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Competency Frameworks and Project Management

What is a Competency Framework?

A competency framework is a model that broadly defines the blueprint for ‘excellent’ performance within an organisation or sector.

Creating a competency framework is an effective method to assess, maintain, and monitor the knowledge, skills, and attributes of people in an organization.

The framework allows an organisation to measure current competency levels to make sure staff members have the necessary knowledge and expertise needed to add value to the business. It also helps managers make informed decisions about talent recruitment, retention, and succession strategies. By identifying the specific behaviours and skills needed for each role, it enables a company to budget and plan for the training and development it really needs.

A well crafted framework can provide a common language which can be used for review, evaluation and development of organisations, projects and individuals. If an organisation fails to define their expected standard of performance, decisions regarding development will prove to be difficult to agree upon.

What are the benefits of a Competence Framework to the organisation?

When applied to the field of project management a competence framework will allow an organisation to:
  • Enable a judgement to be made regarding the project management competence of employees at all levels, assessed against an internationally agreed framework
  • Enables identification of strengths and weaknesses
  • Enables the identification of corporate training and development needs
  • Plan sufficiently for succession
  • Make change management processes work more efficiently

What are the benefits of a Competence Framework to the individual?
  • Ensures a common understanding of the competences required of them
  • Enables an assessment against a framework aligned with an agreed international standard
  • Helps the identification of areas for development
  • Judges the readiness for attainment of professional qualifications

Competency Framework Design and Development

Developing a competency framework takes considerable time and effort. To ensure the framework is actually used as it is needed, it’s imperative to make it relevant to those who will be using it – so that they take ownership of it.

When designing the framework it is crucial to:

Involve the all the people actually doing the work – each role within the project must be fully identified and understood.

Communicate – quite often people see developing a framework as a threat. It can make them feel nervous about performance issues  However, if it is clearly communicated in advance, how the framework will be created and how it will be used, then implementation will be much easier.

Use relevant competencies – the competencies included must be relevant to all roles covered by the framework. The framework has to be tailored to suit the organisation and its activities. Tools from the APM or PMI can be applied to the organisations competency framework or it can be completely bespoke.

Developing a Competency framework comprises of four main steps:
  1. Preparation – The purpose of the framework needs to be fully defined and then a team has to be put together for those who will use it.
  2. Collect Information – this is the main part of the framework – the better the data collected, the more accurate the framework will be. Many techniques can be used to collect information about the roles, and work involved in each one. These can include: Observing, Interviewing people, using competency questionnaires,(click here for a snapshot of questions asked in a competency questionnaire) analysing the work (which behaviours are used to perform the jobs covered by the framework – job descriptions, business plans, organisational principles etc)
  3. Build the Framework – this stage involves breaking down all of the behaviours and skill sets into competencies.
  4. Implement – Communication is the key here – it should be made clear why the competency framework has been developed and how it should be used.

The process of creating a competency framework within any organisation is long and complex. We have only really covered the basic principles here. Click here for further details about our consulting services.