Section 2


These standards were initially developed in Australia in 2005 and reviewed at a high-level workshop by representatives from the Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Materiel Organisation, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and leading multi-national defence contractors. The final draft was approved by the Defence and Industry PM Council in June 2006.

The Defence Materiel Organisation owns the Standards and the International Centre for Complex Project Management is responsible for their periodic review and update in consultation with the international complex project management community.


Traditional approaches to competency standards have used a reductionist approach that deconstructs roles down into units, elements, underpinning knowledge and actions in the workplace as the assessment criteria.

These standards move away from traditional philosophies, approaches and languages, which cannot adequately describe complex projects. Instead these standards use a Systems Thinking philosophical approach and methodology, based upon the premise that you cannot understand a whole through analysing its parts:

  • Views provide insights from multiple perspectives, that together provide holistic understanding
  • a holistic understanding of the competencies required for the project management of complexity, and the assessment of individuals against those competencies, can only be achieved through using multiple Views
  • behaviours are complex sets of interactions arising from cognitive and emotional responses to dynamic conditions. While specific behaviours are described in the standards, their source and effect are neither simple nor prescribed. It is in these complex interactions across multiple set of behaviours that competency is achieved. Behavioural flexibility and differentiation to suit the situation are measures of success.

The methodologies used in this standard draw upon both positivist and anti-positivist methodologies for analysis and assessment, with a strong focus on both action learning and the use of tools including rich pictures, metaphors, tests (including cause-and-effect modelling and scenario strategy development), personality profiling, and workshops.


The complexity of defining complex project manager competencies means that such competencies cannot be assessed against role descriptions using a traditional reductionist approach.

These standards apportion the role description of complex project managers across nine Views:

View 1 – Systems Thinking and Integration
View 2 – Strategy and Project Management
View 3 – Business Planning, Lifecycle Management, Reporting and Performance Measurement

View 4 – Change and Journey

View 5 – Innovation, Creativity and Working Smarter View 6 – Organisational Architecture

View 7 – Leadership and Communication
View 8 – Culture and Being Human

View 9 – Probity and Governance

Each View is structured to reflect distinct competencies that are relevant to project management practitioners. The Views represent multiple perspectives that may conflict with each other. The montaging of multiple Views permits a holistic understanding of the system in which complex project managers operate.

Each View has its key Underpinning Knowledge areas listed. For each Underpinning Knowledge area, the Specific Knowledge and Theories are then listed, and the required depth of knowledge specified.

Each View is internally consistent, and is decomposed into Elements of Competency that describe more specifically the observable and assessable behaviours (Actions in the Workplace) particular to that View. For each Action in the Workplace, these standards define the level of competency required for each project manager classification.


These standards classify project managers into the following competency-based categories:

  • Traditional project management (including Project Manager and Senior Project Manager roles)
  • Executive project management (including Program Manager and Program Manager roles)
  • Complex project management (defining equivalent levels for CPM Level 2 and CPM Level 1).

For each Action in the Workplace, these standards define the appropriate levels of competency required by each project manager category. Actions in Workplace are assessed against four levels:

Development: (D)

applies the competency under direct supervision.

Practitioner: (P)

applies the competency without the need for direct supervision, but within the bounds of standardised processes, procedures and systems.

Competent: (C)

applies the competency without the need for direct supervision, provides direct supervision of the competency for others, and mentors development of the competency in others.

Leader: (L)

provides professional leadership in the competency. They are a recognised leader in the design of processes, procedures and systems, and have the ability to use the competency flexibly and creatively.


Underpinning knowledge enables project managers to respond adaptively and flexibly to their changing environment using a first principles approach. A strong underpinning knowledge enables the complex project manager to move away from using competencies rigidly or restrictively, to applying them on a contingency basis where each project strategy and organisational architecture is tailored to fit appropriately within that particular project’s lifecycle.

For each View, these standards define the appropriate level of underpinning knowledge required by each project manager category. The level of underpinning knowledge is assessed against four levels:

  1. Awareness
  2. Understands Concepts
  3. Understands Theoretical Foundations
  4. Expert

Since both Level 2 and Level 1 CPMs are responsible for leading complex projects, it is appropriate that these categories of project manager require the same level of underpinning knowledge of each View. The defining difference between Level 2 CPMs and Level 1 CPMs is depth and breadth of experience.


There are five special attributes:

  • Wisdom
  • Action and outcome orientated
  • Creates and leads innovative teams
  • Focused and courageous
  • Ability to influence.

Each Special Attribute consists of multiple individual attributes. The required level of behaviour is specified for each individual attribute.

These standards define the extent to which each project manager category exhibits each Special Attribute, according to four levels:

Experiential (EL) Learning:

the project manager uses their behaviours experientially in developing the special attribute

Normative: (N)

the project manager is recognised as using the special attribute as normal behaviour

Mentor: (M)

the project manager mentors others in their use of the special attribute

Symbol: (S)

the project manager is regarded as providing a symbol for the special attribute through their behaviours, and leads the development of the special attribute in their project teams


Anti-positivist A philosophical position where certainty and facts are accepted only as useful constructs, and there is no such thing as a theory describing reality.
Architecture (System)


Functional, physical, and operational systems design that satisfies strategic whole of life and operational concepts and outcomes, from which flows the concept design and the development of component level requirements
Bounded rationality We are all limited in our understanding of others through our personality, culture, upbringing and experience.
Performance measurement Multiple Views are used in measuring performance. The performance measures are layered and tangible.
Change management The implementation of strategy and change.
Chaos Dynamic systems characterised by non-linear and recursive activities.
Complementarity A dialectic is established where a leader’s individuals strengths / weaknesses are matched with a person who has equal strengths in the opposite pole.


