A Proposal of an Integrated Framework for Measuring the Project Manager´s Competency and its Effect on their Performances

11. 22. 2019

This study proposes to develop an integrated conceptual model for measuring the extent to which project managers possess the essential competencies and the effect of their competency (or their team members) on their performances.


The proposal is necessitated by the fact that consistent observations and the literature have shown that there are yawning gaps in both the awareness of effective project management standards and possession and application of project management competencies among practitioners globally, resulting in project failures or abandonments at all conceivable levels. The major concern of this work is to develop a comprehensive appraisal instrument that measures the level of competency, as to evaluate the extent to which the possession or none possession of necessary competencies affects project manager-performances, and hence, project success or failure; the ultimate goal is to bridge any perceivable professional development gaps, by creating awareness on project management standard methodologies, and recommending strategies for competency development among project management practitioners, for enhanced project success.

Wherever the project manager serves, it is important to have basic project management training so that their organization can impact the community. According to the PMI (2000), “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques, to project activities to meet the project requirements.” Hence, the success or failure of any project depends to a large extent, on the development and application of standard project management competencies.

Reasons for Project Failures

Monumental accounts gleaned from both the literature and general observations have shown that project failure is commonplace. Many reasons have been adduced for this ugly experience which affects both developed and developing countries alike. All the causes of failure have been largely found to be rooted in a lack of project-manager competencies, as the literature reveals (Oladejo, Nzekwe, and Emoh, 2015; Metzger, 1993; Metzger, 1993; Gordon Dunbar Follow, 2016; The Standish (Chaos) Reports, 1994-2015; Hulme, 1997; Lim, 2019; etc.).

Reasons for Project Success

Among numerous commentators on the factors leading to project success, is Rockart (1979), who corroborated the need for enhanced competency of the project managers by upholding his Critical Success Factors in Project Management: these factors, as in the work of many other scholars, emphasize the need for developing project management skills. Since project failure is not the direct opposite of project success, there is a need to identify the factors that lead to project failures, for the purpose of addressing, or at least, minimizing them via project manager competency development; on the other hand, there is a need to identify the factors that help project success, with a view to inculcating them into project management developmental programs. In view of the foregoing background, this author has reviewed the body of existing literature (theoretical and empirical) on what constitutes the essential project managers’ competencies, their development, as well as, measuring frameworks, with a view to creating an integrated conceptual model for assessing project managers’ competency (or those of their team members).

The Competences of a Project Manager

According to the Dictionary meaning, competence has been generally defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Merriam Webster defines it as the state of being competent such as the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill, or strength for a particular duty or in a particular respect. The project manager requires a number of competencies to be able to manage a project successfully from definition to closure. Wins (2018) says that since the most challenging part of the project is delegated to a team with specific quality goals to achieve, over a defined timeline, and on a determined budget, a successful and effective project manager is one who can keep project and team on track; the author contends, that this task takes more than just technical or engineering know-how. According to him, “A successful project manager is one that is able to manage a project on time and on budget, by gaining the confidence of all stakeholders and leading a highly motivated team to a successful outcome.” In order to achieve this, the project manager must seek to develop his competencies. Wins (2018) adds that “An innovative training and development program is one of the best ways to help project managers to improve their skills and knowledge.” Along the same line, Hoberecht (2019) writes that “Understanding your knowledge, skills, and performance as a project manager can help you in identifying areas where further development would be beneficial; as well, “recognizing your strengths can suggest topics where your insights can be valuable to others.” Hence, the ideas subsequently presented
as drawn from the literature, will go a long way to provide necessary enlightenment on, and strategies for, the development of the project managers’ competencies.

Theoretical Concepts of the Essential Project Managers’ Competences

The literature recognizes a number of core skills and categories which make up the competencies of a successful project manager. Again, is noteworthy that each literary commentator approaches the list and categories of important skills from their own perspective. Wins (2018), on his part, trimmed down the competencies to seven essential skills, that he says, are most commonly listed by experts, namely, Good Leadership, Effective Communication, Risk Management, Cost Control, and Negotiation Skills, Tech Savvy, and Critical Thinking. Project Times (2019) is virtually in agreement with Wins’ list, but, they included extra 4 skills, namely, Scheduling, Task Management, Quality Management, and a Sense of Humor. These competencies are generally core elements of business management. Hence, to manage a project to successful completion as a team leader, indeed, calls for conceptual, human, and technical leadership skills in general.

