Project management competency development framework--second edition


The Project Manager Competency Development (PMCD) Framework – Second Edition provides a framework for the definition, assessment and development of project manager competence based on the premise that competencies have a direct effect on performance. It defines the key dimensions of competence and identifies the competencies that are most likely to impact project manager performance. The degree of this impact on project success may vary, depending on factors such as project types and characteristics, or organizational context and maturity. Although the PMCD Framework recognizes these factors, at this point in the development of the standard, it does not attempt to address them directly. While the competencies identified by the PMCD Framework have a broad application, the potential differences in the importance of particular competencies, given certain organizational contexts or project types or characteristics, still need to be considered during the application of the PMCD Framework.

The PMCD Framework provides an overall view of the skills and behaviors one would need to develop competence as a project manager.

Purpose of the PMCD Framework

The PMCD Framework is sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was first released in 2002. It was developed to provide both individuals and organizations with guidance on how to assess, plan and manage the professional development of a Project Manager.

The primary purpose of the PMCD Framework is to provide a guide for the assessment of Project Manager Competence. It is aimed at a Project Manager who:

  • has the necessary practical project management knowledge, skills and experience represented in the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Examination Specification requirements and PMP®Role Delineation Study.
  • has demonstrated knowledge competence by recently passing a suitable exam (PMP® or equivalent)
  • is able to provide evidence of Performance and Personal competencies identified in the Framework
  • is a Project Manager with 3-4 years of experience managing medium-sized or larger projects, and who may be under the guidance and direction of a Program or Portfolio Manager, or Senior Project Manager.

Alignment of the PMCD Framework with PMI Standards

The PMCD Framework draws on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Third Edition as well as the PMP® Examination Specification and the PMP® Role Delineation Study. Although the PMCD Framework is aligned with these sources, it has its own perspective in that it has neither a purely knowledge area or process group focus.

The alignment of the PMCD Framework- Second Edition with other key publications is depicted in Exhibit 1. Detail on the integration points is found in Exhibit 2.

Alignment of PMCD Framework with PMI Standards

Exhibit 1 Alignment of PMCD Framework with PMI Standards

Alignment of PMCD Framework with PMI Standards

Exhibit 2 Alignment of PMCD Framework with PMI Standards

Target Audience

This framework serves as a reference for project managers and organizations to establish and develop project management competence. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Project managers
  • Managers of project managers
  • Members of a project management office
  • Managers responsible for establishing and developing project manager competence
  • Educators teaching project management and other related subjects
  • Trainers developing project management educational programs
  • Project and program management industry consultants
  • Human Resource personnel, organizations and teams
  • Senior Management

It may also serve as a guide to less experienced project managers to indicate the competencies to which they should aspire.

What Is Competence?

Competence “…. having requisite or adequate ability or qualities…” (Webster)

Competence can be defined as a cluster of related knowledge, attitude, skills, and other personal characteristics that affect a major part of one's job, correlates with performance on the job, can be measured against well-accepted standards, and can be improved via training and development.

Major components of competencies include:

•    Abilities

•    Attitudes

•    Behavior

•    Knowledge

•    Personality

•    Skills

When applied to project management, competence is the ability to perform activities within a project environment to expected and recognized standards. Competence can be described as consisting of three separate dimensions:

•    Project Management Knowledge Competence - what the project manager knows about project management

•    Project Management Performance Competence - what the project manager is able to do or accomplish while applying their project management knowledge

•    Personal Competency - how the project manager behaves when performing the project or activity; their attitudes and core personality characteristics

To be recognized as fully competent, an individual would need to be successfully evaluated against each of these dimensions. It would be impossible for project managers to be judged competent if they did not possess the expected combination of knowledge, performance, and personal competence.

Exhibit 3, Dimensions of Competency, identifies how the three dimensions of knowledge, performance and personal competence are necessary in order for the project manager to accomplish the level of desired organizational project performance.

Dimensions of Competence

Exhibit 3 Dimensions of Competence

Competencies Addressed by the PMCD Framework

The three dimensions of competence – Knowledge, Performance and Personal – are demonstrated in different ways:

  • Knowledge competence can be demonstrated by passing an appropriately credentialed examination.
  • Performance competence can be demonstrated by the successful delivery of projects.
  • Personal competence can be demonstrated by the project manager's behavior when delivering successful projects.

