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Nikki Brun

Rigby & Peller

Training & Development Manager

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How do I write competencies without a business plan?


I have been tasked with developing management competencies for the organisation I work with. According to my training qualification you look at where your business is going (business plan, mission statement, organisational goals) and decide what is the best framework to get you there. My organisation doesn't have any type of map however. Nothing. I have been told to put together whatever I think is appropriate. Has anyone else experienced something similar? I'm kind of at a loss where to even begin, but have to get this done. Your help is most appreciated! Nikki

6 Responses

  1. Some thoughts …
    Hi Nikki, were you also supplied with a crystal ball?? Sounds a bit to me like they haven’t got a clue themselves without the usual kit and kaboodle to fall back on. I’d be inclined to consider some more ‘generic’ competencies such as planning, leadership, communication and accountability or others which could comfortably fit into most roles. It would also be worth looking at similar companies and seeing if you can identify the competencies they use or consider the industry as a whole. For example, if this organisation is based in healthcare then competencies such as interpersonal skills would be highly valuable. If the organisation is within advertising then creativity would rate highly. Sorry, this looks like I’m teaching you to suck eggs but something as basic as that might trigger some ideas. I suspect you’ll go back with some suggestions which they’ll grab and completely revamp! Good luck and please let us know how you get on!

  2. Thanks for the start!
    Thanks Clare, as yet they have been unforthcoming with the crystal ball. There has been a shocking lack of tarot cards too.
    I always would have thought it was easier NOT having business objectives to have to follow, and now I find I am lost without them.
    The brainwashing has clearly worked!

  3. Another thought ….
    Hi Nikki, you may also want to speak to key people in the organisation for their thoughts on ideal behaviours. They need only summarise this in a couple of sentences which you could jot down or they can email to you. Perhaps ask them for a snapshot of their ideal employee and the ideal behaviours/qualities for performing effectively and get some input from each department. Or turning it on its’ head – ask them what they’re not getting now from their subordinates. Feasible?? ūüôā

  4. Competencies without a plan
    There is no doubt that in an ideal world a clear business plan would lead to clear business targets, individual targets, clear behavioural expectations, identified skills and competencies, a resultant development plan and a rosy glow. Unfortunately reality is often full of compromises, judgment calls and coping strategies – sometimes due to poor management but often down to circumstances. For example, if you had a clear business plan I wouldn’t be surprised that by the time the ink dried there would be a change needed, a new emphasis in the mind of the CEO or a surprising twist in the market.
    I’m not a great fan of the competency movement, so I’d be asking lots of critical questions around what the top team want competencies to do. Don’t just embark on them because they are supposed good practice. That said, if they are developed well and used sensibly they can be helpful for performance management and skills development in particular. In the situation you find yourself in I’d ditch the desire for a crystal ball and work out with people at all levels precisely what behaviours, actions, skills and attributes that they regard as most vital for future organisational success in an uncertain world. I’d avoid simplistic platitudes like ‘good communications’ and get people to articulate in plain English the specifics that fit your context, and then work them up into categories and draft competencies. You’ll need to get senior managers signed up to the competencies, and their use, but I’d try to keep them from crawling over the semantic detail.
    Best of luck

  5. How about values?
    Even if there is no current strategy, does the company have any longstanding values to use as a guide? These aren’t always written down, but generally well known within the company and often used as part of the recruitment process (formally or informally). If a value is ‘teamwork’ then you can break that down further to, for example, ‘ability to solve problems collaboratively’ or customer focus ‘ effectively communicates order status to customers’.

    Beyond that, I can only reiterate the previous idea – talk to senior managers about the competences they value, or think they might want more of in the future. Or ask them to identify a ‘model’ employee in their team and tease out the competences associated with that individual.

    Good luck – you have a challenge there!

  6. What Good Looks Like

    My immediate thoughts were very similar to those of Claire. I’ve helped to design competencies without any real reference to business plans, and I’ve found the best way is to get some focus groups together to define ‘What good looks like’ for key roles.

    Using a post-it note/brown-paper activity (and giving yourself a full day) you can tease out (using your excellent facilitation and questioning skills), what seperates an excellent perfomer from an average and under-performer, and the underlying factors. The hard task then is to group/refine/clarify what you have into something meaningful.

    A great challenge and lots of fun as long as there is committment for the process.

    At the end of the day, you can recommend that they have a business plan, and why this is best practice, but you have to work with what they’ve got, and take it from there.

    Good luck,

    Sheridan Webb

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Nikki Brun

Training & Development Manager

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