Understanding the Competence Difference

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Some people don’t know what we mean when we say at IPMA-USA, “Discover the Competence Difference.” And yet, would you want incompetent performance in your organization, your government, or even in your yard service (for those who can still afford it)?

So while most people clearly understand incompetence, too many still fail to understand the competence difference when it comes to Project Management. From one of our presentations, and repeated in a June article, Closing the Gap, the Competence Difference is clear from the following scenarios:

  • Would you fly as a passenger in a plane piloted by two “Air Academy” graduates who passed their final exam, but have never taken off or landed a plane (not even in a simulator)?
  • Would you consider “going under the knife” for brain surgery by a Surgeon who has attended all the classes, read all the books, passed the exams, but has never wielded a scalpel?
  • Would you allow a Lawyer to represent you in a criminal case, who, while having passed the bar exam, has never practiced before a jury?

The difference is whether each practitioner has gained enough of the right experience to achieve the needed competence to instill trust in his or her audience. Part of the problem is that many people don’t know the differences between the terms Knowledge, Skill, Attitude, Behavior, Competence, and Performance (or Results). This came to mind recently when reviewing Kirkpatrick’s levels of learning evaluation. It includes four levels:

  1. Reaction – what participants thought and felt about the training
  2. Learning – the increase in knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA)
  3. Behavior – extent of actual application on the job; did behavior change?
  4. Results – the outcomes for the organization resulting from the learner’s performance

These Kirkpatrick evaluation levels can be mapped to the way we assess, both in developing PM Performance, and certifying Performance Competence. All four Kirkpatrick levels are important; each should be measured and evaluated.

IPMA-USA’s programs include knowledge-based assessments for all our competence development efforts, and for our entry-level certifications. Those assessments help evaluate levels two to four, above, and identify competence and performance-building development options. Knowledge-based certifications are a great starting point for demonstrating the competence difference–especially if they are based on competence baselines or performance competence standards.

That way, Professionals from project related disciplines (Architects, Engineers, Researchers) can “speak the same language,”, and, those practicing PM start with a career-spanning ladder of consistent terms and processes.

Our Performance Competence-based certification assessments to certify practitioners as IPMA Level-A, IPMA Level-B and IPMA Level-C go further, covering all of Kirkpatrick’s levels 2, 3 and 4. We assess practical experience, and whether you can demonstrate the level of mastery needed to repeat those successful PM performances as a Change Agent. And that is what we are referring to when we say, “Demonstrate the Competence Difference.”

A Scenario: Imagine a waiting room filled with people who are applying for choice jobs in project management. You might find that a majority have am exam-based certification in project management. But those who stand out, and are differentiated from the rest, are the ones with a Performance Competence certification as a PM. And only IPMA-USA offers that in the USA.

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