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July 17, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 6


All of the Academy’s professional development activities are based on a competency model for project management that has evolved over the past two decades.

Strengthening NASA’s project management capability has been central to the mission of the Academy since its inception more than fifteen years ago. Following the recommendations of the Rogers Commission after the 1986 Challenger accident, NASA created the Academy to develop an agency-wide professional development program for project management.

From its beginnings, the Academy focused on building a competency model for project management that would serve as the foundation for all of its offerings. Today, every Academy training course, project team intervention, and knowledge sharing activity has a direct relationship to at least one NASA project management competency. The competency model includes a description of the skills, behaviors, actions, and experiences that demonstrate proficiency in each competency at four career levels, ranging from project team members to managers of programs or very large projects.

The Academy developed the NASA project management competency model through a multi-step collaborative process. It first derived its requirements based on extensive interviews with highly successful NASA project managers and systems engineers. It then incorporated input gathered through the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) methodology and practitioner focus groups. After devising a draft competency model, the Academy validated it with internal and external organizations that reviewed it for both thoroughness and accuracy. Validation also included aligning it with NASA policies and procedures as well as existing project manager competency models at NASA field centers and leading external organizations. Once validation was complete, the Academy created performance-level descriptions to guide the overall development of individuals through each phase of their careers. The methodology has been repeated and the model has been updated several times since the mid-1990s.

NASA’s project management competencies include:

1.   Project Conceptualization

 1.1   Project Proposal
1.2   Requirements Development
1.3   Acquisition Management
1.4   Project Planning
1.5   Cost Estimating
1.6   Risk Management

2.   Resource Management

 2.1   Budget and Full Cost Management
2.2   Capital Management

3.   Project Implementation

 3.1   Systems Engineering
3.2   Design and Development
3.3   Contract Management

4.   Delivery, Operation, and Closeout

 4.1   Stakeholder Management
4.2   Technology Transfer and Communication

5.   Project Control and Evaluation

 5.1   Tracking/trending of project performance
5.2   Project control
5.3   Project review and evaluation

6.   NASA Environment

 6.1   Agency structure and internal goals
6.2   NASA project management procedures and guidelines
6.3   International standards

7.   Human Capital Management

 7.1   Position management
7.2   Recruitment, hiring, and retention
7.3   Team dynamics and management

8.   Safety and Mission Assurance

 8.1   Environment and ecology
8.2   Workplace safety
8.3   Mission assurance

9.   Professional and Leadership Development

 9.1   Mentoring and coaching
9.2   Communication/decision making
9.3   Leadership
9.4   Ethics

10.   Knowledge Management

 10.1   Knowledge capture and transfer
10.2   Knowledge sharing

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