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Competency Assessments – What and Why?

How do you know the person standing in front of you can do what they say they can?

How do you know that the person you have tasked with managing a complex project in a remote location really has the mission-critical experience and knowledge that you think they do?

This is a topic that is at the cutting edge of companies across all industries. We often see within our clients, where project managers are needed who can stand on their own, manage large projects (often complex), and succeed in remote locations with little recourse to supervision or back-up.

We can also see it in the news where a man forged pilot qualifications to get a job as a commercial airline pilot. Michael Fay faked papers to get a job with Libyan firm Afriqiyah Airways, flying passengers into Gatwick. (Read the story on the BBC News website:

One answer to these questions could be to engage private investigators to delve deep into the lives of potential hires. Not very practical, fast or cost-efficient!

The other way is to engage with 20/20 Business Insight to conduct a Competence Assessment.

Competencies are the important behavioural dimensions which organisations want to assess in order to ensure their people have the right skills and knowledge for the role that they are in. Ultimately, ensuring that project teams, project manager and project directors are “fit for purpose”.

Competency Assessments use a competency framework which is a model that broadly defines the blueprint for excellent performance within an organisation or sector. Generally the framework will consist of a number of competencies, which can be generically applied to a broad number of roles within the organisation. Each of these competencies is then defined in a way that makes them relevant to the organisation, using a language which is clear enough to ensure that everyone has a common understanding of what excellent job behaviour looks like within the generic context. This common understanding then becomes the benchmark against which the performance of an individual, team, project or even entire organisation can be assessed. Competencies are the important behavioural dimensions which organisations want to assess in order to identify and develop their people.

An organisation that neglects to define an expected standard of performance, will be one where judgement of good, bad or excellent will be highly subjective. Without a common understanding of good, bad and excellent, judgement cannot be fair and development priorities are difficult to agree upon. It can also lead to disaster.

The Project Management Competency Assessment uses specific questions and validations covering all of the 47 competence elements needed for effective project management. It also sits across three domains – technical; behavioural; and contextual.

The airline involved in the story above said that following this incident that all flight deck crew had been assessed for competence. Had this airline used a fit for purpose competency framework before this incident came to light? They definitely do now. This supports the crucial need for a competency framework.

Our highly experienced consultancy team at 20/20 can build a Competence Framework which enables them to establish the training paths that individuals need to /or may need to take within your organisation. We have developed an assessment tool which provides a robust, holistic and clear set of standards. It measures professional project management against 47 different competencies that are divided into Technical, Behavioural and contextualised competencies of projects, programmes and portfolios. 20/20 also use a tool which can help verify the experience and competency of potential recruits.( Pre- employment assessments). These Competence Assessments are specifically tailored to the needs, goals and pressures of individual organizations and their particular projects.