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Everyone has a perfect competence

Being a good team player is essential in delivering under pressure.  Knowing what to do, when to do it and why are critical demonstrations of individual competency too often dissolved into the melange of ‘teamwork’.

Collaborating in today’s environment is as much performance art as it is a team sport, and like both of these activities it depends on whole hearted engagement.

Depending on the role you play in the team, you’ll often be asked to contribute – and if you’re in a good team – to take the starring role as the need arises.

And this is where things can get messy – what if standing up and taking centre stage is not your thing?

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t participate – it just means that you need to engage others, especially your team leader,  to show off your mastery of the 3Dub.*

From the team leader perspective, understanding your performers (which is really what everyone in the workforce is) is vital. This is where tools like the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) can give critical insights for managing the stars in your team.

Often overlooked in the stampede to apply the skill levels is the first half of the SFIA framework – the generic capabilities.  This half alone can help to profile a highly skilled personality by showing their preferred working styles, and from that any team leader can work out how best to support individual levels of personal capability.

Of course, it doesn’t excuse the need to apply common sense and any team leader, scrum master, project manager should be aware of the need to address the personal capabilities of their team members to ensure they can shine in their 3Dub moment.

Everyone deserves their moment for a perfect score where what they know and how they work are allowed to shine.   A perfect performance, like a perfect score.

*3Dub is the ‘what to do, when to do it and why’ moment that is the test of absolute competence that comes to all at some – or several – points in a delivery scenario.  Failure is an option, but then so is stepping up first.
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Courage. Leaders need it.

Looking back – or the ‘rear view mirror’ approach – is considered by many to be the source of insight and learning, as much for what to do as what NOT to do.

For emerging leaders at every level, this approach can be both terrifying and exhilarating.

Leading others means to be aware of the context of one’s leadership as much as it is about one’s style. For that reason, leadership isn’t a static topic – and perhaps, is something that can’t really be ‘taught’ in the traditional sense.

However, the one constant in leadership – sometimes writ large, sometimes a footnote – is the need for courage. Not fearlessness, although that helps – but the willingness to make a decision and stick to it, steering a confident course for followers. This willingness of people to follow reflects leadership ability, but questioning a leader’s judgment is the root of leadership failure. In a communications world increasingly dependent on constant change, social opinion and groupthink for relevance, leadership can be a personally risky business.

This is why not all leadership training can be created equal and why not all leaders of the past or the present can be effective teachers for tomorrow: because leadership – and the training of it – is a moving target.

Does leadership success in, say WW2 have the same characteristics as it did in the Vietnam War? Or is successful leadership of Google the same as it is for Microsoft or even Apple? Are the skills of political leadership the same everywhere? The answer is obviously no, because strong leadership is contextual to the situation of the leader. The courage they require is commensurate with the size of the challenge they’re facing and their ability to share and communicate this with those who follow them, knowing that many will do this blindly. Will it take more courage to be a leader tomorrow than it did yesterday? Are the skills the same… or different because of context?

Shaping tomorrow’s leadership

We’re entering a management era where shared social value – between an organisation and the communities, citizens and stakeholder it serves – will shape tomorrow’s leadership. And that management era will coexist with the powerful influence of social media, global communication and near real time discussion of leadership judgement and decision making.

While navigating those treacherous waters, leaders of tomorrow’s shared value organisations will balance a heavy burden of ethical choices both personal and corporate, steering a path through citizen/consumer trust and economic benefits, around shareholder expectations versus obligations to workers and importantly, the choices of disclosure versus knowledge. Data gives tomorrow’s leaders the keys to a kingdom never seen before, but no instructions about leading the way through it. As they shape their future, emerging leaders will face an endless commentary on their decisions and judgement, more so than their intentions and outcomes. Staying the course in the face of criticism, courage in holding on to conviction is what will determine true leadership.

How to steer forward? Distilling the rear view lessons taught by failures of ethics, courage and conscience is a worthy challenge today’s leaders should consider – and through it, shape their own leadership legacies.

This blog first appeared on OpenForum.com.au.

Open post

Is SFIA ‘zombified’ in your organisation?

There are some great – and passionate — people in the SFIA world, and Peter Leather is one of them. This article from his very useful site IT Workforce has some great insights, like his other reviews of material gathered from the internet.    It has particular relevance for organisations that implemented SFIA some time ago, and have struggled to make it come alive with all the value it offers.  Hope you enjoy it.

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Has SFIA become zombified in your organisation?

Article by Stacia Garr at Bersin by Deloitte, reviewed by Peter Leather

I have just come across a monster word – “Zompetencies” – I found it in a great article by Stacia Garr at Bersin by Deloitte. It’s a reference to Zombie competencies … where competencies seem to be collapsing under their own weight, dying a very slow death.

Stacia was, of course, referring to competencies as a whole – but it got me thinking about organisations who have adopted SFIA and have found over time that SFIA is not having the planned business impact or that they are not being used as widely as expected.  This is a common problem with organisations adopting SFIA.

