Why Organizations Struggle: The Competency Gap
Via LinkedIn : There isn’t one of us that wouldn’t like our team or organization to excel. Success leads to feelings of both accomplishment and enduring confidence. It is healthy to envision that future — planning for its arrival. However, for many of us this becomes elusive. We meet and talk and play with strategy — yet our most telling metrics continue to decline and our contributors remain disengaged.
I would venture to say that the lion’s share of organizations recognize the need for change as they begin to struggle. I would even say that they also recognize where these changes need to occur. However, great efforts are snuffed out because of a key organizational “feedback loop” that shorts out and disconnects. This occurs when we fail realize that the competencies required to move forward have evolved.
In the words of revered coach Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
This dynamic can strike with a vengeance.
As organizations evolve so do the required competencies — the collection of skills needed to power its engines. This can occur for many reasons including market innovation, organizational life-cycle, talent and customer needs. In my time spent with organizations this realization is liberating, but at the same time it poses critical questions. The answers to some of these questions — are those we may not want to hear. Here are just a few:
Is our leadership team aligned with our needs? With growth, small organizations become larger organizations — and the skills required to guide them also evolve. In many cases (and as it should be), roles are added to meet growing needs. However, it is a rare leader that recognizes their tenure is complete and seeks his/her replacement. (See a related Stanford course on growth & scaling here.)
Do our metrics tell the right story? Competencies need to be quantified in some way, so that we might measure progress. This requires great care and deliberation. Think of a competency as an emerging “construct” in the same way that researchers might. The competency may present as multi-dimensional, encompassing various elements. Be certain that all elements are represented in your chosen set of metrics. (You can read more here.)
Do our recognition & rewards reinforce the right behaviors? Even when we identify “emerging” competencies, we must close the loop to help direct behavior. This means that we must immediately make it known that we expect these competencies to be operating on a daily basis. This should follow-through to our reward systems.
The evolution of needed competencies cannot be stemmed. However, we can react and respond effectively. Set the alarm by listening carefully — so the evolution doesn’t go unnoticed.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.
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