A Project Management Article by Tom Bishop
Employing qualified PMs is a significant requirement recognized across many Federal agencies. These are vastly important jobs and often extremely satisfying to those PMs skilled enough to be selected. Unfortunately, the definitions still vary by agency for the term “qualified PM”.
Interpretive Guidance for Project Manager Positions was published by the Office of Personnel Management (August 2003) defines three areas of knowledge for the aspiring PM. All project managers apply common knowledge, skills, and abilities/competencies, organized into three areas:
- General Knowledge
- Project Knowledge
- Technical Knowledge
Federal government standards for program and project management continue to mature. A major source for program and project requirements comes from the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI);s guide to Program and Project Management Competencies.
In 2004, the Federal CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for Information Technology (IT) Committee released the Federal IT Project Manager (PM) Guidance Matrix.
Search “Guidance matrix” and you will find the following:
- Levels of complexity for IT projects/systems
- Competencies and experience
- PM education and training sources
- A tool for IT Project Manager credentials
Specific implementation of programs and project manager duties is often addressed through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This site issues circulars from the White House.
For example, on the OMB site a search for M-04-19 yields the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for Information Technology (IT) Committee. They released the Federal IT Project Manager (PM) Guidance Matrix. The Matrix and accompanying instructions for PM assessments and validation; define levels of complexity for IT projects/systems; identify appropriate competencies and experience, suggest PM education and training sources; and serve as a tool for validating IT Project Manager credentials. Nobody said this would be easy to understand. That’s why this self-evaluation exists.
Creation of Rating Criteria
Similar to survey software, a spreadsheet is introduced as an easy tool for a PM candidate to use. The objective is for a PM candidate to fill out the tool before an interview. Using a defined rating scale the candidate may anticipate the interviewer asking questions about experience and where training was received - a good guide for dialog.
From descriptions published by the federal agencies above, a spreadsheet is created with for the appropriate skills. The rating test is a simple scale designed to help the individual PM identify areas that need improvement:
0: No training and no experience
1: Training, but no experience
2: Experience and knowledge, but no training
3: Both training and experience
Rating a PM is most often subjective. However, real world expectations and feedback do fall into a somewhat normal result for new hires. In this scale a PM with no training and no experience is expected to perform less than a PM with either training, experience, or both. Therefore they are rated lowest. Not always the case, but promotions are rare without some training or experience to justify the change.
Training is valued, but less valued than good experience. Training implies you are ready to enter the game with a good knowledge of the rules. So your learning curve will be shorter. This PM has a better chance of success because they have a generic plan and strategy to guide them.
Experience is the preferred attribute. The thinking is that a PM who has performed should learn from that experience. They should anticipate and apply practical PM skills sooner and in the most effective manner.
At the top of the pool are PM’s who have demonstrated success. They possess the practical experience and applied training. It is hard to ignore a PM who has practical experience and commands an understanding of project management guidelines.
Picking Content to Evaluate
The General worksheet and Project Management worksheet are typical of all Federal requirements. Our Technical worksheet comes from Information Technology requirements. These are representative of the level of technical knowledge and will vary by industry.
You can open the spreadsheet and rate your own skills. Each worksheet has questions worth 0 to 3 points. A rating of 20 or higher for each worksheet is recommended for a Level 1 project manager.
Your feedback on the content and ease of use can drive the next revision and/or change the direction of this self evaluation guide. Obviously there is a lot of change with a new administration and keeping current requires repeated reviews of the latest OMB circulars and DoD orders. If you wish to contribute content or direct us to newer or more appropriate research areas that would be most appreciated.
Note: this article reflects the viewpoint of the author, Tom Bishop, and does not necessarily represent the views of PMIWDC. If you disagree with or object to the views expressed here, please let us know