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Greetings from San Diego and happy fall to all! October marks OSI's 38th birthday. As we close in on four decades, we want to thank our customers and partners who've made this success possible. We look forward to many more years of support and collaboration.

In this issue of The
Navigator,  we examine the essential need for a core competency model. After 40 years of successfully installing competency models, we are surprised to still find resistance to this best practice. This issue will address exactly why a common language for talent management is a fundamental starting point.
After 40 years of successful development and implementation of competency models their use and efficacy is proven and obvious to me. But a recent discussion with a business partner and then a Ph.D. candidate who was using her dissertation to explore future competencies needed by leaders in the Copy of Navigator Summer 2018 public sector was a reminder that even in 2018 there is still confusion, and some skepticism, regarding the use of competencies. While many organizational leaders require education in the why's and wherefores' of models to overcome their initial unfamiliarity, it's distressing to note that there are still practitioners and academics who are debating the merits of models. Much of this suspicion around modeling seems based on basic misunderstandings of the origins and use of models. Here are some fundamental misperceptions and explanations:
  1. Models do not emphasize needed organizational RESULTS. To some, models are seen as just a list of variables removed from actually describing the right stuff for leaders, and as such are isolated from the bottom line. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the modeling process; for decades now models have been built on emulating the BEST leader, with BEST being defined as leaders who first generate RESULTS for their organization, are also RESPECTED, are LIKEABLE (emotionally intelligent), and passionate about their roles and companies. So models are built to select and develop leaders whose behavior generates results, respect, camaraderie, and displays contagious enthusiasm.
  2. Models just dissect leaders into pieces-parts, but neglect the context and gestalt of leadership. This criticism stems from confusion around model application. While it is true that models look like lists of dimensions, it's also true that dictionaries are just lists of words and the periodic table is just a list of elements. It's in understanding and USING these absolutely essential "lists" that value is realized. Any good competency model application appreciates the needed understanding of context and synergy. For example, for decades now the final ratings in selection assessment centers allow raters to synergize individual competency ratings into an overall rating that recognizes the interactions of competencies, and the demands of the target role. But without individual ratings, assessors are left bereft of information for the final rating. It would be like trying to understand an alloy without understanding elements.
  3. Models overly complicate things. The complaint is that there are too many dimensions and it's confusing to managers. The dilemma here, of course, is that leading, managing and contributing expertise across a talent pipeline in a large organization IS complicated. And trying to represent the needed knowledge, skills, abilities and other factors will also necessarily involve some complexity. Anything less is a misrepresentation of that reality. Admittedly there have been models that are overly complicated, but when all is said and done it does take about three dozen dimensions to adequately model ALL the competence needed in an organization.
As a 40 year assessment center practitioner, I grew up with the notion of behaviorally defined competencies (although 40 years ago we called them "variables" or "dimensions") and I knew the power of a set of competencies derived by looking at high performing leaders. Without reliable and valid criteria to measure assessment centers would be a hollow application. 

So while the idea of a common language to describe talent in an organization's most valuable resource, the HUMAN resource, does seem self-evident to those of us who have been working in the field for decades, managers unfamiliar with this idea may need additional proof of concept. Here are some additional reasons why a common competency model is a really good idea with a little marketing for our Polaris ®  Model:
  1. Without a common language for talent management (like Polaris® or a custom model based on Polaris®) organizations risk sub optimizing all their talent systems. A core set of criteria are needed to integrate and synergize hiring, promotion, appraisal, and training processes. In the absence of a core set of criteria different descriptions of the ideal employee tend to evolve, and, in the worst case managers just clone themselves, or fragmented systems cancel each other out.
  2. You are in legal jeopardy if you can't defend your current hiring criteria. Challenges rarely occur, but when they do it can be a multi-million dollar expense AND severely damage brand image. For example, Polaris® is a meticulously researched and validated model, and has been successfully defended several times.  
  3. Durable organizations (companies that live well beyond the tenure of their founders) ALL have well developed talent criteria to allow succession planning and leadership development. Competency models are a best practice in creating lasting enterprises.
  4. As millennials become the majority in contemporary work populations there is growing importance for training and engagement. Competency models help initiate and frame these important conversations and keep talent development front of mind.
  5. Competency models encourage fair and open hiring and promotion. Without them politics and bias can prevail, with predictable negative consequences. And when talent systems are merit (competency) based they inevitably lead to greater diversity.
  6. The ROI on structured talent processes (interviews, assessment centers, succession management, learning & development) has been proven again and again (e.g., a well-designed hiring interview using valid criteria and behavioral episode questions can provide a 380% return.* Likewise a study on survey guided leadership development demonstrated an ROI of +200% for a best-practice process **). And the structure referred to in these processes must include valid criteria (i.e., a well-researched competency model) to provide the foundation for hiring, promotion, appraising and training.
Of course a final argument to skeptics regarding competencies is always to ask for an alternative! While models cannot account for ALL the variance in leadership performance, the science (like the famous Management Progress Study done by AT&T) suggests they are the current best practice.

© 2018 Organization Systems International
Welcome to the Newest Member of the Polaris® Family
OSI is pleased to announce the law firm of Helen of Troy L.P. as the newest member to the Polaris® license community.
Polaris® Certification Workshop
On Wednesday, December 12, OSI will be holding a Polaris® Certification Workshop. This one day workshop will be for certified coaches and/or HR professionals interested in the OSI Polaris® Competency Model and its supporting applications, especially the 360 degree development. If you are interested in further information or to register, please click here or contact Crystal Matsuura at or 858.455.0923.

OD SIG Meeting - Bruce Griffiths, Guest Speaker
On Friday, October 26th, Bruce will be the OD SIG Meeting Guest Speaker.  The title of his presentation is "Getting the Right People on the Bus." Bruce is discussing the essential need for competency models as a common language to define and integrate talent systems. Bruce has an interesting competency card-sorting activity that he'll introduce as he discusses competencies in general and competencies of change leaders specifically. It should be very enlightening and thought-provoking presentation. We hope to see you there!

Date: Friday, October 26th
Time: 8:00 - 8:10 sign in, 8:10 - 9:45 presentation, 9:45-10:15 optional networking time 
Location: National University's Spectrum Campus,  9388 Lightwave Avenue, San Diego Room 135
NEW Book Release:
Redefining Competency Based EducationCompetence for Life
Co-authored by our very own president/senior consultant, Bruce Griffiths, and our business partner, Nina Jones Morel. Redefining Competency-Based Education is a thorough, yet digestible look at contemporary competency modeling. It will provide readers with an expanded definition of career competence that is based on actual employer hiring and promotion requirements and that can be used to enhance current university curricula to better prepare students for work, and for life. Readers will learn how private sector competency models have evolved to be current best practice in human resource departments in defining criteria for use in hiring, promoting, and training talent. Current industry competency models will be contrasted with classic university models to historically to document an academic preference for technical career preparation that historically has provided less attention to the so called soft-skills valued by the industry.

Redefining Competency Based Education is available now through Business Expert Press or Amazon.
At Organization Systems International, we are celebrating over 38 years of quality, service, and innovation. We deliver client success with a high-performance approach designed to enhance occupational relationships, improve operational efficiency, and sustain customer relationships.

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