James Rispoli, U. S. Department of Energy

James Rispoli, P.E., Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., USA



JUDGMENT HAS EVERYTHING to do with leadership. Any project manager uses performance data to evaluate and make decisions. However, you can't just analyze data and calculate a good answer; that's not how leaders work. To a large degree, finding the best solution depends on judgment derived from personal experience and competencies. Judgment is an added dimension that is essential to leadership.

Building leaders with good judgment is key for our organization. Because we have large, complex projects, we require project managers with insightful decision-making capabilities. For example, with an annual budget of more than $6.5 billion, our organization works to clean up and restore more than a dozen sites that were contaminated by U.S. Cold War nuclear weapons production and nuclear-related research activities. Our federal and contractor leaders must apply sound judgment to prioritize programs within our portfolio to clean up multiple sites within a finite budget.

Project managers need more than a solid foundation in project management to advance to senior levels. They must not only make good decisions, they must demonstrate their sound judgment to executives. For example, although our project managers might start working within a larger team managing segments of a project, as they gain experience, confidence and skills, they advance through our four levels of certification—which essentially demonstrates their ability to combine knowledge with wisdom to make the right decisions. To attain the highest level of certification as a project manager in the Department of Energy, the practitioner must prove their leadership abilities through their sound choices.

Being a project manager and being a leader are inseparable when you are responsible for very large, complex projects. Because of the nature of the challenges we face, our leaders have to see far more than reports and data; they must draw upon the full extent of their skills and competencies. They must not only exhibit sound judgment, they must exercise their capability to make the best decisions.

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