Daily Archives: August 7, 2014

Project Assurance Specialist: What Do You Look For?

In our series on Project Assurance: A Methodology for Keeping Your Supply Management Project that we just wrapped, we discussed Project Assurance — a specialized discipline and practice involving independent and objective oversight, specialized experience, and audit skill to assess risk, finance, accounting, compliance, safety, and performance for any major capital expenditure. It is designed to minimize the risk of projet overruns and failure.

In today’s post we will discuss what makes a good Project Assurance Specialist. Not just anyone can perform such a task. What are the skills that such an individual must posses to be successful? What must define the core of her, or his, EQ?

We’ll start by referencing the intervention process pyramid defined by Prinzo in No Wishing Required. According to Prinzo, collaborative intervention requires you to:

Implement the Solution
Communicate the Findings
Negotiate the Solutions


Navigate the Organization
Identify the Decision Making Process
Conduct Mini-Briefings


Build the Foundation
Trust & Credibility


Each step of the process requires a base set of skills, some of which Prinzo did a great job explaining in his book. In this post, we will discuss those core skills along with the secondary skills that are needed for assurance success.

The core skills required to build the foundation, as defined by Prinzo, are:

  • receptivity
    the assurance specialist needs to listen carefully to understand the situation
  • comprehension
    the assurance specialist needs to take the time to properly understand the situation
  • compromise
    the assurance specialist needs to find the middle ground that all parties will (reluctantly) accept
  • humility
    sometimes the assurance specialist needs to make the solution appear to be the idea of one or more stakeholders even if all of the credit is due to the specialist — sometimes harmony is key
  • objectivity
    the assurance specialist cannot take sides and cannot be blind to the truth
  • diplomacy
    even when some stakeholders should be slapped upside the head or strangled for pig-headed viewpoints that could put the entire project in jeopardy, the assurance specialist needs to be diplomatic
  • strategy
    not only does the assurance specialist need to navigate the explosive stakeholder minefield, but come up with solutions that will be acceptable and successful
  • analysis
    the assurance specialist needs to dig deep and sometimes read between the lines to determine where the issues are and what the solutions need to look like

But that’s just the foundation. In addition to these skills, the assurance specialist will also need the following skills to navigate the organization:

  • organizational knowledge
    without a good knowledge of the workings of the organization, it will be very hard for the assurance specialist to navigate it
  • team building
    even though it is the job of the assurance specialist to find the issues all others miss, it will often take a cross-functional team to implement their mitigations
  • communication
    the mini-briefings will have to be very effective in order for the resolution sessions to go well

Finally, the assurance specialist will also need the following skills to implement the solution:

  • negotiation
    diplomacy and compromise are a good start, but sometimes the assurance specialist will require the use of persuasion to get all parties in sync
  • leadership
    while it will often require a cross functional team to implement the mitigation, that team will still need the guidance of a leader and that role falls to the assurance specialist

In other words, it takes someone with a skill set that goes beyond basic project management skills to be a project assurance specialist.