • Value the individual's growth and achievements
  • Give credit promptly and sincerely
  • Provide constructive criticism promptly and in private
  • Provide timely and useful performance reviews
  • Delegate appropriately for the person and the situation
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Having perspective is the ability to elevate ones view; to take a broader organiza- tional view rather than a narrower project or personal view; to discern how the project relates to a hierarchy of larger undertakings; to sense and assess potential inter- actions with outside conditions and events; to connect seemingly unrelated events or conditions to the project. Successful project managers:
  • Demonstrate awareness of the organization's vision and mission
  • Demonstrate awareness of competitors' strengths and weaknesses
  • Encourage the team to consider "big picture" issues
  • Avoid getting immersed in unnecessary detail
  • Actively seek to acquire new knowledge
  • Read widely
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Negotiating means working with others in order to reach an agree- ment. A successful negotiation is one where all parties are satisfied with the agreement. Successful project managers:
  • Advocate for interests rather than positions
  • Seek agreements that satisfy the interests of both parties
  • Work to keep personalities out of the negotiations
  • Are open to innovative and creative solutions
  • Use objective criteria to evaluate proposed agreements
  • Negotiate agreements that can be kept
  • Negotiate agreements that preserve the working relationship
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Risk Management
Risk management means identifying, analyzing, and responding to risks over the course of the project. It includes both minimizing the consequences of adverse events and maximizing the results of positive events. Successful project managers:
  • Consider both the impact and likelihood of risks
  • Use contingency and management reserves appropriately
  • Distinguish between risks (always in the future) and problems (in the present)
  • Take prudent risks and exploit unexpected opportunities
  • View past problems as current risks and plan for them
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Problem Solving
Problem solving is a combination of problem identification (what is the problem), solution assessment (what can be done), and problem response (implementing a solution). Project problems may be technical, managerial, or interpersonal. Problem solving may lead to decision making when a problem has many possible solutions. Successful project managers:
  • Use a structured approach for all significant problems
  • Look for root causes, not just symptoms
  • Seek (and listen to) both facts and opinions
  • Encourage innovative and creative solutions
  • Involve the team in problem solving
  • Ask perceptive questions
  • Follow up to ensure that the problem remains solved
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Decision Making
Decision making means making the best choice from among many alternatives. Decisions can be "gotten" (from the customer, from the team, from other managers) as well as made. Decision making has a time element to it the "best" alternative may not be the "right" decision if it is made too early or too late. Successful project managers:
  • Use a structured approach for all significant decisions
  • Seek (and listen to) both facts and opinions
  • Make decisions when needed
  • Document important decisions
  • Delegate or escalate decisions when appropriate
  • Follow up to ensure decision was implemented
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