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Seb Anthony

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Competence, history of…!


I'm trying to identify some detailed history about the growth of competence frameworks. I believe they grew from practices in the military in the 1960's. Does anyone have any sources of information I can use and quote?


Frank McGoldrick

6 Responses

  1. The odd history of competence
    As far as I remember (from what I read, not that I was there!), competence frameworks grew out of a collaboration between a chap at Harvard called McClelland and the US Information Agency back in the late 60’s early 70’s. The US Agency were responsible for disseminating information about America worldwide, and found that some people did a great job, whilst others with the same training, education and background were having no success, and were even being asked by governments to leave! They started work with Harvard, initially hoping that they could screen for success using psychometrics but found that it was more about what people did, than intelligence or other characteristics. In this case cultural sensitivity was important and so by modelling what high performers did they were able to review recruitment, training and implementation processes resulting in real success. That success was picked up on by other US Government and Military establishments, and continued success saw it roll out into the commercial world.

    Sorry I can’t be more specific on sources etc, I’m a little worried that I remembered this much – I think its the mental image of some poor soul showing Blue Hawaii and being run out of town by angry locals that made it stick in my mind.

  2. Try the following web page
    May I suggest you go to:

    It is the web page for Appendix 1 of the First Report published by the Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations in their ongoing Human Resources Profession Competencies Project. It charts some of the key development phases in modern day competencies and has lots of references that should keep you busy for a while!

    Also try which has a great report on competencies (World Federation of Personnel Management Association)

  3. Pioneering article
    Claudine’s right, many authorities attribute competency-based HRM to Harvard University psychologist David McClelland – his 1973 article in American Psychologist ‘Testing for Competence Rather Than Intelligence” is cited as a key point in the field.

    Lucy Marder
    [email protected]

  4. Competence movement in UK 80s onwards
    I don’t know which particular aspects you want to look at but my company was heavily involved in competence and occupational standards from the mid 80s.

    If this is an area that is relevant to your research, feel free to get in touch – I can also put you in contact with people who were at the heart of the original design and purpose of occupational standards in the UK

    Peter Taylor
    [email protected]

  5. Spencer
    If you want early references try “Competence at work” by Lyle M Spencer and Signe M Spencer. It describes the early thinking about why competence is important.

  6. Competence frameworks
    Hi Frank
    My colleague Roger Pattison and I have been working with our client company’s helping them build and implement competency frameworks. As a result Fenman asked us to co-author The Competencies Activity Pack published in August 2002. You can preview it on-line at the Fenman website
    and preview it in hard copy by contacting Fenton Wiffen email: [email protected]
    Roger and I had to do lots of supplemental research so why don’t you give me a call for some pointers?
    Andrea Moffat
    Tel: 01285 644284
    Email: [email protected]


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