The Progression Towards Project Management Competence

The Progression Towards Project Management Competence

Gregory J. Skulmoski (Zayed University, UAE) and Francis T. Hartman (University of Calgary, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-400-2.ch003
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The purpose of this research was to investigate the soft competencies by project phase that IT project managers, hybrid and technical team members require for project success. The authors conducted qualitative interviews to collect data from a sample of 22 IT project managers and business leaders located in Calgary, Canada. They identified the key competencies for the three types of job roles. The research participants offered their opinions of what are the most important competencies from the following competence categories: Personal Attributes (e.g. eye for details), Communication (e.g. effective questioning), Leadership (e.g. create an effective project environment), Negotiations (e.g. consensus building), Professionalism (e.g. life long learning), Social Skills (e.g. charisma) and Project Management Competencies (e.g. manage expectations). The authors discuss the progression of competence through these job roles. They identified and discuss the interplay between a change in job role and the required competencies necessary for IT project success from a neuro-science perspective.
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Project management is a relatively new discipline where its practitioners and researchers are increasingly interested in project manager competency (Leybourne, 2007; Loo, 2002; Morris, Jones, & Wearne, 1998). However, we also need to be concerned with the competence of other members of the project team because they are important contributors to project success (Artto, 2000). Understanding competency is important: “Today’s focus on competence is driven largely by economics: the fact is it pays to be competent” (Frame, 1999 p. 23). There is a positive relationship between project management competence and project management effectiveness (Crawford, 2005), as well as between project management competence and project success (J. Jiang, Klein, & Balloun, 1996; Lechler, 1998; Pinto & Kharbanda, 1995). Crawford (2001) links project management competence, project performance and organizational performance. Thus, we have a strong case for understanding and improving project management competencies of those who are involved in project work. This is especially important in the information technology and information systems fields where repeatable project success can be elusive (Anonymous, 2004).

Before delving too deeply into this research, we need to define competence. Competence is a widely used but problematic term; it means many different things to different people (Crawford, 1998a). Competence has also been used as an umbrella term covering almost everything that might affect performance (Bassellier, Reich, & Benbasat, 2001). There are no generally agreed upon definitions or theories of competence (Seppanen, 2002). Competency definitions are often poor and contradictory (Robertson, Gibbons, Baron, MacIver, & Nyfield, 1999), and too restrictive (Rolstadas, 2000). Indeed, definitions of competence change from one place or time to another (Sandford, 1988). It is problematic to define competency and competencies because these terms reflect both an individual’s perception and that of the organization’s culture (Holman & Hall, 1996). Frame (1999) suggests that socially rooted competencies – soft or personal competencies – are very subjective, more difficult to deal with than hard skills, and are more likely to lead to project failure if they are deficient. Some have even cautioned against defining competence because it may unacceptably narrow down the complex realities of managerial behavior (Robotham & Jubb, 1996). Some have argued that definitions should allow some ambiguity and reflect personal definitions (Holman & Hall, 1996). Indeed, some believe that the focus of human resource practice will increasing rely on less precise definitions of competency (Athey & Orth, 1999).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Open Communication: Is different from effective communication. Effective communication occurs when the receiver understands the message as intended by the sender. Open communication occurs when the sender and receiver share all the necessary information for both of them to complete their assigned tasks. There are no hidden agenda or misrepresentation of information. Open communication is facilitated by effective communication. However, open communication does not mean everything is communicated; sensitive or private information need not be shared. Researchers are increasingly recognizing the importance of open communication to IT project success.

Threshold Competencies: Threshold competencies include basic knowledge, skills, traits, motives, self-image and social role and are essential for performing a job. Without these, some areas of performance will be substandard. To move beyond minimal performance, additional competencies are required.

