Competency Assessment for State Highway Agency Project Managers
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Project Managers (PMs) play a key role in the successful completion and smooth delivery of construction projects. PM competencies have been studied thoroughly over the past few decades to identify the skills, traits, and knowledge areas that are essential for PMs. This research often focused on two types of skills; “hard” and “soft” where hard skills include technical knowledge and skills while soft skills often include leadership style and personal traits. This extensive body of knowledge, however, was lacking the focus on PMs of transportation construction and of PMs that worked in the public sector, such as State Highway Agency (SHA) PMs. Therefore, this research aimed on identifying the competencies that are essential for SHA PMs generally and for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) specifically. It also aimed to relate this research, through a practical application, to the industry professional to ensure its usability. Many organizations have used this body of knowledge to create assessments that would allow industry professionals to reap the benefits of the research. Similarly, the researcher wanted to create an assessment that was tailored to SHA PMs, is easy to use and provides outputs that are relevant and useful for SHA PMs. To achieve these goals the researcher collaborated with six WisDOT professionals and two academic professionals from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) who gave regular feedback and suggestions to the researcher. The following eight steps were followed to reach the research objectives: 1. Clearly defining the job description of PMs 2. Compiling a comprehensive list of competencies needed for SHA PMs: 55 essential competencies were identified based on previous literature as well as expert opinion 3. Classifying the competencies into relevant categories: the competencies were classified into five categories: Project Management Knowledge and Experience, Leadership, DOT Operational Knowledge and Experience, Industry Knowledge and Experience, and Cognitive/Personal Effectiveness 4. Defining each of the categories and competencies that eliminates the room for interpretation by people filling in the assessment 5. Creating a set of questions for each competency to make the assessment quantitative and objective: 145 questions were created to ensure that the assessment is quantitative and objective (Combine these two sentences. Redundant.) 6. Collecting data point to calculate the relative weights of the competencies in the assessment and to identify benchmarks: 90 data points were collected from 12 states 7. Performing weights calculations and identifying benchmarks for overall scores as well as for each category within the assessment: the top 20 competencies in the assessment were all from the following three categories: Project Management Knowledge and Experience, Leadership and Cognitive/Personal Effectiveness. The benchmark calculated for the overall score was 73% 8. Developing a user-friendly, Excel-based tool that allows industry professionals to perform 360o evaluation of PMs. The tool has five main outputs that are most relevant and useful for SHA PMs: a) Project Manager Index (PMX) which reflects the overall score of the PM as compared to industry averages and organization set targets b) Spider and Bar Charts which show the score of the PM in each of the different categories as compared to set targets. It also shows the PM’s score for three consecutive assessments which allows the PM to monitor his/her progress over time c) Project Manager Strengths which highlight the distinguishing competencies that the PM excels at d) PM Training Needs which outlines the distinguishing competencies where the PM could improve e) Recommended Training Programs where the person filling in the assessment can input training programs to tackle the different training needs of the PM All the research components were validated through regular meetings with WisDOT professionals as well as an academic team from UW-Madison to ensure its relevance to SHA and its importance in terms of filling a research gap.
department of transportation
state highway agency