From 1990 to 1995, I directed the Project Management Institute's (PMI) project management certification program. When I began the job, I did not realize that it would occupy me seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for six years.
During this time I was immersed in the issue of competence. At first my mission seemed pretty straightforward: I should work with my colleagues at PMI to develop an exam that assessed the knowledge-based competencies of project professionals. We had guidance on what project management competencies are through PMI's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) (Duncan, 1996), a “bible” of knowledge areas that project professionals should master. My job was to figure out how to measure these competencies. The principal challenge appeared to be to write good exam questions and to come up with meaningful multiple-choice responses.
As time went by, I learned that things were not so simple. The intricacies of competency began to reveal themselves. I received five to twenty phone calls each day, seven days a week, from all manner of people: individual project workers, training directors, PMI officers, PMI chapter members, corporate vice presidents, presidents, newspaper reporters, magazine writers, representatives of international project groups, and members of trade associations. These people came from a myriad of industries and disciplines: civil engineering, finance, information technology, education and training, telecommunications, oil recovery, environmental cleanup, pharmaceuticals, school administration, facilities management, transportation, defense, and state and local government. As I talked to all of these people, I came to see that there are many perspectives on what constitutes project management competence. Some people view it narrowly; to them, project management competence