The Project Management Competency Assessment Framework proffered by IXL Group (2019) divided the competencies into three key categories, namely, Technical (functional project management elements), Behavioral (personal project management competencies), and Contextual (organizational competence elements). Each competence is rated from two perspectives: knowledge and experience. PBOK competency framework describes the generic competencies needed for most projects, and in most organizations and industries, and thus, provides one of the baselines for assessing Performance Competencies (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing) and Personal Competencies (communicating, leading, managing, cognitive ability, effectiveness, and professionalism) intended to represent the project manager who would generally be accepted as competent. The Association for Project Management Competency Framework (ASMCF) captures these attributes as 47 individual competencies needed for effective project management. These are also divided into three
domains: technical (30); behavioral (9); and contextual (8). Other researchers have categorized the competencies into two groups, namely, hard and soft skills.

According to Takey and Carvaiho (2015), “having only hard skills is not enough to survive in today’s world project management.” Researchers like Hoberech (2019) grouped the competencies into three Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Technical Skills, Self-management Skills, and Performance Indicator Skills; yet, others like Edum-Fortwe and McCaffer, (2000) categorized them into primary and secondary skills. Bill et al. (2006) listed many as soft skills for project managers – the main ones were listed as problem-solving skills, leadership, emotional intelligence, content knowledge, analytical skills, people expertise, communication skills, project administration expertise, and tools experience. Takey and Cavaiho (2015) used the competency of project management to map out competencies in an engineering company. They categorized them into 4 categories, namely, project management processes, personal skills, technical context, and business process. Briere et al. (2015) listed 19 different types of competencies for project management in international NGOs – the important ones included, being risk and opportunity, quality, project organization, scope, deliverables, resource, cost and finance, time and project phases, and procurement. Isik et al. (2009) used 9 competencies based on three different industries, including, stakeholders, schedule, cost, quality, human resources, and risk management. Hashim et al. (2018) aver that the required competencies in the IT sector must cover all aspects needed for a successful project to deal with engineering, coordination, and managerial issues. Hence, the authors observe that though there are many frameworks, they do not cover all competencies. For example, they said that the PMCD focuses on managerial competencies and lacks attention to engineering skills. Both engineering and managerial competencies, the authors say, are very important, and “focusing only on one or the other, does not help project success as many problems might arise.” Which, they concluded that project managers must possess both managerial and engineering competencies in a balanced proportion. This is agreeable depending on the project manager’s field of application. The above scenario shows that there is no consensus as to the number and categorization of project managers’ competencies; yet, there seems to be no disagreement to the effect that the possession of essential competencies is critical for project success; but what constitutes an essential competence seems to depend on a given field. Hence, there seems to be no agreement on the competencies that are considered common to every project, as well as, their measurable categorizations.

However, based on the theoretical opinions conversed by various literature and institutional frameworks, this researcher believes that the generality of all important project managers’ competencies may be summed up under the under-listed 32 broad elements of competencies, comprised of 13 Hard Skills or Knowledge Areas, 13 Soft Skills or Personal Areas, and 6 Performance Skills: The 13 Knowledge Areas: Project Integration Management, Project Scope Management, Project Communications Management, Project Schedule Management, Project Cost Management, Project Quality Management, Project Resource Management, Project Risk Management, Project Procurement Management, Project Management Using Scrum, Managing Projects using Prince2, and Business Process Management; and Possession of Engineering Skills. The 6 Engineering competencies as listed by Hashim et al. (2018) are: Communication Engineering Information, Application of Engineering Knowledge, methods, and techniques, managing engineering activities, using engineering technological tools and equipment, safeguarding public safety, and recognizing the impacts of engineering on the environment, economy, and society – these are to be contextualized according to the particular industry in which a project manager operates.

