Dave Snowden‘s post on apprenticeship resonated with me. I wouldn’t like to be in HR on the day the fiery Welshman shows up. (Especially if we were not offering him the right kind of tea).

Unfortunately over the last few decades we have increasingly talked about skills competence’s and individuals as if people and their capabilities were widgets in a machine. The engineering metaphors which have dominated management thinking since the 80s failed to understand the cognitive, temporal and social aspects of apprentice models. Instead they favored a series of nonsenses: psychometric tests were held to measure innate qualities; competence mapping assumed you could explicitly design and measure abstract capabilities; eLearning and a host of other information models removed the social process of knowledge creation and development.

I’ve always had a visceral reaction to that word competencies. Years ago I was chatting to a prospective client whose opening line was, “So what’s your core competence?”. It was the first time I’d come across that phrase and it was like a doctor doing a prostate check without asking: confusing, and definitely not pleasant, even if there may have been some positive intention buried in there somewhere.

Even typing this now, my head spins at the whole notion. I am not a competence, I am a free man.

I have come across competence frameworks and I see that many people swear by them. I feel like there’s a page of the script that I’ve not been given. Viv‘s writing a little manual about facilitation at the moment and I’m trying to help and not get in her way too much. We wrote a list of the qualities of a good facilitator. I looked at it and thought, wow, that’s a bit intimidating. It feels like a counsel of perfection. In reality, I don’t start my day resolving to be more present, empathetic etc etc. But when I’m on form I think a lot of those qualities emerge.

I think they emerge more over time with practice, because with repetition, self-awareness, half-decent feedback and reflection, facilitation gradually teaches you how to facilitate. I don’t think the competencies are the key.

1 thought on “Competencies

  1. Stephan Fassmann

    It gets really interesting when you realize that what you do best has nothing to do with the job you are doing.

    I am not a human resource to be strip mined.

    I am not a core competency to be pigeon holed and exploited.

    I am not a problem to be solved.

    I am not a number, a job title, a hobby or a resume.

    I am far more then the sum of my parts.

    I am a glorious being.

    I would like to help you, but if you can’t see beyond your own little box then I feel sad for you, and I will move on.


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