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10 CRITICAL ROLE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING management competencies could be identified. He was the first individual to define competency and to develop the So much to do and so few resources with which to do it! This behavioral interview methodology that is still the basis of is a truism of modern government, and training is no excep- most competency definition. Boyatzis defined a competency tion. Legislatures continue to pass laws and mandate actions as "an underlying characteristic of an individual, which is without always supplying sufficient resources to achieve the causally related to effective or superior performance in a results required. With so many competing demands, organi- job." Competencies can be traits, skills, aspects of one's self- zations must have a mechanism to identify and focus on "the image or social role, or a body of knowledge that one uses. critical few"--those actions, outcomes, and activities that are The emphasis is on outcomes, which makes competencies most likely to achieve the required outcomes. For most orga- well suited for the work world of today with its emphasis on nizations, that mechanism is the agency's strategic plan or achieving outcomes. Paul C. Green has also been a major similar document. As Carter McNamara wrote, "Simply put, contributor to the use of competencies. He helped translate strategic planning determines where an organization is going the concept into operational realities by defining how to over the next year or more, how it's going to get there and develop and conduct behavioral interviews (and by actually how it'll know if it got there or not." More information on coining the phrase "behavioral interview"). Green's initial McNamara's ideas on strategic planning can be found at focus was on the manager's use of the behavioral interview http://www.managementhelp.org (McNamara 1999). to improve selection. More recently, however, he has written on how job seekers can improve their interviewing skills (Get In his book, Strategic Planning for Public and Non-Profit Hired: Winning Strategies to Ace the Interview 1996). Organizations (1995), John R. Bryson describes strategic Although Green's focus in this publication was on getting the planning as a management tool whose primary purpose is to job, behavioral interviewing can be an equally useful selec- assist organizations in doing a better job of focusing attention tion technique for training and development by helping to on its most important work and in providing a plan to marshal ensure that those selected for training programs--in particu- scarce resources most effectively. It is also a tool that allows lar, for example, executive development programs--have the an organization's employees to share the vision of what are basic capabilities to warrant the substantial investment. the important areas of focus and what are the desired out- comes that the organization wants to achieve. It provides a Many organizations are moving to competency-based basis for identifying the competencies needed in the work- assessment and training systems. The U.S. Office of Personnel force and a basis for both organization and individual perfor- Management has defined and validated competencies for all mance assessment. The strategic plan is a current document. federal occupations and these provide the foundation for a num- ber of public organizations at the federal, state, and local level It is about fundamental decisions and actions, but it does not to develop their own specific workforce competencies. Most attempt to make future decisions (Steiner 1979). Strategic plan- ning involves anticipating the future environment, but the deci- organizations use competencies primarily for career develop- sions are made in the present. This means that over time, the ment and training purposes. Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, organization must stay abreast of changes in order to make the Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas are examples of state DOTs using best decisions it can at any given point--it must manage, as well competencies as a foundation for training and development pro- as plan, strategically. grams. Any state DOT thinking about developing competencies should first review the substantial body of literature that already For state DOTs, the strategic plan provides the training pro- exists and can most likely find an excellent point of departure gram with a point of departure for identifying the competencies for identifying specific state DOT competencies. needed in the workforce and for prioritizing training demands so that those that are the most important to the organization In its discussion of competencies, the New York State receive first priority for funding, development, and delivery. Civil Service Commission says: COMPETENCIES AS A FOUNDATION Competencies are a critical tool in workforce and succession FOR TRAINING PROGRAMS planning. At a minimum, they are a means to: David McClelland, a researcher on human motivation, first · Identify capabilities, attitudes, and attributes needed to meet current and future staffing needs as organizational priorities began to develop the idea of competencies in the 1960s. and strategies shift; and McClelland's thesis was that the more traditional ways of · Focus employee development efforts to eliminate the gap predicting job success--examinations of knowledge and IQ between capabilities needed and those available. tests--were not successful predictors of performance at the work site. Instead, he argued we should look for ways to The New York Civil Service Commission went on to say identify other variables--"competencies"--that could pre- that dict job success. The work on competencies was further enhanced in the early 1980s when Richard Boyatzis was organizations also have competencies. They are usually the hired by the American Management Association to see if result of collective individual competencies common throughout