The 13 Personal Areas are: 1) Leadership Skills; 2) Critical Thinking Skills; 3) Negotiation Skills; 4) Team Management skills; 5) Decision-Making Skills; 6) Meeting Management Skills; 7) Problem-Solving Skills; 8) Emotional Intelligence; 9) Simulation Skill; 10) Relationship Management Skill; 11) Tech Savvy Skill; 12) Change Management Skill, and 13) Professional Development Skill.

The 6 Performance Skills are Project Designing, Project Initiating, Project Planning, Project Execution, Project Monitoring and Controlling, and Project Closing.
Whereas, much has already been documented here from the literature about some of the skills under the project life cycle, let us now take a deeper look at the rest of them under the headings of knowledge, personal, and performance areas.

Conceptual Frameworks for Measuring Project Managers’ Competences

Considering the importance of project managers’ competencies, many questions now arise,
including the following: How can both individuals and organizations measure project managers’ competency and performance? What standards can serve as a benchmark? Which tools are available to assist in this endeavor and how are they applied? The PMI’s Project Manager Competency Development Framework (PMCDF, 2007) has defined the key dimensions of competence and identified the competencies that are most likely to impact project performance. PMCDF has been developed to provide both individuals and organizations with guidance on how to assess, plan, and manage the professional development of a project manager. It also provides the baseline to assess Performance Competencies (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing), as well as, and Personal Competencies (communicating, leading, managing, cognitive ability, effectiveness, and professionalism).

PMCDF is intended to assess the profile of a project manager who would generally be accepted as competent. The application of PMCDF as a universal appraisal instrument depends on a number of factors. According to Cartwright (2008), the degree of the impact of PMCDF “may vary, depending on factors such as project types and characteristics or organizational context and maturity. Although the PMCDF recognizes these factors, the author observes that it does not attempt to address them directly; the implication is that, though the PMCDF has a global application to all projects, the potential differences in the importance of each competence need to be considered in any given organizational context and project type. The Association for Project Management Competency Framework (APMCF) also provides a robust, holistic, and clear set of standards and a comprehensive assessment method for measuring project personnel against the APM’s 47 individual competencies needed for effective project management. These are divided into three domains: technical (30); behavioral (9); and contextual (8). Assessing the project managers’ performances against the full set of competencies, and consideration of project complexity enables the project managers to identify their strengths, as well as, areas requiring further development. It also allows individuals to align their scoring. In spite the foregoing perceived shortfalls of these institutional theoretical measuring frameworks, they have provided a baseline for the development of empirical models for assessing the effect of the possession or none possession of competencies on the project managers’ performances, and hence, the development of the essential skills for project success.

Conceptual Frameworks for Measuring the Effect of Project Managers’ Competency and Performances. A number of empirical data were reviewed on the development of instruments for measuring the effect of project managers’ competence on their performances based on the foregoing institutional baselines. A few of the reports are presented here. Among them is an interesting study done by Liikamaa (2015). He contributed to the empirical studies on recommendable skills of project managers by introducing a self-evaluation method. He used the Cycloid web-based tool to study 750 project managers and students at the project level, to find out personal and social competencies that are relevant to project managers on a scale of never/seldom/often/always. The study evaluated 29 competencies using descriptive linguistic statements related to a project manager’s work. The result invariably listed the following competencies as key to project managers’ performance: leadership, achievement drive, optimism, conflict management, analytical thinking, stress management competency, decision-making skill, initiative, motivation, social skills, self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and cognitive skills. In conclusion, the researcher
recommended that judging from the wishes of the large group of project managers, regarding the competencies that are important for project success, consideration should be given to the listed skills in decision making, recruitment, selection, education, training, rewarding and integrated human resource management. Another work related to relevant competencies was done by Hashim, Yusuf, and Alamen (2018).