PMI's PMP® examination is developed with global processes, and is aligned to international standards such as ISO 17024 (Conformity Assessment – General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons) and Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (published by the American Educational Research association, 1999). The PMP® examination is based on fundamental research, uses rigorous processes and is regularly updated. It is, therefore, an appropriately credentialed examination that can be used to measure knowledge competence. The PMP® Examination Specification details the knowledge competencies that will be required to pass the PMP® examination. For this reason, knowledge competencies have not been repeated within the PMCD Framework. The PMCD Framework only defines the performance and personal competencies.

Project Manager Competence and Project Success

It is important to note that a “competent” project manager alone does not guarantee project success. A project manager may successfully balance the competing demands of scope, time, cost, quality, resources and risk, but the project success may be influenced by organization's project management maturity and capability. It is just as possible to have a “competent” project manager working within an organization in the early stages of maturing its practices resulting in an unsuccessful project, as it is to have an unsuccessful project resulting from a project manager who is not “competent” working within a mature organization.

This concept is illustrated in the Figure 1.3, Project Management Competence and Project Success. It shows how project manager competence and organizational maturity are required to consistently obtain project success, and how both of these can be influenced by various contingency or moderating variables. The project performance figure and (in the next paragraph) and project success (in the subsequent paragraph) are based on work performed by PMI Standards Program teams for the PMCD Framework and the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®).

The Components of Project Success illustration shows how the project manager competency provides the basis for overall project performance. Project performance is defined as the extent to which the project is carried out as planned in terms of objectives, time and financial constraints, and organizational policy and procedures. This definition emphasizes the process of how the project was carried out. It is the project manager's role to lead the project through these processes.

Project Management Competence and Project Success

Project Management Competence and Project Success

Exhibit 4 Project Management Competence and Project Success

Project performance is shown as having a major impact upon overall project success. After all, if the project does not follow the specified plans or processes, it will be difficult to obtain project success. Project success can be measured by comparing the project's stated objectives to what the project achieved. Furthermore, project success can be perceived in a number of ways depending upon the perspective of the various stakeholders, including clients or customers, the project manager, the project team, the project sponsor, or the performing organization. It is the collective agreement of these stakeholders, regarding the degree to which the project met its objectives, that truly defines whether the project is viewed as a success.

As the PMCD Framework clearly shows, even when there is a competent project manager leading the efforts toward strong project performance, the influences of the performing organization, as well as project types and characteristics, can affect overall project success. Thus, project manager competence by itself cannot guarantee project success.

It is not the intent of the PMCD Framework to address these other project success factors. Rather, it looks solely at the competencies needed to help the project manager be successful in their role. Performing organizations will always need to evaluate the “right” combination of competencies required of their project managers.

Specific Application Competence

As the PMCD Framework is based upon the principles and processes of the PMBOK® Guide- Third Edition, it describes the generic competencies needed in most projects, in most organizations, and in most industries. There are, however, a number of areas that the PMCD Framework does not address. In some industries there may be technical skills that are particularly relevant to that industry or may be covered by specific domain, regulatory or legal requirements.

For example, an organization primarily involved in conducting information technology projects may require that its' project managers possess a specified level of information technology competency, as well as competence in project management. The PMCD Framework does not address application-specific competence. The intent of the PMCD Framework is to provide the generic foundations for project manager competence. Individual project managers, or their organizations, may choose to supplement these generic competencies with additional application-specific competencies to meet their specific needs.

Design of the PMCD Framework

The PMCD Framework defines the categories of Performance competence and Personal competence. The intent is to ensure those individuals, their organizations, and associated industry professional bodies apply an appropriate methodology for the development, assessment, and recognition of competence in individual project managers.

The PMCD Framework has been designed to:

  • Be simple to understand and straightforward to use.
  • Cover the range of competencies a project manager requires for successful performance.
  • Apply generically to all project managers regardless of the nature, type, size, or complexity of projects in which they are engaged. The generic nature of the PMCD Framework is necessary to ensure that:
    • Project management competence in individuals is transferable across industry.
    • Industry and organizations are able to utilize the PMCD Framework as a basis for the development of more industry--- and organization-specific competency models.

The PMCD Framework reflects:

  • Input from organizations and industry on an international basis.
  • The framework developed for the PMBOK® Guide
  • PMP® Examination Specification and PMP® Role Delineation Study.

