Role of Competencies in Project Management

Perpetuum Mobile
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The role of competencies of project managers in complex projects comes out as vital ability to conduct work successfully.

In a world where complex projects require comprehensive structure and team development, the role of competencies of project managers come out as vital ability to conduct work successfully and efficiently. It may be assumed that competences come from experience based on foundations of knowledge. Is it really so?

We may observe three areas of competencies that together create the whole, balanced individual (IPMA, 2018, p. 26):

  • Perspective – personal and interpersonal competencies required to successfully participate in or lead a project;
  • People – have specific methods, tools, and techniques used in projects to realize their success;
  • Practice – methods, tools, and techniques through which individuals interact with the environment, as well as the rationale that leads people, organizations and societies to start and support projects.

These areas can be developed through many different approaches of which the following are emphasized (IPMA, 2018, p. 20):

  • Self-Development – writing articles, going on case studies, reading books, exploring standards, etc.;
  • Peer-Development – team retrospectives, feedback analysis, collaborating with other PM’s on projects, etc.;
  • Education and Training – seminars, lectures, e-learning, conferences, etc.;
  • Coaching and Mentoring – getting feedback, structuring thoughts, advising, oversight, etc.;
  • Simulation and Gaming – case-based simulations, interactions, and behaviors of individuals in specific scenarios, etc.

Mentioned areas of competencies are divided into 29 elements (IPMA, 2018, pp. 28-30):

  • Perspective Competencies include a strategy that defines clear goals and objectives, governance, structures and processes that create formal context, compliance, standards and regulations that contain relevant perspectives and drivers, power and interest of people within an organization, and culture and values that are mostly informal and implicit.
  • People Competencies include self-explanatory areas like self-reflection and self-management, personal integrity and reliability, personal communication, relationships and engagement, leadership, teamwork, conflict and crisis, resourcefulness, negotiation, results, orientation.
  • Practice Competencies include design that defines the high-level choices, goals, objectives and benefits that include various demands and expectations as well as prioritization, scope that describes specific boundaries, time that focuses on order and planning of the delivery, organization and information that deals with the organization and its internal information and communication flows, quality that describes the demands and organization of both process and product quality and its controls, finance that includes money, resources that includes human and other types, procurement that includes acquiring of resources, plan and control as integration and control of all activities, risk and opportunity that is identified, prioritized and have mitigation techniques, stakeholders that are assessed and engaged, change and transformation that reflect changes in the organization necessary for realizing the benefits, and select and balance that describes selecting and balancing components of programs and portfolios.

All the mentioned competencies are vital for the successful realization of projects. They represent an excerpt of a comprehensive inventory of competencies defined by the International Project Management Association and their IPMA Individual Competence Baseline. The proposed generic model is applicable to all sectors and industries and the Association confirms the knowledge of these through international certification procedures, which establish project managers as professionals across the world. The certification has different levels that confirm an individual’s knowledge and experience (Table 1: IPMA 4-L-C Certification Structure (Algebra, 2019)).

To obtain any of the above-mentioned certifications, an individual has to show knowledge of the competencies as described by the IPMA International Competence Baseline and to consistently apply those, taking responsibility in a leading role in a professional manner taking into account related to the clients to manage their projects in a predictable, professional way.

I have personally pursued the IPMA Level D certification five years ago and it helped me greatly in my professional career. Recently, I decided to take a step further and obtained Level C certification. An IPMA Level C certification required me to prove my experience in a project management role in a complex project environment within an organization. It required proof that within the last six years I had a minimum of three years of experience as a project manager. With a passing requirement of 80% on a theoretical written exam, I am proud to pass with around 90% and to confirm the competencies, knowledge, and experience in the field.


Algebra. (29. April 2019). Algebra:
IPMA. (2018). Individual Competence Baseline. International Project Management Association.