My employer is suffering a restructure (sorry, a ‘transformation’), with the result that everyone’s having to demonstrate evidence of competencies. The heart sinks. You not only have competencies, you have sub-competencies under them and, tucked under them suckling away for all they’re worth, behaviours. In other words pages upon pages of nested bullet points. So the question for me is ‘Was that project three years ago a good example of this competence? Well, I seem to remember a lot of that behaviour, which fits under that competence over there. But then I don’t have anything for the first competence, although if I stretch the definition a bit I suppose that ….’ It becomes a game, wherein you waste a couple of hours knowing that across the organisation hundreds of others are doing the same thing with the same degree of scepticism. The prize, however, is a job and yes please, I’d like one of those.
It must have started from the effort to make selection for jobs or
rating of performance less subjective, less dependent on the manager’s
whim or personal likes and dislikes. Have a list of the sort of things
needed to be good at the job and don’t just ask the person but look for examples
of when they’ve done these things. But that ‘bright idea’ generated an industry of nitpickers and anal retentives who try to sharpen and refine these formulations, categorise them, then try to standardise them across the organisation in hours of negotiations and wall-high piles of draft formulations. All under the old mechanistic illusion that if every little cog in the machine knows its five or six functions and performs them correctly the whole machine will be ‘world class’ and overtake all the other machines that are running on the same model. Yet everyone knows the businesses – and people – that succeed are the ones that cross boundaries and break rules not the ones that follow them. Robert Pirsig’s book Lila characterises it as the difference between dynamic quality, where intuition, insight and creativity break a paradigm, and static quality where that innovation has to become grounded in a structure; this works until the structure starts to focus on its own survival and not on the reason it was brought into being. For me, a conformist by nature, this is one of the ‘aha’ moments where I see that a system which I’ve always assumed was thought out by better minds than me and was probably for the good – is actually a load of bollocks.
(As it says on the tin ‘these are my opinions, not those of my employer’. I think you realised that.:-D)