Complex projects are characterised by a degree of disorder, instability, emergence, non-linearity, recursiveness, uncertainty, irregularity and randomness, and dynamic complexity where the parts in a system can react / interact with each other in different ways.
Dialectic There is strength in both aspects, for example strategy / planned versus opportunistic. There is not a bias towards one aspect, nor is there a balance which delivers mediocrity.
Discovery planning A structured up front process that is based on systems thinking, client needs determination, systems engineering to develop the project architecture, concept design, and implementation plan to reduce uncertainty in project scope.
Double loop learning A formal process where the basis upon which decisions were originally made are periodically reviewed. Double loop learning assumes that as we change a system, so we change.
Emergence Systems function as a whole, so they have properties above and beyond the properties of the parts that comprise them. These are known as emergent properties, and they emerge from the system whilst in operation. You cannot predict the behaviour of an emergent system from studying its individual parts.
Gateway A formal process where external reviewers conduct lifecycle phase reviews of a project. The external reviewers must be experienced in similar projects. The Gateway process is recursive and continually revalidates the project against its changing strategy and business case. The Gateway process was initially developed by the UK Office of Government Commerce.
Governance The implementation of policy and strategy that flows through all aspects of a system. Governance ensures that alignment, transparency, fit for purpose, and value for money are maintained throughout the implementation of the emergent strategy.
Governance contracting A strategic form of relational contracting for use on projects with high levels of complexity, where the emergent strategy requires double loop learning.
Holism Understanding is only achieved though looking at a system / project through multiple and divergent views.
Integrated Process Team (IPT) An integrated team from the project stakeholders is established to implement a specific process, using the best person for the job and shared systems.
Journey management Complex projects have emergent strategies, and follow a journey towards their strategic vision. The journey is often uncertain. Journey management is the system through which the journey is managed.
Knowledge management A system to collect, sort and distribute knowledge.
Layering Strategic objectives and performance measures are flowed down through the project to ensure their tangibility and ownership.
Lifecycle management The project lifecycle commences with strategy and client’s needs determination, and includes implementation, ongoing change and support, and project replacement / transition.
Maturity Individuals and organisations vary in their ability to work in relational contracts, to take an asset management responsibility, and in what they consider to be uncertain.
Metaphors A view, word, or phrase used to describe something in an alternative and abstract way. Using metaphors enables insights which aid in gaining understanding and help deal with bounded rationality.
Modular Change occurs at three scales: incremental; modular; and revolutionary. Modular change is when change occurs in sections / units as an ongoing strategy.
Montaging The integration of multiple views.
Obligations to the community Responsibilities to the community that transcend specific project objectives. For example, cultural, social, environment, quality of life.
Organisational architecture The overall organisational / project design, including structure, culture, technology, and context.
Population ecology In many cases organisations do not change, but are replaced by other organisations that are better suited to the new environment.
Positivist A philosophical position where theories and facts are accepted as being real.
Project These standards focus upon complex projects, programs and portfolios. To provide parsimony and provide clarity, the term project is used to refer collectively to ‘projects, programs and portfolios’.
Public Finance Initiatives (PFI) Projects financed using private financial sources. For example, build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) projects.
Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Relational contracts where the public client and the private sector work together using alliancing or governance contracting towards shared objectives. PPP contracts use performance-based reward system, and are strategically driven.
Punctuated equilibrium As normal science exhibits problems in describing anomalies, pressure builds until a revolution takes place with an innovative new theory becoming the new accepted normal science.
Relational contracting Contracts using alignment, integrated process teams, transparency, and a layered performance based reward system that is linked to the project’s lifecycle outcomes.
Rich pictures Using a graphical mind map to increase understanding through montaging multiple views.
Sustainability An architectural property of a project which enables: its continued viability; the project to coexist in the supra system; and an ongoing process of development or redevelopment; all without either system being damaged;
System A system is a number of parts acting as a single entity, functioning as a whole through the interaction of its parts. A key aspect of systems is that if you change one part of a system, you in fact change the whole system
System of Systems A set or arrangement of systems that results when independent and useful systems are integrated into a larger system that delivers unique capabilities. Planning, analysing, organizing, and integrating the capabilities of a mix of existing and new systems into a SoS capability greater than the sum of the capabilities of the constituent parts.
Systems Thinking Studies the whole in order to understand the parts, by looking at the whole, and the parts, and the relationship between the parts. It is the opposite of reductionism – the idea that something is simply the sum of its parts. A collection of parts that do not connect is not a system, it is a heap. Systems Engineering is a subset of Systems Thinking.
Tangible To motivate individuals, the objectives must be understandable and controllable at the individual level.
Uncertainty The degree to which the project’s scope and implementation are unclear to its stakeholders. Uncertainty is relative – what is uncertain to one person, may be certain to another person possessing a higher level of maturity.
Views Looking at a problem / issue through a particular lens or paradigm.
Wave Planning In complex projects the planning process is usually recursive and non-linear, rather than linear. Wave Planning plots nodal points for gathering information, design and implementation, allowing non-linear and recursive patterns to be portrayed in a linear model.
Whole of Life Management The project scope covers the whole project life cycle. It commences at the initial idea / need, and includes system thinking, architecture, concept, implementation, testing, verification and commissioning, operation, sustainability and journey management, routine and major periodic maintenance, facilities and asset management, logistic support, incremental and modular upgrades, and disposal.























































































































VIEW 4: Change and Journey

ELEMENT 4.8: Establish a stakeholder management strategy and plan