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Addressing the Project Manager Competency vs Project Risk challenge

Many internal and independent project audits highlight the mismatch of project manager competence and project risk. That is, the project manager may not be capable or experienced enough to delivery a high risk project, or conversely a highly skilled project manager may be delivering a low risk, task based project: a potential waste of a talented resource. Either way, the organisation is exposing itself to a business risk that can be easily mitigated.

The first step in mitigating this identified risk is to understand the competency and capability of your project professionals. There are many frameworks for doing this and providing the profession with high quality standard and benchmarks. In the UK, the most common frameworks are: The Association of Project Management has just published it's third edition of the APM Competency Framework, Praxis is an open-source peer-reviewed framework, and the UK Government has an embedded Project Delivery Capability Framework (PDCF) that defines competency standards for the project professionals across Government.

Each of these frameworks focusses on the technical and behavioural competencies and are scored against a scale that recognises and encompasses project complexity, enabling the benchmarking of existing skills in your organisation. This is quite an enlightening exercise, that will probably statistically prove what you already know to be the weaker areas in your skill sets. The big win here though is that you have a benchmark to work from and can target development activities, mentoring and identifying opportunities to grow for many. By having moderated data and analytics of your organisational capability means that you will be able to put a clear business case together for development and monitoring the return on investment.

Let's take it forward another step and by combining this competency knowledge with a gated delivery process will ensure that, at the point the Project Manager is appointed to the project, their capability is matched to the project risk level. This auditable trail means that business risk is mitigated and the project has a stronger chance of a successful outcome.

It is not a 'set in stone' approach, and a degree of 'real world' working needs to be applied, so a business decision can be made it there is still a mismatch - ie they are the only PM available - and mitigating statements captured such as: "Appointed a mentor throughout this project".

Another final step might be the implementation of a "Licence to Manage" (also called Licence to Practise or Accreditation). This takes the PM competency assessment and they captures other information like: experience, formal training or memberships, CV, last project complexity or CPD log status. The Licence to Manage is generally time-bound with early career project professionals renewing every 1, 2 or 3 years and the most experienced project professionals renewing every 5 or 10 years or in some cases not having to renew at all as they are seen as the experts within the organisation or the wider profession.

Whether you are a small or large organisation, if you deliver projects, you will benefit from understanding individual capability and assessing this against your project's risk. Comaea has solutions for all sizes of organisation, from a few project managers to 10,000+ and as comaea is cloud-based, it is easy to set up and manage. Contact us for a demonstration.

BIO: Tony Martin has over 20 years experience in assessment development programmes globally; working with international organisations, professional bodies and governments. Tony has spoken at many public forums, exhibitions and seminar, and chaired round-table discussions on designing, developing and analysing competency development initiatives.

For more information on how comaea can help you, contact


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