Structure of the PMCD Framework

The PMCD Framework structure represents a typical competency standard. It identifies:

  • Units of Competence. Each Unit of Competence in this Chapter of the PMCD Framework corresponds to one of the five Project Management Process Groups of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing.
  • Elements of Competence. Each Unit of Competence consists of a number of Elements which reflect the activities in which project managers are expected to be experienced.
  • Performance Criteria. Each Element is described by Performance Criteria, which specify the outcomes to be achieved in order to demonstrate competent performance.
  • Types of Evidence are associated with each of the Performance Criteria. These form the basis upon which competence can be self-assessed.

Exhibit 5 depicts a sample of the Project Management Performance Competencies and illustrates the alignment with the typical competency standard structure. Exhibit 6 is a similar sample for Project Management Personal Competencies.


Example of Performance Competence

The following PMCD Framework graphical overview illustrates how the different components and dimensions build on each other to develop the overall project manager competency.

PMCD Framework Graphical overview

Exhibit 7 PMCD Framework Graphical overview

Using the PMCD Framework

Before applying the PMCD Framework in the workplace--either as a practitioner, an employer, or an adviser--the PMCD Framework should be read and understood. It is important to become comfortable with the content of the PMCD Framework and what it indicates in regard to project manager competency. The PMCD Framework provides a summary of the competencies supporting project manager success.

The PMCD Framework defines the project manager role through a matrix identifying the performance criteria relative to each process group. Understanding the project manager's current capability is essential to establishing a competence baseline. Measuring performance against a competence baseline will identify the project manager's areas of strength and development needs. An additional dimension for personal competence looks at the project manager behavior relative to overall competence in managing projects. The goal is to meet or exceed the baseline competency defined by the PMCD Framework.

For an employer, the PMCD Framework provides a multi-dimensional “framework” of the skills and behavior required by project managers in order to fulfill their role within the organization. The PMCD Framework can be used to identify the existing skills of the work force, as well as any gaps that may exist that may require additional training or education. There maybe project type, industry or technology specific project manager requirements that an organization needs to include. The framework can be used to determine the competence of individuals who manage projects within the organization.

For a project manager practitioner, the PMCD Framework assists in establishing the project manager's own level of competence (identifying the areas in which they are already competent, and have evidence to prove it) and those where further development or experience is needed.

For an advisor to an organization, the PMCD Framework provides a powerful tool to help scan and analyze the existing skills within the organization and to discover any gaps that may need to be addressed.

Tailoring the PMCD Framework

The units and elements of the PMCD Framework are intended to represent the ideal project manager. It has been designed to be generally acceptable, applying to most projects most of the time.

Organizations must use their own discretion when customizing the relevant elements of the PMCD Framework to apply to their way of doing business. In other words, the PMCD Framework should be tailored to represent the organization's view of a project manager. An organization may choose to tailor the PMCD Framework to not only select the competencies relevant to their line of business or organization, they may also choose to specify the relative importance of different competencies or the required level of mastery for each competency.

Organizations must realize that the PMCD Framework is based on a project manager being competent to lead most projects, most of the time. The more an organization deviates from the PMCD Framework by scaling back its model, by deselecting elements and the respective performance criteria, or diminishing the relative importance of various criteria contained in the PMCD Framework, the more the organization risks the project manager's competency to practice in other industries and environments. To maximize transportability between industries and environments, an organization is strongly encouraged to keep as much as is feasible of the PMCD Framework intact within its business environment.

Developing Competence as a Project Manager

The recommended process for developing project management competence, shown below, is typically iterative.

Competence Development Process

Exhibit 8 Competence Development Process

In Step 1 the competence of the project manager is assessed using the PMCD Framework as the baseline competencies required. The PMCD Framework is designed to apply generically to all project managers, regardless of the project's nature, type, size or complexity. The purpose of Step 1 is to identify a project manager's areas of strength and where further competence development is needed.

Measurement is conducted at the performance criteria level and can be rolled-up to give an assessment at the element and competence unit levels. Evidence needs to be collected to determine, through a comparison with the PMCD Framework, whether the performance criteria have been reached.

Strengths are identified and noted where performance is seen to meet or exceed the PMCD Framework criteria. Development needs, where performance results do not meet the PMCD Framework criteria, should also be recognized and noted. The results of the assessment are recorded in an Assessment Log.

In Step 2, a Competence Development Plan is prepared in light of this assessment and prescribes activities to be undertaken by the project manager providing the opportunities necessary to achieve the learning required. In Step 3, activities are conducted as was planned in step 2. These activities will need to take into account both the priorities and needs of the organization and those of the project(s) underway. These activities will need to be monitored and tracked against the Competence Development Plan.