In reality it’s a common problem for organisations adopting any new talent management framework e.g. for career planning or leaning and development.
One connection at a large consultancy quipped that initiatives of this type begin to “decay from the day of implementation and have a half-life of 12-18 months”

So in what ways can we prevent SFIA becoming zombified in your organisation?  Stacey suggests 4 key things which you can do to prevent this happening:

  • Design for Criticality
  • Design for Impact
  • Design for Simplicity
  • Design for Acceptance

Now this gives us a useful checklist to think about when mapping SFIA skills to roles profiles.

1. Criticality of SFIA skills

Stacia says … Focus on what is essential to success – not [on] every competency necessary for doing a job.”

My views …

  • When mapping SFIA skills to role and positions – avoid the shopping list approach.  It’s all to easy (especially for less experienced SFIA users) to try to map every aspect of someone’s role and some individuals or line managers can be very insistent that, yes, we are involved in all of these activities.
  • Lists of 18-20 SFIA skills are not uncommon (Architects seem particularly prone to this problem but they are by no means alone in that.)
    So the guideline of 6-8 SFIA skills per role is a good place to start (less if you can**).
  • Don’t think of this as a dogma or a theory – it’s a pragmatic focus to help effective implementation and adoption.  But don’t stop there – from that list of 6-8 you can still emphasise which are the critical SFIA skills. This may be done on the skills mapping (i.e. the criticality is applicable to everyone in the role) or you can encourage managers and/or individuals to identify critical skills when they are having conversations around hiring, performance or development so that these can be very focused on what will make a difference.

2. Impact of SFIA skills

Stacia says“Focus on competencies that align to the organization’s business strategy and greatest areas of need. If your organization is making a major transformation from one focused on execution to one focused on innovation, competencies should be a part of the bedrock of the change effort.”

My views …

This is an excellent observation and one which I have used to good effect many times. I find it really demonstrates your understanding of the business by knowing and highlighting where the biggest impact will be found.  Also key here is recognising that there can be a time dimension to SFIA skills,  so although we may have 6-8 skills per role – at any point in time the importance of individual SFIA skills can change.

In this way individuals and line managers need to be reminded to focus SFIA skills based on the business priorities and team / personal objectives.  To give a SFIA related example:

An IT organisation has mapped the following SFIA skills to their Project Manager roles: Project management, Stakeholder relationship management, Supplier relationship management and Systems development management.   This IT organisation has a current year objective to become trusted business partners for their internal customers,  so their conversations about Business Impact should focus on the ‘Stakeholder relationship management skill’ as the primary area of focus for the current year.

3. Simplicity of adoption

Stacia says … “Constantly ask yourself if the competencies are necessary or can be expressed more simply. Further, in an effort to reduce competencies, do not combine two competencies into one. “Visionary leadership and tactical execution” is not one competency.”

My views …
Of course, SFIA is an off-the-shelf product so SFIA users are heavily reliant on the authors and editors of the SFIA framework delivering simplicity.

From www.sfia-online.org we can see the intent: SFIA is …

Developed by people experienced in the management of skills in IT, SFIA tells you what you need to know and leaves it at that. It is designed as a resource for people who understand IT and know what they are doing.

Overall the SFIA skill level descriptors hit the mark – my main criticism is that there are some very wordy ones and some very short ones – but in general they do hit the mark.

One design principle during skills mapping is to avoid adding overlapping SFIA skills where one would do e.g. including both Consultancy and Technical Specialism as a SFIA skill for one role. While you may feel there is a rational argument to include both –  always ask yourself is this helping or hindering Simplicity?

There are other examples of this as the list of SFIA skills does not strictly follow the “Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive” (MECE) principle.

4. Acceptance of SFIA

Stacia says … “Avoid the trap of developing competencies in a vacuum. Competencies need to be broadly socialized and amended as they are developed, to ensure both broad understanding and agreement on their content.”

My views …

One of the great strengths is that the SFIA skills are socialized and amended at an industry level, so what could have been “developed in a vacuum” is turned into a strength as the SFIA description are validated by a far greater audience than could have been achieved internally.

Now that we have published SFIA version 6 (in 2015), we can be confident that the SFIA skill descriptions have both stood the test of time and have been revised and maintained to keep pace with industry changes. This means any problem areas or gaps are resolved based on feedback from SFIA Users.

Certainly with the many organisations I work with, the descriptors are in the vast majority understood and accepted.  I also have first hand experience in a number of organisations where SFIA’s neutrality and credibility as a “de facto” industry standard has actually helped prevent the “not invented here” objections.  These objections commonly occur with homegrown frameworks which are devised centrally or in the case of mergers devised by the “other” partner. In these instances using SFIA greatly increases acceptability.

