A few years ago, while on assignment in Ghana, I was impressed with the high levels of education in the country. In the company I consulted to, it was not uncommon to find middle management with 2 or 3 degrees. Most executive managers had completed MBA”s at well-known European Universities.

You will appreciate my surprise when I could find very little evidence of these theoretical qualifications being applied in the workplace.

In my own country, South Africa, there was a mad rush to acquire university educations as this used to guarantee appointment to lucrative positions. 

In a post-apartheid era, the opportunities to land plush jobs are rapidly declining leaving many graduates disillusioned. 

More worrying is the perception that many of the incumbents in these positions appear totally incapable of applying their theoretical knowledge in a pragmatic manner. 

The results are often catastrophic as businesses may fail shedding hundreds of needed job.

 So what are they going to do when the jobs are no longer available?

 How will they respond when the employers and shareholders start demanding performance and not just presence? [Before you slate me, yes I am generalising – there are many thousands that are doing good work] 

I worry about the few that all too often land the plush job where no one knows what outcomes are required [often the strategic positions in the company] and where the results of the incompetence is only realised long after the person had moved on to the next job

 Is there a difference between acquired knowledge and applied competence?

 There certainly is!

 A person 1st learns the theoretical knowledge and then has to learn how to apply this knowledge in the practical world.

 Passing a competence assessment verifies that the person has learned the skill and that the person is capable of using the skill. This is the acquired competence.

 What business needs is the consistent and repetitive application of this acquired competence in the work environment.  This is the applied competence.

 So what is applied competence?

 “Applied competence is the ability to repetitively perform a task to the required standard without expending any unnecessary energy”

 This is also referred to as “Mastery”

 The fact that some reputable entity performs the assessment does not mean that the person is in fact capable of delivering applied competence.

 Applied competence takes time, feedback and balanced consequences to develop.

 Developing and maintaining applied competence requires an organised business approach.

 Typically a combination of mentoring and coaching will be used to develop and sustain applied competence.

 What is mentoring?

In the Greek mythology, Mentor was the trusted friend of Odysseus and the tutor of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son.  During the Trojan War, Odysseus entrusted the care of his household and the development of his son, to Mentor.

The word “Mentor” refers to a trusted advisor / tutor and entails the development and guidance of protégés.

Mentoring normally relates to the development of the protégé in areas over and above purely positional responsibilities.

Mentors may be officially assigned to develop employees as part of a Human Resource development strategy or may select a protégé out of personal interest and a desire to share life skills with the person.

 What is coaching?

Coaching is the process of assisting an individual to learn knowledge and develop skills  to master a task to meet requirements or to change behaviour to achieve agreed goals.

Coaching always involves doing.

Coaching results are measured as the performance against the positions Roles and Responsibilities

 When do we coach?

We coach when the employee does not have the competence required to perform the task, to the required standards as defined in the positions Roles and Responsibilities.

 What is education?

Education is the process of acquiring knowledge

 What is the key to success?

 An integrated competence acquisition and management process.  [ICAMP]

About Louis van Zyl

I am an experienced transformation, competence development and management specialist with extensive pragmaticl experience in developing appropriate solutions to cultivate coaches and mentors at all organisational levels in all types of industries and sectors. I have extensive organisational development, coaching, capacity building and training expertise using clearly defined roles and responsibilities to identify, develop and use best practice coaching procedures and systems During the past 33 years I have developed and applied a range of pragmatic problem solving processes to deal with all types of organizational transformation, product, raw materials and people performance problems in a wide variety of organizations Often my work involves re-engineering organizational processes, developing business strategies, managing transformation and change My experience has been gained during 33 years of pragmatic consulting and design and implementation of consulting and training programs in all spheres of the business and government and has advised and coached companies, governments and communities in the development and optimisation of critical processes and procedures.
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