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11 the organization. Organizational competencies have significant works. . . . Being sent to learn something for which they have lit- impact on organizational results and are worth identifying, if not tle interest or aptitude is not a good use of either employees' or developing. trainers' time. Receiving training to augment strengths is rarely considered. Organizational competencies can include process improve- ment, teamwork, performance measurement, values, project The Gallup Organization arguments are worth considering. management, new ways of thinking or performing, and knowl- While serving as the Chief Learning Officer for the Internal Revenue Service in the early 2000s, Dr. James Trinka experi- edge management. These are built, in part, on individuals hav- mented with training that would improve a manager's ing the competency or related competencies. For example, an strengths rather than work on his or her weaknesses. The eval- organizational competency of strategic planning is dependent uations showed that the return on investment was significantly on managers having the skills to do the planning. In addition, greater than the more traditional training to correct a weakness. the organization needs a workable planning process, skilled A 5% or greater increase in a strength area resulted in a far bet- people assigned to coordinate the process, organizational per- ter job performance than a similar increase in an area of weak- formance measures, and systems for reporting performance ness. The Internal Revenue Service concluded that it was data and tracking progress in meeting goals and objectives. All more beneficial and cost-effective to focus on ensuring that of these components could comprise the organizational com- within the entire team in an organization there were the requi- petency of strategic planning. site competencies, rather than trying to ensure that those who were weak in a particular area have training to improve the Many public organizations develop career roadmaps that weakness (thought leader interview with J. Trinka, June 2005). define the competency requirements for a particular type of work from entry level to the most senior performance level. In his 1999 article, "Managing Oneself," Peter Drucker This roadmap identifies the type and the location of the posi- argued that tions, as well as any training or developmental assignments offered by the organization that assist the individual in acquir- success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know ing the competencies. This way an employee is empowered themselves--their strengths, their values, and how they best per- to make his or her own career decisions about which routes form. [He noted that] History's great achievers--a Napoleon, a daVinci, a Mozart--have always managed themselves. . . . Now, can be pursued to achieve the competency desired. most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. There is, however, a contradictory view of the value of com- petencies as the basis for training and development. The Gallup In the article, he then asked and answered a series of Organization has for years surveyed employees in a range of questions: public and private organizations to identify what inspires exceptional performance. In their 2002 book, Follow this Path: · What are my strengths? How the World's Great Organizations Drive Growth by · How do I perform? Unleashing Human Potential, Coffman and Gonzalez-Molina · What are my values? argue that competency-based training fails because it focuses · Where do I belong? on employee weaknesses rather than strengths. · What should I contribute? Drucker argued that each of us should use feedback analysis Most organizations assume that anyone can excel at any job, pro- to answer these questions and that after using feedback for vided they receive enough training and try hard enough. Second, they take strengths for granted and try to fix weaknesses. analysis a few years we would clearly understand our strengths (Emphasis added.) This `competency' approach is a huge waste and weaknesses. His insights provide a useful framework for of energy and time, no matter how well intended, designed, and structuring an individual training and development program as executed it is. The reason is simple: It is based on three flawed well as an organizational one. More information on this can be assumptions. found at http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu. Those who excel in the same role all display the same behaviors. Each of these behaviors is learned. His insights about the importance of managing oneself were prescient. A few years after this article was published, Each of these behaviors should be learned, because improving NACE and other research organizations began reporting on weaknesses leads to success. the importance that college graduates and other knowledge The competency based approach is very popular with human workers were placing on their personal responsibility for resource departments because its explicit aim is to `develop peo- ensuring that they continue to keep their knowledge and skills ple' and `build human capital.' Human resources, therefore, becomes a `strategic partner' by adhering to the official list of at the cutting edge. desired competencies. This places human resources (and training) in a defensive, rather than an offensive, position. . . . The compe- This evolution of the allocation of responsibility between tency approach is a dead end. It rarely succeeds in measurably the organization and its employees suggests that training and improving either productivity, customer satisfaction, employee engagement or retention, or safety or performance records, all development organizations must have mechanisms to ensure of which are the real measures of how effectively a person that they solicit input from employees as part of the needs