This process allows development activities and the methods of assessment to be adapted to suit local training or performance assessment requirements. The entry and exit points of this process will depend on the objectives of the project manager or project organization and can be arranged to align with appropriate local professional project management seniority levels.

Such a range of audiences requires flexibility in the use of this framework. At the same time, each audience will apply an appropriate level of rigor, to assure validity and usefulness of the results. As shown above and its explanation below, the thoroughness of assessment can range from a simple self-assessment to comprehensive professional assessment, which includes collection and evaluation of evidence, followed up with development plans and achievement details that an Enterprise can store in its Learning Management System.

Step 1: Assess Performance

In this first Step of the competence development process, a more senior professional will act as assessor of the project manager and they will decide how they are to assess the project manager's performance, against the criteria prescribed in the PMCD Framework. The project manager will gather evidence to be used in the assessment against the PMCD Framework performance criteria. The organization may also prescribe the qualitative, quantitative and interpretive methods to be used and how evidence is be collected and assessed.

The purpose is to meet or exceed the baseline competence defined by the PMCD Framework. The assessment levels themselves can be defined simply. Levels of performance could, for example, be expressed as:

Below Expectation; Meets Expectation; Exceeds Expectation.

Wherever there is a shortfall, it is necessary to describe this and to define the learning needed. If at any time during the assessment process there appears to be a gap in competence that is putting the project currently being managed at risk, the assessor will need to immediately initiate actions to address the gap.

Upon completion of the assessment, a plan can be created to guide the individual and organization toward their desired goals. Organizations may want to strive to address the key areas that will provide them with maximum improvement benefits, rather than attempting to focus on all of the possible issues at once.


“An outward sign, something that furnishes proof” (Webster 2006)

The project manager provides the evidence for assessment against the performance criteria. This evidence may be gathered over a period of time preceding the assessment and may be authored by:

  • The project manager
  • Project management peers
  • Project stakeholders, including customers, functional managers and project team members
  • Other senior managers

Self Assessment

The purpose of a self assessment would be to establish where the individual stands against the competence baseline of the PMCD Framework. A project manager may wish to assess their competence as a personal exercise or prior to an assessment by a third party. The individual may apply the process less formally and the collection of evidence may be done over an extended period.

The individual will compare their performance against the individual performance criteria. The assessment may lead to a request for assistance to address a development need or an organizational assessment.

Assessment at an organizational level

If the assessment process is being applied to an entire organization, the method of evaluation may be quite formal. The assessor may be the individual's manager, a senior peer or an external assessor/consultant. In many organizations a third party is involved to provide a consistent approach across the organization and may be from a human resources or training division.

Step 2: Prepare Competence Development Plan

Once the assessment has been completed, a competence development plan should be developed. It is important for the plan to use the information that has been gathered in Step 1 to build on the strengths and to address the development needs of the individual project manager.

The results of the assessment should be addressed in a timely manner, as there may be items identified by the assessment which would warrant immediate corrective action. Furthermore, the plan should be prioritized to address areas which are most critical to the individual and organization. Once the areas have been prioritized, a realistic timeline for the plan needs to be established.

By focusing on the high priority items which are indicated as requiring additional training, a more effective plan can be implemented. Just as the Work Breakdown Structure is an effective means of decomposing a large project into more manageable deliverables, the competence assessment helps to segregate the elements.

Step 3: Implement Project Manager Competence Development Plan
Completion of the planned activities

The project manager owns the Plan and is accountable for delivering the outcomes. The project manager needs to execute the plan just as a project manager would execute a project plan.

Monitoring Progress

While an organization may be involved in the development and support of a project manager's competence development plan, it remains the responsibility of the individual to ensure the plan put in place is followed and the benefits are realized. The outcomes of the plan will allow the individual to improve their performance and reap the benefits in their career.

The plan should include activities to address developmental areas and ways to leverage strengths and should include actual activities, timing, costs and metrics. The metrics will allow the improvement to be objectively measured. Collection of the metrics is one way of showing progress against the plan. While ownership of the plan remains with the individual, most plans will have a sponsor within the organization. This may be the direct manager or a senior mentor. Proactively including the manager/sponsor/mentor in the monitoring of the plan provides an opportunity to ensure the career development is given their support.

2007, Chris Cartwright/Michael Yinger
Originally Published as a part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Budapest



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