Understanding Competence

Today, more than ever, everyone is demanding improved results from their project, programme, and porfolio initiatives. And, while many factors contribute to initiative and organisation success, few have as much impact as the competence of the leaders. It is no surprise that many others are suddenly also trying to “Demonstrate the Competence Difference.”

Project and Programme Management Competence is a strategic advantage for organisations that master it.

Those who attempt projects or programmes with only knowledge, and not competence, are walking a dangerous high-wire without a net. This is just one reason why so many others are embracing IPMA’s Performance Competence approach to our discipline.

What is Competence?

Dictionary Definitions sometimes refer us to Competent:

  • Having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose.
  • Having requisite or adequate ability or qualities.
  • Properly qualified
  • The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified; ability.
  • A specific range of skill, knowledge, or ability.
  • A cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable a person (or an organization) to act effectively in a job or situation.
  • Competence indicates sufficiency of knowledge and skills that enable someone to act in a wide variety of situations.

From the ISO/IEC 17024 Standard, General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons:
Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and/or skills and, where relevant, demonstrated personal attributes, as defined in the certification scheme.

The IPMA Competence Baseline, ICB® version 3.0, refines the terms used for certification in project and programme management:

  • Competence is the demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and/or skills, and where relevant, demonstrated personal attributes.
  • The certification scheme contains the specific requirements related to particular categories of people to which the same standards and rules, and the same procedures apply.
  • The certification process encompasses all activities by which a certification body establishes that a person fulfills specified competence requirements.
  • The assessment is the mechanism which determines a candidate’s competence by one or more means such as written, verbal, practical and observational.
  • A qualification demonstrates the personal attributes, education, training and/or work experience of the individual.

Some, who have recently discovered Competence, find it convenient to equate the terms, Knowledge, Skill, and Competence. For those who have difficulty understanding the distinctions, consider the following scenarios; how comfortable would you be in each of them?

  • You board a flight piloted by two “Air Academy” graduates who have never taken off or landed a plane.
  • Your defense lawyer or solicitor just passed the bar, knows all the case law, but has never practiced before a jury.
  • Your heart surgeon intern memorized the manual, passed the exam, but has never used a scalpel.
  • Your most important strategic, complex project is managed by a good person who has passed an exam, but has never managed a project of any size, end-to-end.

Do you “Demonstrate the Competence Difference?”