Behaviours, competencies and all that

I’m often asked about competencies, usually in the context of putting together clear role descriptions to create a work system that will deliver what is needed.

Competencies are to role descriptions what the mission statement is to organisational purpose – a well-intentioned beginning that has become a bland wishlist of generic points that will neither offend nor inspire anyone.

We need to be serve our people better than this.  Here’s a way to do it that makes life easier for everyone, using categories that are direct, actionable and treat people like adults

Put together roles that cover the below:

1) Unique Value-Add or Purpose – 1-3 sentences on what the role exists to do, including what level of work.

2) Accountabilities – what the person is actually held accountable for producing.  Don’t think  ‘driving to Melbourne’, think ‘arriving in Melbourne at the required time’.  It’s not ‘identify new markets’ (process), but ‘business established in new market’ (outcome).  Not ‘provide high-level legal advice’ (process), it’s ‘advice provided rated as valuable to extremely valuable’ (outcome).

3) Behaviours – 1-3 particular behaviours that everyone in the organisation is expected to be seen to be doing.  Here’s the rule – you have to be willing to fire someone if they don’t behave in this way (after a couple of rounds of course).  No exceptions.  It’s the same as a salesperson not reaching their target three periods in a row, if someone doesn’t change their behaviour after having this pointed out to them twice, it’s goodbye.

(I usually recommend something meaning ‘treats others with respect and fairness’ as one behaviour, then no more than two others that are both particular to the organisation and crucial for it’s strategy.  It’s not compulsory to have three.)

4) Knowledge, Skill and Experience – what the person needs to know and be able to do to complete the work.  This becomes your development checklist once they are in the role.

If you have have ‘competencies’ in your organisation, first delete anything that is a personality trait (not observable, so not fair for a manager to judge effectiveness on).  Then go through what’s left and put each into either an accountability, behaviour or K/S/E.  

You will immediately move your role descriptions out of the realm of waffle, your people will be much clearer on what they are there to do, and addressing any outcomes or behaviours outside of expectations becomes a lot more fair.  Win win!


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