When interested in the question of what exactly is competence, having a look at the OECD definition of competence is of course a must: they describe competence as “personal attributes or underlining characteristics, which combined with technical or professional skills, enable the delivery of a role / job”. http://www.dictionary.com takes another route and defines competence as “the quality of being competent; adequacy; possession of required skill, knowledge, qualification, or capacity.
Independent of any definition – there are many more available – two rudiments seem very important:
- There are elements which need to be at disposal (either attributes, characteristics and skills, being hereditary or acquired)
- There is a context, an aim, a target which drives competence
IPMA took this into account and provides in its new Individual Competence Baseline Version 4.0 (IPMA ICB4®) a definition of individual competence: “the application of knowledge, skills and abilities in order to achieve the desired results.”
- Knowledge is the collection of information and experience that an individual possesses. For example, understanding the concept of a Gantt chart is considered knowledge.
- Skills are specific technical capabilities that enable an individual to perform a task. For example, being able to build a Gantt chart is considered a skill.
- Ability is the effective delivery of knowledge and skills in a given context. For example, being able to devise and successfully manage a project schedule is considered ability.
But although knowledge, skills and abilities are important, they always have to be put into the very specific context – every project, every person, even every minute in a project is different. To better understand this, let’s look at a few examples: a manager might be the most successful one in a directive culture like in Germany, but may dramatically fail in an Asian type of culture. The best PERT-planner may theatrically fail applying his best-handled approach in a basic research environment. The most successful risk manager of a traditional megaproject may dramatically fail in an agile software development project. While on a specific project day the team performance might be excellent, on another day an intervention is urgently required to bring team performance back to normal.
As a consequence, IPMA has significantly enhanced in its IPMA ICB® version 4.0 all competences regarding the context – describes as the “perspective” competence area: Strategy, Governance, structures and processes, Compliance, standards and regulations, Power and interest, and Culture and values. Not taking these elements into account will let the project fail, or at least makes project live very difficult.
Furthermore, a project, programme or yet a portfolio manager has to take all these perspective elements into account to define the best approach for his or her undertaking: described as the “Design” competence. Design describes how the demands, wishes and influences of the organisation(s) are interpreted and weighed by the individual, and translated into a high-level design of the undertaking to ensure the highest probability of success. It includes all thoughts needed to think through and work needed to be executed before jumping into the new challenge.
Derived from this outer context, design drafts how resources, funds, stakeholders’ objectives, benefits and organisational change, risks and opportunities, governance, delivery, and priorities and urgency are all considered in the way the undertaking is set up and laid out in a ‘charcoal sketch’, a blueprint or an overall architecture; and how it should be managed.
Design – one important competence to improve the delivery rate of projects, to enable a world where all projects succeed.