Competence: Is performance-based and includes knowledge, skills, traits, motives, self-image and social role that can be improved with experience and/or training. Knowledge is the understanding of some concept (e.g. to comprehend that IT projects face risks requiring risk management techniques). A skill is the ability to complete a task (e.g. determine the critical path through a logic network). A trait is a characteristic way in which a person responds to a set of stimuli [8]. People who believe they have control over their future have the efficacy trait. In projects, when these people encounter a problem, they take the initiative to discover solutions. They do not wait for someone else to fix the problem or expect luck to take care of it. Motives drive people’s behavior [8]. For example, people who are motivated to improve or compete against a standard have the achievement motive. When people with a high achievement motive are given measurable objectives in the project setting, they are more likely to work to achieve the objectives. Self-image refers to a person’s perception of himself or herself. A positive self-image of one’s capability will likely help a person work on a novel project even though the person has not previously performed the assigned tasks. Finally, social role is a person’s perception of the social norms and behaviors that are acceptable to the group or organizations to which he or she belongs. Professionalism, punctuality for meetings, and preparedness are all behaviors that may be important norms of a particular project team. Competence is performance-based because one needs to use a combination of knowledge, skills, traits, motives, self-image and social role to achieve the desired result. One is not considered competent if they have the necessary knowledge, skills, traits, motives, self-image and social role but do not use them.

Hybrid Role: Is performed by someone who is responsible for both technical and managerial tasks. This person may have started from a technical role (e.g. hardware technician) but with time, the person was given some management responsibilities (e.g. supervise junior hardware technicians during a hardware upgrade project.) Others have only a managerial focus with minimal or no technical responsibilities (e.g. project accountant).

Soft Skills: These comprise personal qualities such as traits, motives, self-image and social role that lie behind performance. Creativity and sensitivity are examples of soft skill competencies. Soft skills are recognized as being critical to professional and project success.

Hard Skills: Is the ability to successfully complete a technical task (e.g. calculate the load capacity of a network, construct a work breakdown structure or configure a firewall). Initially, the IT discipline was focused on identifying and understanding hard skills. However, the IT community discovered through research and practical experience that soft skills were just as important to achieve IT project success.