Other things you can do to increase Acceptance of SFIA

  • have a programme of communication and education for stakeholders to explain what & why you are using SFIA and the benefits
  • tailor communications for the different needs of your audience e.g. IT leaders, IT line managers, IT professionals, HR/L&D professionals
  • have a FAQ or jargon buster if you need to explain how some of the SFIA language and structure fits to how you do things in your own organisation
    set up internal support groups or SFIA champions who can become local subject matter experts

Conclusion

  1. Be pro-active and build longevity into your SFIA adoption
  2. Think ahead and have a plan at the design stage to minimise the risk of Zompetencies
  3. Ask your SFIA Consultant what experience they have of doing this and how they can help increase the value of your investment in using SFIA
** Note the danger of trying to get to 1 SFIA skill per role. In the vast majority of cases that is going too far and is counter-productive. There have been numerous rumblings on the SFIA circuit of a high-profile tool vendor which tries to get every role down to only 1 SFIA skill. I can’t confirm or deny this – although I have heard it from more than one reliable source. The drive for this appears to make adoption of their tool easier rather than for any sense of delivering high performance or avoiding Zompetencies.
Open post

Would you let a robot cut your hair?

Any workforce and all management is thinking about tomorrow.  The skills we need, how we’ll manage with remote workforces, managing automated worforces. How we’ll deal with all the HR issues we have today – like absenteeism, sick days, low performance…but really, will they be issues?

If we have remote workforces and the technology to engage them properly – and the work for them to do that they are a) capable of doing and b) happy to do – won’t that have a natural knock on effect to lower issues?

Of course, there will be the ongoing problems with isolation and human contact but proper profiling and work allocation, with calibrated contact models (think ‘employee service’ instead of customer service and you’ll have the idea) and this should all look completely different.

Tomorrow’s problems won’t be because of today’s issues.

Tomorrow issues will be how we manage the work itself, who does it and how – and this is where the work of the future is more than just about the skills we’ll need.

Work as we know it today is designed the way it is because of the way computer software, early automation and process was designed.  There was nothing organic about it – it was all designed to align with the time and motion studies of the early twentieth century and the software business rules that originated in the 1970’s.   Process has tied organisations in knots since the first computer terminal had an interface.

So how to unpick that?

Work in the old days (before accelerated systematisation – say, 1950s) regardless of whether it was office or manufacturing was done in organic, logical steps that included all of those who wanted to work and could.  Sure populations were smaller, things were less complicated, systems did not exist for continuous improvement and things took a bit longer.  Compare that to today:  we have process snarls that kill efficiency gains, technologies that can halt business for days, vulnerabilities that defy capture and whole workforces marginalised because they don’t fit the ‘workforce models’.

This means that the workforce changes we need to see for the future – especially in streamlined back office operations, in so called digital transformations – could look back to what did work in the past. Community, sharing, trust. Employee loyalty and confidence.   What did these have in common?  People.  Is it reasonable to design work for people AND work for robots?  The skill for technologists and business analysts alike (and ok, solution designers) is how to separate the work that people can and should do, from the work they rush to design for automation.  The new skill in digital will be how far you can humanise work, not the opposite.

For today, that translates as  work that can best be done by people should be done by people, and things that benefit from digitisation should be designed for optimisation by that new army of automation.

This means a distinct workforce design, different work architecture and an overhaul of the work design architecture inherent in software and application (apps) business rules.

What’s wrong with simple batching and consolidation techniques?  Let’s move away from today’s assumption of how things should be done and move to how they can best be done.

After all, let’s imagine the future as we’re racing to that vision: would you really let robot cut your hair?

 

Robotbarber pic courtesy of PC Mag 21032012
Open post

Everyone deserves a perfect score

Skills for collaboration 3.0

Being a good team player is essential in delivering under pressure.  Knowing what to do, when to do it and why are critical demonstrations of individual competency too often dissolved into the melange of ‘teamwork’.

Collaborating in today’s environment is as much performance art as it is a team sport, and like both of these activities it depends on whole hearted engagement.

Depending on the role you play in the team, you’ll often be asked to contribute – and if you’re in a good team – to take the starring role from time to time.

And this is where things can get messy – what if standing up and taking centre stage is not your thing?

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t participate – it just means that you need to engage others to show off your mastery of the 3Dub.*

From the team leader perspective, understanding your performers (which is really what everyone in the workforce is) is vital. This is where tools like the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) can give critical insights for managing the stars in your team.

Often overlooked in the stampede to apply the skill levels is the first half of the SFIA framework – the generic capabilities.  This half alone can help to profile a highly skilled personality by showing their preferred working styles, and from that any team leader can work out how best to support individual levels of personal capability.

Of course, it doesn’t excuse the need to apply common sense and any team leader, scrum master, project manager should be aware of the need to address the personal capabilities of their team members to ensure they can shine in their 3Dub moment.

*3Dub is the ‘what to do, when to do it and why’ moment that is the test of absolute competence that comes to all at some – or several – points in a delivery scenario.  Failure is an option, but then so is stepping up first.