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Understanding Your Project Management Strengths and Gaps

Capability AssessmentThe UK government has introduced a Project Delivery Capability Framework (PDCF), which maps the career paths, competencies and development opportunities for individuals working in government in project delivery roles.

It’s a PDF document than anyone can access and it’s very long. However, it is useful for anyone trying to work out where their career might take them, or for those trying to establish career paths and job families in their own organisations.

One of the highlights for me in the document are the suggestions about how to identify your strengths and gaps so that you can more easily and effectively plan your career journey. Knowing where you are starting from and what you should work on developing will help you stand out as a project delivery professional committed to being the best you can be. This kind of attitude will help get you noticed as a safe pair of hands for being able to delivery strategic projects and make a real difference in the business.

Here’s a quick run through of my take on the strengths and gaps recommendations in the Framework.

Assess Yourself

The whole journey for planning your career starts with understanding where you are in your career right now. It’s also important to think about what you like doing and what you are good at – the two things might not be the same. If you can find something you are good at AND that you enjoy (and that pays the bills): that’s where you should be spending most of your time as that’s a rewarding career.

Overlay your thoughts and aspirations for your future career with some feedback about where you are now. You can review that yourself, through critical self-assessment, or ask a colleague or line manager for feedback on your performance. Feedback of any kind will help inform you of strengths and development gaps, but you should carefully consider any feedback from people who don’t know you very well. Be critical about the feedback from peers that you act on, and make sure you are making the best decisions for your development so that you can stay authentic and true to your personal style.

Capability FrameworkThe PDCF recommends that you identify three skills that would help you be more effective, and three experiences that would help broaden your knowledge.

This is a really good way of looking at where you could develop because it’s aimed at a beneficial outcome. In other words, you aren’t learning financial management skills for their own sake, or because it’s a tick box on the job family form you have to assess yourself against at work. You would be doing it because it would help you be more effective in managing your project budgets and implementing Earned Value on your projects (for example).

We think about the benefits and outcomes of projects all the time: it’s refreshing to use the same holistic approach to identifying career development possibilities.

Identify Learning Preferences

Having thought about what you might be able to work on to improve your effectiveness and knowledge, you can then think about how you like to learn. This could constrain (or open up) the kind of training opportunities available to you.

For example, if you want to build your strategic awareness, you might choose a publicly available course, or you might prefer to workshadow some senior leaders in your business. Or do both. The outcomes and benefits to your career would be the same, but your enjoyment of the learning process and what you take out of it could be very different depending on your learning preferences.

Identify Barriers

The PDCF also asks people to think about the barriers that could affect and impact performance at work. This could be a range of things including:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of management support, mentoring or coaching
  • Inability to access resources
  • Unfamiliar with process
  • Lack of training

Or anything else. Identifying the barriers and naming them helps you focus on finding ways to overcome them, although you will probably need to involve your line manager or PMO manager in doing so.

Next Steps

Once you have identified the areas you would like to work on, you can go ahead and make plans to develop them. The PDCF sets out the next steps for individuals who would like to move on in their careers.

After your self-assessment, you should have a good idea of the kinds of areas you would like to develop so you can investigate how you are going to do that. This could be through training or taking on a new project or different responsibilities. In government, that could be a secondment. In your organisation it might be through workshadowing, taking on more responsibilities and deputising for your manager, taking a new role in a different team or looking for a move outside the business.

Having identified where you could go next, if you feel you intend to stay in the business, it’s time to dig into what that means with your manager. This is the perfect time of year to be planning for this type of conversation. End of year reviews, or mid-year reviews, or even informal conversations during your one-to-one meetings are all good times to raise your thoughts about your career with your manager. Try to be specific about where you want to go with your career and the skills and experiences you identified earlier. This will help them give you good advice and hopefully facilitate you being able to access training or opportunities.

Finally, it’s time to put together an action plan. This should cover the areas you want to improve in, the benefits to you and the business, the support you need in order to get there and any commitment you’ve received for carrying out your plan.

You should then be in a position to start working to your plan. Build time into your week for your personal development opportunities. Make sure that you give it the priority that it deserves – this is your future at stake and no one else will manage your career journey for you. Review your plan and your progress regularly and hold yourself accountable for your achievements.

While you have to tailor any career development framework to fit your personal requirements, the PDCF is worth a read if your company doesn’t have anything internally for you to refer to. It’s also aligned to the APM competency framework, so it feels very much in line with the business environment.

Building a career you love takes thought, time and work, but it is definitely worth the rewards.

For more information on organisation and individual assessments from Strategy Execution, take a look here.


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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin
Elizabeth Harrin is a career project and programme manager with over a decade of experience in healthcare and financial services. She's also a content strategist, award-winning blogger and author of several books about project management. Find her online at A Girl's Guide to Project Management

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