Neuro-Science: Is the study of the nervous system. It has become a multidisciplinary field of research that has attracted researchers from biology, computer science, statistics, pharmacology, physics and now, project management. A principle focus in behavioral neuro-science is to understand the relationship between brain activity and thought, emotion and behavior.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Robert K. Hiltbrand
Terry T. Kidd
Terry T. Kidd
Chapter 1
James W. Price Jr., Pamila Dembla
As exploratory research, the chapter’s aim is to assess if Sun-Tzu’s application of Taoist principles are applicable to the problem domain of... Sample PDF
The Tao To Understanding Enterprise It Project Complexity: Sun-Tzu's Five Factors Revisited
Chapter 2
A. J. Gilbert Silvius
This chapter describes a study into the expected development of the competences of the project manager in the year 2027. The study was performed... Sample PDF
Project Management 2027: The Future of Project Management
Chapter 3
Gregory J. Skulmoski, Francis T. Hartman
The purpose of this research was to investigate the soft competencies by project phase that IT project managers, hybrid and technical team members... Sample PDF
The Progression Towards Project Management Competence
Chapter 4
Ralf Müller
This chapter addresses project managers’ leadership styles, mainly from the perspective of technology projects. It starts by defining and outlining... Sample PDF
Leadership in Technology Project Management
Chapter 5
Melanie S. Karas, Mahesh S. Raisinghani, Kerry S. Webb
A project manager’s role on any project goes far beyond task-related deliverables. Although the project manager must be able to effectively manage... Sample PDF
The Importance of Leadership in Project Management
Chapter 6
Jaby Mohammed
This chapter introduces the concept of technology management by objectives. Technology is one of the fastest moving elements in the 21st Century... Sample PDF
Technology Management by Objectives (TMO)
Chapter 7
Gary Pan
The goal of any product is to be used. In a very real sense, people judge the success or failure of any product by the extent to which it is used by... Sample PDF
Examining Stakeholders' Roles in Influencing IT Project Cancellation Decisions
Chapter 8
Daniel W. Surry
This chapter will discuss more than 20 system development life cycles (SDLC) found in the Information Technology project management arena, whereby... Sample PDF
Bringing the User into the Project Development Process
Chapter 9
Evon M. O. Abu-Taieh, Asim A. El Sheikh, Jeihan M. Abu-Tayeh, Maha T. El-Mahied
This chapter uses the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) theory and examines a business case, highlighting certain gaps in the theory. First, confusion... Sample PDF
Information Technology Projects System Development Life Cycles: Comparative Study
Chapter 10
Francisco Chia Cua, Tony C. Garrett
This chapter introduces the Firm-Level Value Creation Model as a means of planning Information Systems projects based on their potential for... Sample PDF
Analyzing Diffusion and Value Creation Dimensions of a Business Case of Replacing Enterprise Systems
Chapter 11
Otavio Prospero Sanchez, Alberto Luiz Albertin
In this chapter the authors investigate the management of service innovation projects; can ICT based service innovation be facilitated by... Sample PDF
IT Project Planning based on Business Value Generation
Chapter 12
Bendik Bygstad, Gjermund Lanestedt
This chapter provides a framework for technology project implementation in systems where the human is an integral element of the completed project.... Sample PDF
Managing ICT Based Service Innovation
Chapter 13
Katy E. Ellis
Project management is a carefully planned, organized effort to manage the resources in order to successfully accomplish specific project goals and... Sample PDF
Employee Preparation, Participation, and Performance
Chapter 14
Jaby Mohammed, Ali Alavizadeh
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Quality Assurance in Project Management
Chapter 15
Sohail Anwar
Project management is a carefully planned, organized effort to manage the resources in order to successfully accomplish specific project goals and... Sample PDF
Quality Management and Control
Chapter 16
Dawn M. Owens, Deepak Khazanchi
Successful implementation of IT (information technology) projects is a critical strategic and competitive necessity for firms in all industrial... Sample PDF
Software Quality Assurance
Chapter 17
Fayez Ahmad Albadri
An overwhelming number of Information Technology (IT) projects experience persistent problems and failures. This chapter reflects on some of the... Sample PDF
IPRM: The Integrated Project Risk Model
Chapter 18
Technical Risk Management  (pages 283-294)
Pete Hylton
In today’s highly competitive industrial environment, many high-tech businesses are using Technical Risk Management (TRM) in their engineering... Sample PDF
Technical Risk Management
Chapter 19
Lauren Fancher
IT projects across all sectors are relying on more iterative methodologies that can employ early and frequent assessment and evaluation processes in... Sample PDF
Early, Often, and Repeat: Assessment and Evaluation Methodology for Ensuring Stakeholder Satisfaction with Information Technology Projects
Chapter 20
Chad J. Cray
Considering the high failure rate of information technology (IT) projects over the last 40 years, project managers should use all the tools at their... Sample PDF
A Needle in a Haystack: Choosing the Right Development Methodology for IT Projects
Chapter 21
Mysore Narayanan
In this chapter, the author describes how one can implement and incorporate creative techniques to design, develop, document and disseminate a... Sample PDF
Project Management Assessment Methods
Chapter 22
Mario Vanhoucke
It is well-known that well managed and controlled projects are more likely to be delivered on time and within budget. The construction of a... Sample PDF
Static and Dynamic Determinants of Earned Value Based Time Forecast Accuracy
Chapter 23
Michele De Lorenzi
This chapter presents a technology exploration process designed to support service innovation for information and communication technologies in a... Sample PDF
Technology Exploration Process: From Technology to New Services
Chapter 24
Henryk R. Marcinkiewicz
Three models structure the planning for technology integration into instruction. Institutional needs are assessed for three dimensions suggested in... Sample PDF
Planning for Integrating Technology
Chapter 25
Michael Crow
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University Task Force Deepens Academic Involvement in ERP System
Chapter 26
Joni A. Amorim, Carlos Machado, Rosana G.S. Miskulin, Mauro S. Miskulin
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Production, Publication, and Use of Educational Multimedia Content in Brazil: Challenges and Opportunities in Real World Technology Projects
Chapter 27
Hasan Tinmaz
Technology planning is an indispensable activity for all higher education institutions nowadays. The major purpose of the technology planning is to... Sample PDF
Instructional Technology Plans for Higher Education Institutions
Chapter 28
Patricia McGee, Veronica Diaz
The rapid proliferation of e-learning tools that offer low or no cost investment and are not housed on institutional servers, has made it very... Sample PDF
Shifting from Classroom to Online Delivery
Chapter 29
Bimal P. Nepal, Leslie Monplaisir
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Lean and Global Product Development in Auto Industry
Chapter 30
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Future Trends: Global Projects & Virtual Teaming
Chapter 31
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Wiki-enabled Technology Management
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