Project-based Approach Means Professional Competencies of Government Officials Have to Meet New Requirements

17 january 2017

It is not enough to simply acknowledge the need to introduce project management, it is necessary to understand that the new requirements for efficiency create new requirements for the professional competencies and corporate culture of government officials. It was the introduction of the project based approach in state governance organizations that was discussed by the Gaidar Forum participants during a session titled "Project Management in Public Sector: New Requirements for Qualifications of Government Officials," including Ilya Vinokurov, Head of the Department for Project Management in the Public Sector of the Analytical Center.

Which needs to be changed first: the corporate culture in public management or the specific competencies of government officials? Mr. Vinokurov is of the opinion that the final goal is changing the corporate culture not just in terms of project management, but in day-to-day activities as well. "Culture changes when you get a critical mass of people that have the required professional skills and personal traits, so priority should be given to the professional development of such people," Mr. Vinokurov believes. "Furthermore, it is not enough to simply try and change the corporate culture in a specific government organization or agency once. A system needs to be created to offer support and update the models of competencies as well as create personnel reserve by training new employees and implementing a system of relevant incentives." The expert cited the Belgorod Region as a success story in implementing this approach.

There were also a lot of lively debate about developing a model for government officials' competencies and the need for the certification system implementing. Mr. Vinokurov believes that both soft skills and hard skills need to be developed in tandem while keeping in mind the specific roles that each government official is going to play in a project. "For project managers, soft skills such as leadership, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills are considered of utmost significance. In the meantime, for people that do the actual work, hard skills are more important, although attention should also be paid to such soft skills as team work and appreciation of the values," the expert explained.

Mr. Vinokurov also talked about a study conducted in 2015 by the Financial University. It involved a survey of government officials in Moscow and in the regions, in which they were asked to rate the practical requirements for the positions they held. As a result it turned out that initiative and boldness were the qualities that were in the least demand in the work of the government officials, while of the 11 groups of competencies among which the officials were asked to choose those that best described their jobs, the top 3 categories were general professional competencies, knowledge of laws and regulations and performance and effectiveness while team work, project management and self-management and professional growth were named as the 3 least relevant categories.

"Thus government officials guide us to suppose which competencies we need to focus on first and foremost," Mr. Vinokurov stressed. However, there are a whole host of functions in a government official's job that cannot and should not be carried out using the project-based approach, after all major part of the official's activities is daily-routine. "We need to shift the focus in our understanding of effectiveness - the idea is not to close an issue or pass it on to somebody else but to get a meaningful result," the expert is convinced.

As for the model of competencies, Mr. Vinokurov is convinced that in the first place it should be relevant to the assigned tasks. He is sure that it is not enough to simply develop a universal model; specific competencies must be developed for each position. "As far as certification systems are concerned, they have already been build up for business to an adequate degree. As far as the key project management principles are the same for the public and the private sector, the public sector in this context be viewed as simply yet another sector of the economy with additional requirements. Thus, any certification must match the established model of competencies and take into account the experience of international standards," Mr Vinokurov believes.