PM Essence

Competency Development as a Structured Process

By – Chandan Pahuja, PMP

Competence (or competency) is the ability of an individual to do a job properly. Some scholars see “competence” as a combination of knowledge, skills and behavior used to improve performance;

There are Four Stages of Competency Development
JanAImg4 Unconscious Incompetence
“I don’t know that I don’t know how to do this.” This is the stage of blissful ignorance before learning begins. The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit.
Conscious Incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage. “I know that I don’t know how to do this, yet”. This is the most difficult stage, where learning begins, and where the most judgments against self are formed. This is also the stage that most people give up.
Conscious Competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill. “I know that I know how to do this.” This stage of learning is much easier than the second stage, but it is still a bit uncomfortable and selfconscious.
Unconscious Competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.” What, you say I did something well?” The final stage of learning a skill is when it has become a natural part of us; we don’t have to think about it.

How to move from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence

KNOW YOUR IMPERFECTIONS: – Only by knowing our imperfections can we actually take steps to address them. The problem is, people rarely see their own flaws.

These three strategies can make the selfassessment process objective and informative:

1. Use a self-evaluation form. The easiest way to assess your skills is with a written selfevaluation, either downloaded from the Internet or created based on your job description But because true self-assessment is difficult, a selfevaluation should be used as a jumping-off point for the next two steps.

2. Have peers ask tough questions. Peer evaluations can be more effective than selfassessments. They can be formal, written or electronic surveys, or informal, face-to-face conversations between meetings. Reach out to the different people with whom you work—senior managers, day-to-day stakeholders, other project managers—and ask them hard questions like, ‘Does my relationship with you work?’ and ‘How do you think I manage issues?’

3. Evaluate your projects. Self-assessment has to be connected to what actually happened on a project. If you’re really trying to improve your skills, you have to ask yourself what parts of a project didn’t go according to plan and how those can be traced back to your actions as a project manager.

How to move from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence
Wisdom for those at Unconscious Competence Stage Failure to improve is a failure to adapt, and a failure to adapt will end up in very negative consequences for your projects, yourself and your company, proactively address your weaknesses by approaching them the same way you’d approach a project, complete with milestones, deliverables and deadlines.
If you don’t take the next step and use your newfound self-awareness to actually improve your skills, you’ll quickly fall behind the curve.

While a self-improvement plan can include any number of action items, some of the most effective are:

Ø Take a class. Some people like e-learning because they can get just-in-time training at their convenience. However, keep in mind that the interaction and peer-group learning experiences that come with faceto – face learning may be more effective in the long run.

Get credentialed.
The biggest gut check for anyone is preparing for and taking the Project Management credential exam.

Ø Find a mentor: Mentors and coaches can offer personalized instruction and immediate, real-time feedback. They understand where project managers are coming from, where they want to go and what it takes to get there.

Ø Practice new skills. Look for everyday opportunities to strengthen your weaknesses. No one is perfect, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing perfection. We all have imperfections. We can’t thoroughly rid ourselves of them, but as project managers, we must address and manage them.

Wisdom for those at Unconscious Competence Stage
You may need to remind yourself how difficult it was to reach this state, so that you are tolerant with people at the Conscious Incompetence stage!

Although this is the ideal state, you’ll need to make sure that you avoid complacency, and stay abreast of their fields.