Thursday, February 05, 2009

Can 'Competencies' be Taught?

I tend to agree with Marcus Buckingham (First, Break all the Rules). Do you? What's been your experience with "competencies"?

"Competencies are part skills, part knowledge and part talent. They lump together, haphazardly. Consequently, even though designed with clarity in mind, competencies can wind up confusing everybody. Managers soon find themselves sending people off to training classes to learn such 'competencies' as strategic thinking or attention to detail or innovation. But these aren't competencies. These are talents. They cannot be taught. If you are going to use competencies, make it clear which are skills or knowledge and therefore can be taught, and which are talents and therefore cannot."


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Jane

I concur with part of what you write here. I believe competencies have to be earned and cannot be imparted. Malcolm Gladwell explains this in his 'Outliers' and sketches some guidelines on how some people have gone about acquiring competency.

I will say, however, that if the will and determination is within the individual, the so-called ability is not what determines ultimate competency. Ability can also be acquired if the will to acquire it is there.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

Jane Bozarth said... on paper but I've seen it fail miserably in hiring. Do we hire for known talent, or in the hopes that someone, given enough practice, time, training, and internal motivation, will maybe acquire the ability we need?

Given enough time, support, and resources, I suppose a turkey could learn to climb a tree. But wouldn't it be better to hire a squirrel?


Anonymous said...

Well said, Jane. How many of us spend our work lives compensating for the drag caused by the turkeys? [I can't remember who it was who defined 'teamwork'as the opportunity to drag along the less able.] I disagree with Blogger-in -Middle-Earth that talent plays no role in ability.

Your question raises an interesting point about what exactly does 'competency' mean, anyway? I have, like you, seen it confused with other terms for the sake of giving management yet one more misunderstood and clumsily wielded measuring stick.

Jane Bozarth said...

Tom: Right. If motivation and training was all it took, then we'd have more 5-foot-2 players in the NBA...