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CxM Talent Stack – The 1%

CxM Talent Stack – The 1%

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 107) – All IMHO:

What is the necessary “Talent Stack” for a Commissioning Manager? 

There seem to be two types of Commissioning Manager. The first is a nice suit and haircut but basically an entitled paper pusher and bundle of noise trying to show everyone how clever they are. The second is the real deal with great soft and technical skills, providing value by managing people, getting things done,  resolving problems and managing outcomes. Which one do you think you are? 

I am talking about Commissioning Managers in the British sense, in North America the phenomenon of Commissioning Management is not accepted. Commissioning Management as a professional service only seems to have established markets in the UK, Hong Kong and UAE. If anyone can add to this list, please leave a comment. 

Commissioning Management was born out of building services complexity plus the need to coordinate multiple specialists and independently verify final systems integration and performance. Yes North America this is real and it is necessary and not just a crazy Brit thing. 

 Before I get into the necessary skills to hire for, lets agree definitions:

  • Commissioning (Cx):  Advancement of a system from a state of static completion to full dynamic operation in accordance with specified requirements. A onetime event relating to new construction or new installation. 
  • Commissioning Management (CxM): Planning, organization, co-ordination and control of Commissioning activities. A onetime event relating to new construction or new installation. See CIBSE Commissioning Code M. 
  • Commissioning Specialist – Authority – Agent – Leader – Manager: Person undertaking/delivering Commissioning.
  • Talent: Aptitude or skill. Qualifications are not talent. They are the tickets that have to be earned to play the game, so talent can be developed and demonstrated.
  • Talent Stack: Necessary fundamental plus adjacent skills required by an individual to be effective in a designated role. 

Commissioning is technical not just process! The value of process only Commissioning is zero IMHO and degrades Commissioning as a value added service. Process only Commissioning can be dangerous because it implies a technical competency that is not always there. Commissioning Management is at the intersection of everything. It requires:

  • Holistic mind set and systems based thinking
  • Concern with ALL building systems and considers the building as the system
  • Combination of project management and technical Commissioning skills

Commissioning Manager deliverables consist of:  

  1. Leading the Commissioning team and project on all matters relating to multi discipline systems completion, verification and handover
  2. Providing technical leadership but have the humility to know, what they do not know, and be able to get the right person and skill set in place
  3. Demonstrating excellent, spoken and written communication skills to facilitate problem solving, compliance with specified requirements and relationship building
  4. Ability to “embrace the suck” and power through challenges to delver at an individual and team level in the face of difficulty

There is a reason that top flight Commissioning Managers earn well. If they meet items 1 to 4 above they would do well in any industry and make particularly good project managers. Therefore, if you are recruiting a Commissioning Manager I suggest the following talent stack be used as a check list of necessary/desirable attributes. 

CxM Talent Stack

Fundamental, Prerequisite Hard Skills 

  • Senior qualified engineer or technician (8 years plus experience) within a relevant discipline i.e. Mechanical, TAB, HVAC, Electrical, ELV or Envelope 
  • Computer skills including proficiency with:

    • Project scheduling/programming software such as Primavera or MS Project
    • Network logic diagrams
    • Visio & Excel
    • CAD drawings and BIM software (ability to use and manipulate, not draw and develop) 
    • Digital communication and documentation management 

Necessary Soft Skills 

  • Project management skills – ability to plan, prioritize and execute 
  • Leadership – people follow real leaders  naturally, without coercion, a leader with no willing team members is an ineffective lone wolf
  • Persuasion – IMHO the most important soft skill, the ability to persuade without coercion is the sign of a true master
  • Positive mind set without being a delusional yes man 
  • Assertive without being adversarial – sometimes you have to be adversarial, great leaders know when to be adversarial and keep it to a minimum

I was once asked by a Commissioning Technician “how do I become a Commissioning Manager?”. My answer; “when you show up as already meeting most of the necessary attributes associated with a Commissioning Manager”. If asked today, I would use the talent stack above as a check list. There is a “chicken and egg” situation in the transformation from Commissioning Technician/Engineer to Commissioning Manager. Firms ask for experienced Commissioning Managers but you cannot become one without the opportunity to get experience. 

For people looking to move into Commissioning Management use the talent stack above and work on developing your soft skills. There are numerous courses, books and abundant free material out there. 

For employers, the hard skills required are easy to identify and test. They are the minimum skills required to be considered for a Commissioning Managers position IMHO. The soft skills are harder to identify and test because they are situational and outcome based. I recommend investigating previous project outcomes and speaking with past team members before hiring a new external Commissioning Manager. 

There are people out there that measure up with this whole talent stack, they are not unicorns but they are the 1% of the Cx industry and IMHO, they deserve the money they earn. Talent stacks lead to money stacks!

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#62 – 5 Rules of Commissioning Management ( )

#33 – Project Management & Commissioning KPI’s – A Way to Measure Quality? ( )

#34 – Commissioning Management – A Project Management Derivative?  ( )

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