Competence is the combined knowledge, skill and behaviour that a person needs to perform properly in a job or work role.
Within competence, knowledge is the theoretical understanding of a subject, skills are the practical manifestation of knowledge, and behaviour represents the personal attributes that control how an individual applies their knowledge and skill.
Competence and competency are widely used terms with many different interpretations. The terms are frequently used interchangeably, though the distinction can be made between a competency as a personal attribute of an individual and a competence as a statement of standards that can be demonstrated by performance and outputs.
Competences are commonly broken down further into technical and behavioural competencies. A technical competency may, for example, be the ability to use a particular scheduling technique (e.g. ‘able to perform critical path analysis’). A behavioural competency indicates how someone acts in specific circumstances (e.g. ‘actively seeks schedule estimates from team members’).
Many organisations develop competence frameworks with a view to managing recruitment and professional development more effectively. Such frameworks provide a structure which defines the individual competencies required by people working with that organisation, or part of the organisation.
In the P3 domain, such a framework should identify competencies for all aspects of P3 management which can then be used flexibly to build role descriptions to suit differing contexts and circumstances.
The P3 manager can use a competence framework when forming a management team to define roles and then use competency-based interviewing techniques to identify the best person for each role.
Only the P3 manager can make decisions about how to utilise the range of human resources available. The value of competences and competence frameworks is that they provide an objective tool that helps define expectations for team and individual capability and performance.
Competences and competence frameworks should reflect the needs of the work, including those of stakeholders and sponsors, as well as those directly working on projects, programmes or portfolios.
An ill-fitting, or not clearly specified, competence approach serves to hinder rather than help. At their best, competences and competence frameworks provide a clear set of well-defined statements about expected performance and outcomes. This can lead to fairer and more transparent appraisal systems, and give a clear link between individual performance and project performance. When designed or used inappropriately, they can be difficult to use, result in the expectation that everyone should behave in the same way, and fail to deliver on improvements in performance.
Where an organisation wants to raise the overall capability of its workforce, it can use competency assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses at an organisational or individual level. Such information is invaluable in establishing learning and development programmes.
Competence frameworks can be designed in a number of ways. Some organisations develop their own bespoke framework, while others use existing external competence frameworks, in whole or in part. Regardless of how they are developed, competence frameworks are a key component of learning and development for individuals, and for developing the maturity of the organisation.