PMO Competence and competencies

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Posted by APM on 1st Mar 2010

In March 2010the PMO SIG held their17th conference at the Open University in Milton Keynes and looked at competence and competencies for the PMO professional.

The PPSO Competence and Competencies High Level Performance Conference provided the opportunity for delegates to discover their own individual competence levels; understand more about how competency and competencies affect their career within the PMO; practical advice on developing competency profiles for themselves and for their PMO teams; and the opportunity to hear what peers are currently doing in the area of competence models.

Prior to the event, delegates had the opportunity to complete an online assessment of their own competence (based on the APM Competence Framework) to help them identify their own personal areas for development. The assessment was heavily focused on the project management competencies which highlighted the issue that PMOs face there is no recognised competency framework for professionals working in the area of PMO!

PPSOSIG Chairman, Chris Walters kicked off the conference with the following speech;

In the Autumn 2009 conference, we talked about PPSO Maturity growing your abilities organisationally, within the team, and for individuals. That conference left some gaps though. How do you know what the target capability of your PPSO is, and how do you embark on the journey?

This conference will give you some clues to fill those gaps. We dont have all the answers for you today, but we can help you start to ask the right questions with the end state in mind.

In some ways the March 2010 edition of Project Manager Today has stolen our thunder. The article by Andrew Delo and Andrew Hepworth at Provek has a good introduction to the subject of competencies and competence; Id like to read a little for you:

The terms competency and competence are becoming increasingly used by employers, standards setting bodies and project managers in conversations around the selection or development of project managers. Although it is over 25 years since the twin ideas of competency and competence frameworks first emerged, their adoption within the project management profession for various purposes continues.

Some confusion surrounds the differences between competency (plural competencies) and competence (plural competences). It is important to clarify the generally accepted usage of the terms.

A competency is the set of behaviour patterns that the incumbent needs to bring to a position in order to perform its tasks and functions with competence Woodruffe1

Competency: behaviours to input to a situation. Competence: a system of minimum standards, demonstrated by performance and outputs Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
So competencies could be considered as the underpinning knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviour that an individual needs to acquire to deliver superior performance. Competences, on the other hand, describe what people need to be able to demonstrate to perform the job to a required or specified standard.

That said, even in the HR industry the terms are being used interchangeably its really worth being clear about the distinction though!

Now weve got that little confusion out of the way, todays conference comes with a health warning. Many of you will have attempted the APM Competence Framework assessment that we sent out. We make no apologies for setting you a little homework.

What youll all have done as a result is two things:

Firstly, youll have started thinking about the structure and mindset that having such a framework in place forces. This was the main value of the exercise.

Secondly, youll be very aware that some competencies are just not transferrable between disciplines, and that although we gave you the very best fit we could to the PPSO profession, it will be very clear to you that it was not a great fit.

There is no PPSO-specific competence framework available for you to take off the shelf. We are too young a profession. That doesnt mean that we cant start thinking in that way though.

When you have your PPSO mandate clear, you can start to design the roles to fulfil that mandate. You can then develop or recruit staff that have the right experience and knowledge to deliver against your mandate.
Todays conference has the normal PPSO SIG blend of theory, practice, networking and asking those awkward questions that havent yet got an answer. As ever, the onus is on us to provide you the stimulation, and for you to take it from there. Most important is ensure that you learn from each other.


Richard Anstey of MoD then spoke about Competence, The APM Competence Framework, Competence Profiles

As chair of the Competency and Continuing Professional Development Panel of the APM, Richard was a key contributor to the APM Competence Framework. In this session, Richard will look at what competence is, why theyre being used and what value they can bring for recruitment, assessment and identifying areas for development.

Dean Taylor, Head of the Strategic Programme Office for the Open University then spoke about Project/Programme Office Roles

Dean has taken the APM Competence Framework and developed it for defining specific competency profiles for project managers and the project office team. NB: This explains why programme office/project office/COE individuals need to understand competences as they may be responsible for defining competence profiles.

John Zachar of APM then gavea quick introduction to the work that was undertaken in the breakout session.

Each table were given an envelope which contained:

Job descriptions of the following PMO roles; Head of Project / Programme Management (PPM Profession), Head of Project / Programme Office, Project or Programme Consultant, Programme or Project Administrator / Analyst, (Change) Portfolio Analyst.

The likely skills, behaviours and personal qualities required which covers all the above roles.

Each table was then required to discuss each role and mark down on the marking sheet; What competencies are required for that role? or add a competency if they felt it was missing.

Eileen J Roden of Aikona Management Ltd then provided a summary of the results from the completed assessments and looked at what the results show.

Marked on the assessment summary; high competency levels in methods and procedures & information management and reporting. Disappointing in areas such as issue management, implementation, change control, scheduling and resource management; areas which we would expect the PMO professional to score highly on.

Lindsay Scott of Arras People then provided information on how the industry is using competence as the basis for recruitment and what they key competencies that are being requested.

The conference also included question time both with the audience and the expert panel. You can see some of the questions as they are shared with the PMOSIG Linked In Group.

The slides and outputsfrom the event can be downloaded below.

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