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Jason Furness


Competency Is a Progression, Not a Statement of Achievement

Don’t aspire to mastery; perspire for mastery

Published: Monday, October 29, 2018 - 12:03

All organizations are looking to increase the competency of their employees and, hopefully, of themselves. Looking at this from the base level up, in a practical sense our competency evolves with experience, expertise, and possibly, time.

1. Unknowing

We begin by not knowing about a skill, issue, or subject. Think of newborn babies: They are not ignorant; they just don’t know.

2. Disturbed

Then something happens that causes us to feel disturbed enough about our knowledge, or lack thereof, of a subject. For instance, we might experience bad results, read an article, hear someone speak, or start a new job.

3. Intellectual

Intellectual competence occurs when we have read a book or been to a course. We know the subject matter on the surface and may have applied it in some fashion.

This is a dangerous phase where it is easy for us to say, “I know that, we do it already, there is nothing more for us to learn.” Think of a golfer who has read a book on golf and then declares he knows how to play, or a person who went to a one-day course four years ago and says she doesn’t need to do more training because she knows this stuff.

At this level we have choices: the choice to deepen our understanding of the subject by moving further up the competency progression, or the choice to say, “No thanks, that’s not for me.” Both answers are OK.

We must consciously choose our decisions when we have reached this intellectual level of competency. For example, I choose not to go past an intellectual level of cooking. I do not understand what the judges on Master Chef are talking about when they judge the competitors’ foods. It’s not for me.

4. Practice

Having chosen to deepen your competency, here is the hard part. This is where we take the golf clubs out and practice, practice, practice—and then practice some more—because we have chosen to commit to developing our skills. This is the runner who runs in the rain, the golfer who hits bucket after bucket of balls. Hard work separates the Olympians from the rest of us. Talent is not enough.

5. Competence

Having practiced consistently and deeply in a structured fashion, we have now gained competency. We can apply the skills in most situations consistently and with understanding.

6. Professional

At the level of professional, we have been applying and deepening our skills across a variety of situations. We can adapt and alter our approach to fit most situations and scenarios we face. We have a deep understanding and appreciation of the content.

7. Mastery

The master is someone who not only can adapt to all situations, but is also on the cutting edge of creating new content and applications for the core skills. The master is inventing new techniques, building upon and extending existing knowledge.

Businesses as a whole that work toward mastery of their field find it easier to align employees to the goal. The workforce is more cohesive, and the customers are served. This links our people directly to our profits.

Don’t aspire to mastery. Perspire for mastery.

First published on the Manufacturship website.


About The Author

Jason Furness’s picture

Jason Furness

Jason Furness, CEO and founder of Manufacturship, is an executive coach who provides lean manufacturing training and lean consulting in a pragmatic, hands-on way that gets clients results in a fast and sustainable manner. Furness oversees the development and delivery of Manufacturship’s curriculum, leads the mentoring of business owners and managers, and sponsors all client projects. During his 20-year career he has led 30 transformation projects for small and medium-sized enterprises. Furness is the co-author of Manufacturing Money: How CEOs Rapidly Lift Profits in Manufacturing (Amazon Digital Services, 2015).