IPMA International Project Management Association
20 April 2015 / 6:01

The Next Generation of Competence: ICB4

IPMA’s new flagship standard, the ICB4, is due to be launched in September at the World Congress in Panama. The new standard, named the Individual Competence Baseline, version 4, brings together an expanded set of competence elements that will support a wide range of audiences and uses.

IPMA’s goal with the ICB4 is simple – enrich and improve the individual’s competence in project, portfolio, and programme management; provide an inventory of competences that, if fully realized, represent complete mastery of the Project Management discipline. Projects, programmes, and portfolios are at the forefront of change in the world today. These domains drive the development of new products and services, investments and expansion, capabilities, the implementation of new strategies and a new generation of infrastructure. We recognize that projects begin and end with people, and that competent execution is at heart of every successful project.

The burden has never been higher for project, programme and portfolio managers to produce measurable results on time, on budget, within scope while meeting the quality criteria. This new standard is intended to support the growth of individuals, and also of organizations as they address the challenges of increasingly competitive project environments. It should be noted that the ICB4 is not a ‘how-to’ guide for project management. It does not present the steps involved in project management, but rather is intended to be companion document to other global standards that focus more on the processes like PRINCE2, PMBOK, ISO 21500, MSP and others.

Some key changes you will see in the new ICB4:

  • Domain Focused. The ICB4 does not discuss competences in terms of specific roles (e.g., project manager), but rather in terms of domains (e.g., project management). The rationale is that roles and role titles vary greatly by language, by industry, and by focus. Therefore, the ICB4 presents competences important for Project Management, Programme Management, and Portfolio Management. Each of these domains may contain roles and titles that fit into the overall competence domain. Within each domain are a set of Competence Elements grouped into three areas: Personal and Social (People focused) Contextual (Perspective focused), and Technical (Practice focused).
  • Shifted Emphasis. Contextual and Personal and Social aspects of the individual have gained importance relative to the Technical aspects. This is due to the increased complexity of the project, programme and portfolio contexts and increased focus on effectiveness and efficiency. Managers today need increased people and perspective skills in addition to a solid practice.
  • Structured. Competence Elements have gained an internal structure. In the ICB4, each competence element includes a handful of Key Competence Indicators (KCI’s). These describe the main aspects of that competence element, and are written in such a way that one can assess competence with regard to these KCI’s. To facilitate assessment, every KCI contains, apart from a description, a number of specific and empirical Measures that indicate necessary or possible actions for this KCI.
  • Modular Design. The ICB4 document has also been structured in a modular way that allows for the creation of new role and new domains in the future. Potential additional roles include consultant, trainer, coach/mentor or PMO Manager.
  • Alignment with IPMA Assessment and Certification. The ICB product development team has worked closely with the International Certification Regulations team to ensure close alignment between these two products. The result will be an ICB4 that can be used for assessments.


More blogs to come! We will be discussing the upcoming ICB4 in more detail over the next few months – look for more content right here!

For more information, please contact icb4@ipma.ch


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The ICB4 contains an exhaustive inventory of competences, intended for use by a wide range of audiences for many purposes.

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Author of this post

For more than twenty years, Tim Jaques has been exploring, thinking, speaking, and writing on the topics of project management, organizational change, culture, and human performance. Tim is an avid writer, presenter, and facilitator. As the IPMA Global Director for Special Interest Group (SIG), Tim supports the IPMA vision of promoting competence throughout society to enable a world in which all projects succeed. Tim’s work in IPMA focuses on connecting global experts to solve some of the world’s most important and complex challenges through the development of special interest groups around topics as diverse as Innovation, Smart Cities, Smart Rural, Artificial Intelligence and Mega Projects to name a few.

In business, Tim’s work today focuses on business transformation and workplace performance through his company Teaming Worldwide. Tim has worked with a variety of private and public sector clients including General Electric, Toshiba, Tufts University, the US Army, US Postal Service. Teaming Worldwide delivers professional development and performance consulting, re-imagined using the latest science in adult learning, motivation and performance.

Tim’s core capabilities include project and program management, performance improvement, execution and operations, organizational change management, IT transformation, and business strategy. Tim co-authored the International Project Management Association (IPMA) Individual Competence Baseline, version 4, an international project, program and portfolio competence standard. He has published two books on US Federal government PM practices; and written numerous articles on project management, organizational change and transformation.

Tim is a past vice-president of IPMA-USA and has held numerous board positions.