The Need For Professionalism In Project Management
A recent report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) identified skills shortages in central government where a quarter of senior operational delivery and programme and project management roles are filled by staff who are not specialists in these fields.
The report highlights the need for professionalism in project management because ineffective skills development can have an adverse impact on the performance of public sector programmes and projects. Previous NAO work has identified 54% of senior staff across government recording ‘very’ or ‘fairly significant’ skills gaps in programme and project management, concluding that skills gaps in key areas such as commercial and project/programme management have delayed progress in important public programmes in the housing, health and defence sectors, therefore having a significant impact on government’s ability to meet its objectives and provide value for money,
The report records the significant efforts to professionalise the Civil Service in recent years, but notes that standards associated with particular professions are not always reflected in recruitment to posts. For areas of business where depth of experience is critical to capability the NAO suggests that departments should take greater control of recruitment to ensure business needs are met by using professional standards to inform decisions on appointments and promotions to key posts.
APM has provided a solution to this issue through the government-wide Competence Assessment Tool, which is drawn from the APM Competence Framework. The report specifically commends The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for using this tool in the selection process for programme and project management roles as they found that just over half of programme managers assessed did not have the skills appropriate to their current role. The report also commends APM corporate member Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for recently establishing the requirement for the relevant head of profession to approve any new appointments to posts involving a significant element of programme or project management.
However, APM’s proposal March 2011 to introduce a professional “gold standard” to the project management community with the launch of APM Registered Project Professional (RPP) may confuse the issue. There’s no strong argument against a competence-based professional standard that provides departments with a robust assessment of the project professionals’ ability to manage a complex project and use appropriate tools, processes and techniques.
Yet government-approved methodologies such as PRINCE2 and MSP which are continually revised based on public consultation and extensive review, and have evolved to address the modern project environment, remain the benchmarks for project professionalism. A nationally recognised standard for project professionals will, as APM say, provide departments with an assurance that they’re getting consistent expertise, although the project community should be sure that there is only one standard to which government departments should refer.