Monday, January 8, 2007

Competency frameworks : An intermediate stage?

I have done quite a bit of work (both as an external consultant and as an internal consultant) in the area of developing behavioral competency frameworks/competency based development. I still feel that they are useful in particular organization contexts. However my current thinking on competency models is to consider them more as an 'intermediate stage' in the evolution (of capability building efforts) rather than as the final stage.

One of the basic assumptions behind developing a behavioral competency model is that there is one particular behavioral pattern that would lead to superior results in a particular job(i.e there is 'one best way' to do the job). This might not be a valid assumption, in the case of most of the non-routine jobs(where it is not desirable to specify, in micro detail, the exact procedure to perform the job). Thus in the case of non-routine jobs, competency models might lead to 'theoretical'/'copy book style' behavioral prescriptions that might not be optimal for effectiveness on the job.

However, competency models (like copy book style training) has its own usefulness in particular contexts. It is useful to teach the beginners the 'copy book style' of doing a particular task, with the understanding that once they master the basics they are expected to improvise and modify the 'copy book style procedure' to suit their personal style and the specific context/ particular task at hand. Let is look at a simplified example (outside the work context) - cricket coaching. As part of coaching kids/beginners they are taught the copy book style of playing each shot (e.g. how to play a cover drive, sweep shot etc.). However, if we look at established cricket players, most of them play a (slight) variation(s) of the shots based on their personal style and the demands of the situation.

Thus I feel that we should use competency models and then go beyond them !!!


Veena Rao Saxena said...


my experience with implementing competency model has been "let the model evolve" approach. Introducing the concept of competency based roles is the first step to building a competency based performnace management system. And I think that once the organization familiarizes itself and gets accustomed to a competency based approach, evolution comes at the next stage. And thats when the benefits of the model can actually be seen and measured.

bombay dosti said...

An aspect that I have been debating upon for quite some time.
Between Gallup's strength based model and competency frameworks.
I specially have a problem when we have competency based performance management systems- we measure people based on a certain set of behaviours. Come on! Its people , they have their ways of acheiving the result. And why do we want the entire organisation to behave in one way. May be it was because I was on the other end of being appraised, it was so uncomfortable being appraised on a particular standard of behaviour.As you have said, competencies are a great tool to have a same language by which it can be a guiding force but am not for a measurement system

Prasad Kurian said...

Thanks for bringing up this point.

I feel that 'talents' (in the Gallup sense of the term) would influence the manner in which a person approaches a particular task. Since in many situations (at least in the case of non-routine tasks - where a 'time and motion study' kind of approach for work optimization won't work very well) there could be multiple 'equally-effective' ways of doing a particular task. This would imply that there could be multiple competency models possible for a job, based on the talent profile of the jobholders. I also feel that the 'talent profile' of an individual would have a critical influence on whether (and how quickly) that particular individual can learn/develop a particular competency.

Deb said...

I am glad to come across this blog post on competencies, competency model, and the commentary about it. I also appreciate your comment, which is affirming to those challenging, but sometimes battered souls out there who walk on the ragged edge of trend watching and developing organic and emerging ways to get work done in a healthy way for people, as well as business.

Kudos for enabling the conversation to happen, and not among just the bubble of senior leaders. Social media is great enabler of dialog of what affects us in daily work.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!