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Competency and Competency - Part 2, Linking to performance

Competency and Competency - Part 2, Linking to performance Some writers have identified competencies that are considered to be generic and overarching across all occupations. Reynolds and Snell (1988) identify 'meta-qualities' - creativity, mental agility and balanced learning skill - that they believe reinforces other qualities. Hall (1986) uses the term 'meta-skills' - as skills in acquiring other skills. Linstead (1991) and Nordhaug and Gronhaug (1994) use the term 'meta-competencies' to describe similar characteristics. The concept of meta-competence falls short of providing a holistic, workable model, but it does suggest that there are certain key competencies that overarch a whole range of others. There is however, some doubt about the practicability of breaking down the entity of management into its constituent behaviours (Burgoyne, 1989a). This suggests that the practice of management is almost an activity that should be considered only from a holistic viewpoint. Baker et al. (1997) link the various types of competence by first establishing a hierarchy of congruence as a backbone to the model. In broad terms, they describe the congruence of an entity to be the degree of match or fit between some external driver to the entity and the response of that entity to the driver. This method enables them to take into consideration the idea that management, as an entity, and the individuals who perform the function do so within a particular environment. Measurement of congruence or goodness of fit, has been attempted in studies of operations (Cleveland et al., 1989, Vickery, 1991).

Baker et al.'s hierarchy is shown in Figure 1, with four levels of congruence: 1) Organisation level, 2) Core business process level, 3) Sub-process within core process level, and 4) Individuals level.

At the organisation level, there is congruence when a firm adopts a strategy that is consistent with the competitive priorities derived from the firm's business environment. The strategy, in turn, determines the operational priorities of the firm, following Platts and Gregory (1990), Baker et al. (1997) using their own terminology, consider these operational priorities to drive the core processes of the firm. These, in turn, can be broken down into a number of sub-processes - and congruence is needed between the sub-processes and the core processes. At the individual level, the skills and knowledge should also match the priorities driven by the sub-processes.

This hierarchical model follows a traditional approach that structure follows strategy (Vickery, 1991, Cleveland et al., 1989, Kim and Arnold, 1992). Others view that competences are a part of the structure of the firm and should influence strategy making, Bhattacharaya and Gibbons (1996) point out that Prahalad and Hamal (1990) and Stalk et al. (1992) take this approach. The hierarchical model has been tested analysing case studies of seventeen manufacturing plants that won Best Factory Awards during the period 1993-95 in the UK (Cranfield) and established benchmarks. Baker et al. (1997) found some direct cause-effect links between enabling competences at the sub-process level and competitive performance (at the core process level). However, they also found many 'best practices' such as employee empowerment and team working which were harder to link to specific competitive competences. This model provides an insightful way to break down the complex issue of how individual performance influences the competitive competences of the firm. Baker et al.'s research is limited within the manufacturing sector where core processes are often easier to identify and define with a clear delineation of individual effort, technology and product. It is also established on the basis that structure follows strategy - whereas, most firms will already have structure and will be adapting their strategies continuously as the external environment changes.

Figure 1. Hierarchical model of competence (Baker et al., 1997)- See original article for figure.

Cheetham and Chivers (1996) describe a model of competence that draws together the apparently disparate views of competence - the 'outcomes' approach and the 'reflective practitioner' (Schon, 1983, Schon, 1987) approach. Their focus was to determine how professionals maintain and develop their professionalism. In drawing together their model, they consider the key influences of different approaches and writers.

The core components of the model are: Knowledge/cognitive competence, Functional competence, Personal or behavioural competence and Values/ethical competence

with overarching meta-competencies include communication, self-development, creativity, analysis and problem-solving.

Reflection in and about action (Schon, 1983) surround the model, thereby bringing the outcomes and reflective practitioner approaches together in one model shown in Figure 3.

Cheetham and Chivers model of professional competence is useful in bringing the concept of individual competence to bear on the competence of the organisation in a non-manufacturing context, but it still falls short of providing a useful model to link an individuals behaviour with the business results of an organisation across industries - a generic model if you will.

Figure 2. Model of professional competence (Cheetham and Chivers, 1996) - See original article for figure.

Young (2002) creates a generic model neatly, by developing his individual model further to the organisational perspective adopting the concept of core competence, as articulated by Prahalad and Hamal (1990) and further developed by Stalk et al. (1992) and Tampoe (1994), suggesting that the collection of individual competences within the organisation create the organisational core competence.

This model provides a way to understand how developing competency (personal characteristics and behaviours) at the individual level enables an individual to demonstrate competence (the functions and tasks of the job) which in turn cascades through a hierarchy of the organisation (core competence and other activities supporting the organisation) to deliver business results.

Figure3. Individual variables of competency, competence and performance and organisation core competence (adapted from Young, 2002) - See original article for figure.

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