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Chartered Project Professional Part Two – Understand what needs to go into a project overview

The Chartered Project Professional Standard requires that applicants provide a number of ‘project statements’ that they can use when describing their competency later in their application. It’s not altogether clear how many you should write up from the application guidance as some of the earlier narrative is a bit ambiguous. It is clarified later however and to be clear here, you can write up to four projects, but when you write up a competency, you can refer to only one for that competency.

The projects, therefore, must be broad enough in scope and of sufficient gravitas to provide you with the background on which to draw for the competency statements. The APM are not expecting everyone to be managing some massive project or programme, but clearly it will need to be of sufficient import to demonstrate your suitability.

The project overviews are a ‘scene setter’. They are there to provide a context to your application and as such are considered as background information. They can though scupper your application if they do not conform to certain criteria (see later).

When you write them, you would be well advised to consider following the STAR protocol where STAR stands for

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Activity
  • Result

In essence, the project overviews are providing the S part of this – the Situation. Further on when you start to talk about what needed to happen (Task), what you did (Activity) and what happened as a Result, it will be necessary to anchor the discussion in the project overviews. This will give the assessor the ability to consider your evidence in some form of context. The word count is limited to 500 words and so if you are careful here you can free up the competence section of the application for a genuine description of you and your abilities. One mistake that a number of applicants make is to concentrate too heavily on the Situation when they talk about themselves. For the Professional Practice part of the Chartered Project Professional application the assessor is going to be far more interested in what you actually did, why and what the result was. For the Knowledge aspects, it will be necessary to evaluate your approach against alternative ways of doing the same thing. For example, if on your project you did qualitative risk assessment you could discuss the difference between this and quantitative risk assessments. This will of course though only be tested at interview.

The projects you use can be from any industry, your role can be any of the professional roles, and the timing ought to be in the last five years. If your most recent project, programme or portfolio is more than five years old you will need to provide a separate 500 word statement showing how you have

a) an up-to-date knowledge of current practices and methods and

b) how you are actively involved in the project management profession.

How you do this has no specific format. If there are no rules about what or how to write it, it is very questionable about how it will be considered. That may be a job for another article. For now, you ought to try and assimilate some carefully selected examples of your CPD and think quite widely about how to demonstrate your active involvement. We will provide a few potential ways of doing this a bit later.

Criteria For Project Assessment from the Chartered Project Professional Standard

As mentioned the project statements will be tested against a number of criteria and if any of them fails any of the tests then your application may be brought into doubt. To avoid this, do not just include them ‘just in case’, but instead, choose wisely and expend energy in ensuring they are completely compliant with the criteria below. If one is doubtful, be careful to read and re-read it to ensure it does fulfil the criteria.

Our advice to you is to provide a brief overview of the project and then to break each of your project experience statements into four sections as per the guidance and requirements stated which are:-

  • Uncertainty or conflicting objectives. As an observation (and from a purely philosophical perspective) these are two different things. Uncertainty means (OED, 2017) “the feeling of not being sure what will happen in the future” whereas “conflicting objectives” implies that individuals or groups are clear about what they want you to do but they don’t agree. We are going to have to make the bet of it as it is unlikely to change. Taken more liberally our advice would be to look at the overall project situation and consider harshly whether there really was a lot of differing requirements as this seems to be the crux of the requirement. This will be where differing stakeholders (or groups) have placed divergent requirements on the project. You will have had to resolve these and in the competence statements, you will get the chance to demonstrate this. The Situation of the project will form the core.
  • High levels of unpredictability or risk. Again, this is a slightly arduous test. Unpredictability means you are not able to foresee the future. This comes as no surprise to the unlucky gambler. Risk is a construct of Probability (unpredictability) and Impact. Is this again another tautology? Maybe, but again it is a bit of a waste of time trying to interpret or second guess this test. Keep it simple. What is a high level of risk? You will need to go and take a look at your risk logs and make sure that you are able to describe ones that would have caused your project to fail. Being a high risk does not mean it has to have a massive financial impact, simply that in the context of that project it was significant. A high risk on a small project is just as valid as a large risk on a large project but significantly not the same as a small risk on a large project.
  • Multiple work packages, projects or programmes. This is a bit simpler and fairly straightforward. You will need to be clear about the granularity of the various projects and / or work packages that comprise the project as a whole. As a project manager you may have multiple work packages, as a programme manager you may have many projects and we suppose that portfolio managers manage many programmes. We are not sure that is strictly speaking correct, but again, we suggest you roll with the punches and take it on a simple face value basis. You will need to imply (or preferably actually state) the various components that you had to integrate.
  • Multiple interdependent stakeholders, possibly with competing interests. A bit complicated this one again. We think you should try and look past the actual words and concentrate on the meaning of this paragraph. Taken literally you would need to demonstrate your project had multiple interdependent stakeholders (“relating to two or more people or things dependent on each other” Dictionary.com, 2018). We recommend you ignore this. You will just need to demonstrate that you had multiple stakeholders who were challenging and meant you had to embark on a planned and structured programme of managing them. Do they need to have had conflicting objectives? Not really (again literally) because it says possibly. If they didn’t you cannot be criticised for that. We would though again recommend ignoring the literality of the statement and try and portray how these stakeholders were a challenge, why that was and some examples of how they disagreed and over what.

These will be fine for the project, programme, or portfolio manager, the question is going to be for the other project roles such as a project office manager for example. What do they write? What does the head of a project management consulting practice write?

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