Caution About Using Competencies in Management Development

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Competencies in Management Development

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Competencies in Management Development

Competencies-based training methods attempt to identify standard capabilities in a wide range of managerial roles and then develop these capabilities in learners. However, this training method may be best suited only for helping learners to get some sense of the “territory” for management. The method may not be highly suited for actually developing learner's management skills.

Henderson (Action Learning: A Missing Link in Management Development, Personnel Review, (22), 14-24, 199) describes this situation well. He notes that “a special feature of managing is that it creates and defines its own task, unlike non-managerial work” (p. 16). He points out that universal lists of competencies, either as a means for describing managerial work or as a vehicle for education and training, do not capture the nature of management because it involves “a holistic performance.” He adds, “Competencies, therefore, can be assessed only by judgment and, since management is a creative activity, it follows that effective management activity renders obsolete the managerial competencies which achieve success. All managerial jobs are different at a detailed level of abstraction, while being the same at a high level of abstraction. So the more universally true any list of competencies is, the less use it is in specific, concrete situations” (p. 16).

Morgan (Riding the Waves of Change: Developing Managerial Competencies for a Turbulent World, Jossey-Bass, 1988) adds, “In the process, the whole concept of competence is changing. Whereas, in the past managerial competence went hand in hand with possession of specific skills and abilities, it now seems to involve much more. Increasingly, it rests in the development of attitudes, values, and ‘mindsets’ that allow managers to confront, understand, and deal with a wide range of forces within and outside their organizations, as well as in the development of operational skills.”


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