Creating the leaders of the future


Truly great organizations—particularly project-driven ones—succeed because of their talent. And project management professionals around the world share a common set of competency requirements and personal characteristics which contribute to successful projects and to the growth of their organizations.

Profiling your talent against a well-defined set of competencies and characteristics will enable you to identify high potential talent, assess skill gaps, create focused talent development plans, and measure progress against an appropriate set of metrics and goals.

Normally talent is classified using a variation of the “9 box” model, which assesses workers on two criteria: performance and potential. Once your people have been classified, resources and time can be allocated to developing the high potentials.


The process is fairly straightforward:

1. Identify key positions (ie. Aligned with your organization’s strategic direction)
2. Define competency profiles for the key positions
3. Use existing performance data as starting point (X –axis)
4. Use validated assessment methods to identify potential level (Y – axis)
5. Plan talent development programs and assignments
6. Measure performance of your talent development program

We have found however, that many organizations are unprepared to do this for two critical reasons:

1. Lack of a competency profile
2. No method of assessing potential

Lack of a competency profile: Few organizations actually take the time to define the attributes and competencies they value for particular roles. Without such a competency profile it is impossible to measure either performance or potential. And without this quality of data, it is impossible to make wise investment decisions.

No method of assessing potential: High performance is so easy to observe that it can overshadow less obvious attributes and behaviors that characterize high potential employees, such as learning agility, adaptability, flexibility, resilience, open-mindedness and so on. As a result, most managers focus on performance only and give up trying to identify the people with potential, who may need development to become high performers.

As a result, the organization has no reliable way to build a talent pipeline for the future. Take the following model for example:


Figure 1: The next generation of project leader

chart3According to the data , the project leaders of the future will need to be much more savvy about strategy and business management. They will also need to have strong leadership skills in order to deliver the results that are necessary for sustainable growth. And yet, these are precisely the kind of attributes that are very hard to measure, especially in their potential form. Most organizations say that technical skills are hardest to find, when recruiting, but the easiest to teach after hiring. On the other hand, 66% of the organizations surveyed reported that leadership skills are more difficult to teach, but most important for project success. Given this data, the conclusion is obvious – hire for leadership skills and train for technical skills.

So the question remains – does your organization have a reliable way to identify people with high potential for leadership? And do you have a plan for developing that talent after it is identified?

Next month we will share our global project leadership competency model and some ideas on how to identify the high potentials inside your organization.

ⅰSource – PMI White Paper; “Building High Performance Project Talent”, 2014

ⅱPMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: Talent Management

This post is also available in: Japanese