This post was inspired by a recent exchange I had with a BRMI member on the member’s wiki. I was delighted that he was asking an intelligent question about the SFIAplus competency framework from the UK’s BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. If only all my discussions about Competency Models were as well informed!

I am a huge believer in Competency Modeling, and the whole idea behind linking roles with competencies — bundles of expected knowledge, skills and behaviors for a given role. A good Competency Model clarifies what is expected from a role and what is needed in terms of human talent. A good Competency Model supports talent development and performance management programs, clarifying development needs, supporting the design of talent development programs, assessing progress in learning and the effectiveness of learning methods. So what’s the problem with Competency Modeling?

The Secret Shame of Competency Modeling…

I typically find the ‘state of art’ around Competency Modeling quite lacking. The common pattern is a flurry of activity (sometimes driven by the HR department, usually supported by them) during which Competency Models are developed or licensed, HR systems are introduced and everyone declares “success” and moves on to other initatives. But with all the downsizing/flattening of the last decade or so, there’s nobody to keep the models up to date, and they quickly become obsolete as Operating Models evolve.

Often, the Competency Model turns out to be more of a skills inventory — nothing inherently wrong with that, but skills inventories generally do nothing for talent management. In fact, in addition to the lack of ongoing Competency Model maintenance, I typically don’t see the loop being effectively closed between Competency Modeling, competency development, performance management and changes to the Operating Model (processes, sourcing, governance, products, platforms and services, etc.)

The Shoemaker’s Child?

Unfortunately, this is a familiar pattern — one that the late Stephen Covey described as “no time to sharpen the saw.” It is well recognized that the role of information and Information Technology are changing everyone’s jobs, and with those changes come new competency requirements. Just when IT and HR organizations should be collaborating to help lead their companies through the talent management maze, Competency Modeling remains a low priority, under-funded and inadequately resourced. Rather than be an integral component of a robust talent development process, competency modeling is often approached as an event.

What are your experiences with Competency Models? Do you feel that your ability to understand your role requirements and developmental needs are clear? Do you have the resources you need to develop and hone your skills? Are there clear consequences for growing your competency footprint, versus stalling at your current skills level? Do you see Competency Models as a constructive aid to performance improvement, or as an administrative overhead that delivers little, if any, real value for you?

Answers on a postcard, please!


Graphic image courtesy of Law Practice Today