The researchers observed that any manager to be employed must possess core competencies that must cover all aspects needed for a successful project to deal with engineering, coordination, and managerial issues. They contended that though there are many frameworks, they do not cover all competencies. Hence, they criticized the PMCD framework for focusing only on managerial competence with no attention given to engineering skills. In view of this, the study tried to integrate two important frameworks which are PMCD and Engineering Canada Frameworks. Their analysis produced the following six-factor groups of 21 competencies as a combination of the two frameworks. Another interesting study conducted by Hashim (2016) investigated the role of the knowledge management approach in improving project managers’ competencies by testing the relationship between Knowledge Management (KM) and Project Managers’ Competences (PMC). The study sample was 227 in 181 companies. The result showed that knowledge management has a positive causal effect on project managers’ competencies. The researcher developed the KM-PMC Model to predict and improve project managers’ competency by using a knowledge and management approach. However, the study was limited to the direct effect of knowledge management on project managers’ competence. Hence, further research, like this current one, is needed to explore the mediator factors that affect relationships within the KM-PMC Model. Hoberecht (2019) seems to have responded to the need for exploring the mediating factors by creating a simple theoretical framework that can be used to evaluate your own project management competency and performance, and then, use the outcome as an input to your plans for professional development.

As in Annex 2, Hoberecht’s (2019) framework structured the project manager’s competency to cover the following 3 levels: knowledge skills (as the independent variable), performance skills (as the dependent variable), and self-management skills as the mediating variable. According to the author, Knowledge Skills include broad knowledge of project management - covering multiple standards, spanning traditional PM and agile. This knowledge, he says, can be generally acquired through study (books, websites, training) and can be demonstrated through any means that validates knowledge (e.g., certification or passing an exam at the completion of coursework). Performance Skills involve applying project management knowledge and skills in all project phases. The author says that this involves appropriately selecting appropriate project management methods, using those methods effectively on the project; and achieving project objectives, demonstrated by the creation and effective use of project management artifacts, the effective use of agile and traditional project management processes, and achieving satisfactory project results. Finally, Self-Management Skills involve actively “managing your daily activities while also taking a longer-term perspective.” According to the author, this means the ability to manage oneself and to have a tremendous impact on ones ‘success in leading project teams. He adds that it involves “adopting strategies and techniques for managing your time effectively, handing email (and other electronic communication), and devoting energy to your own professional development.” Hence, Hoberecht (2019) concludes that competency in this area can be demonstrated by “an appropriate allocation of your time to important and priority activities, a well-managed email inbox, and a record of continuous professional development.”

A Proposal of an Integrated Conceptual Framework for Measuring the Project Managers’ Competency

The foregoing institutional frameworks, combined with the empirical studies built upon them by the likes of Liikamaa (2015), Hashim, Yusuf and Alamen (2018), Hashim (2016) and Hoberecht (2019), etc., have provided interesting models adapted for this current work. Based on the expert opinions drawn from the literature about what constitutes the project manager’s competencies and performance, this author suggests the following 32-item Project Managers’ Competency, Self-Management, and Performance Assessment Scale. PMCSMPAS is related to the PMCD’s Knowledge Areas and Hashim et al. (2018).


Project Manager's hard skills


In view of the importance of the possession and use of essential competencies by the project managers for project success, the numerous questions that have arisen concerning how to measure the extent to which project managers in Nigeria possess and apply the essential competencies can now be answered by researchers through the use of the integrated conceptual measurement model proposed in this seminar. The resultant data will not only go a long way to reveal the need for professional development of the project managers, but also, lead to improved project success. It can also be used to assess the competency of the entire project team members. The use of PMCSMPAS will also contribute to the increased empirical data on project management. It will equally reveal the mediator factors affecting relationships between Knowledge Management and Project Managers’ Performance. Finally, the richness of the related literature on the dynamics of project management, the essential project manager competencies, and the project management methodologies, regulatory frameworks, and practical guidelines, will be of immense benefit towards both the enlightenment and inspiration of project managers who desire professional development. 

Author: Ogechi Ogbonna, LIGS University student. Under the supervision of Dr. Amr Sukkar, Ph.D. MBA.

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