Project Management

Standards Make a Competent Project Manager

When you establish standards, you set in concrete terms what must be known or done in order to achieve competency in some area. A project manager who is “up to standard” is thus a competent and valued asset. In a post for the Association for Project Management, Andrew Watson discusses how to define standards for project managers.

Setting the Bar

As Watson sees it, a standard must do the following:

  • Describe the correct, accepted way of carrying out a job role
  • Define the job role’s required skills
  • Indicate the acceptable behavior required, pertinent to the risks of the job
  • Define the underpinning knowledge related to the job role

There is considerable difference between a standard that aims for competency versus aims for qualification. Qualification just means a person has jumped through all the right hoops to be allowed to do a job. Competency means a person has become fully equipped to do a job. Following a standard does not create competency all by itself though; competency comes from applying one’s own knowledge, experience, and attitude to the standard set.

Watson provides an example of how this description of standards can be applied to project management:

Skills: The ability to interpret information, diagnose potential problems, apply corrective action (in line with employer and legal requirements and in consultation) and follow procedures.

Underpinning knowledge: Understanding the impact of underperformance.

Behaviours: Attitudes to safety, leadership, management, communication, teamwork, achievement of goals and achievement of standards.

If some such program does not already exist, your organization might benefit from establishing its own standards for project management, perhaps one that fundamentally aligns with organizational values. Think it over if this degree of formality will enhance your managers’ abilities.

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