The Core Competencies of Effective Project Execution: The Challenge of Diversity

Joseph Lampel (Collaborator)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The successful planning and execution of large projects relies on the flexibility of engineering-construction-procurement (EPC) firms. It is argued that the effective management of this flexibility depends on the acquisition and development of a set of core competencies. Field and archival research in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Malaysia, and Japan, are used to modify and extend current core competency theory to the execution of large projects. The research discloses four distinct groups of core competencies: entrepreneurial, technical, evaluative, and relational. These core competencies support core project processes that structure activities and routines involved in project development and delivery. We describe each core competency, and we examine how they impact core processes and through them project performance. We argue that the strategy of EPC firms evolves under the pressure of two opposing forces. Firms experience pressure to seek project opportunities in diverse areas and regions with a view to creating a robust project portfolio, and they experience pressure to remain close to their core competencies in order to minimize costs and maximize the probability of gaining individual contracts. Three types of strategies develop in response to these opposing pressures: focussing strategy which is competency driven; switching strategy which is opportunity driven; and combining strategy which attempts to strike a balance between the two imperatives
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-483
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Strategy; Large-projects; Core competencies; Project-based firms; Engineering-construction firms


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