Re: Competences LO2829

Duncan Sutherland (
Fri, 15 Sep 1995 10:06:20 -0400

Replying to LO2802 --

>>On Wed, 13 Sep 1995, Bernard Girard wrote:
>> I had yesterday a lunch with the boss of a french data processing company
>> (about 2000 persons). He is reorganizing his company along competence
>> centers. In the process, he discovered that 10% of the workforce had
>> competence that was of no use to the company. He dismissed most of them.
>> My qquestion is :
>> - would this be a fact in most companies?
>> - do companies have feedback that tell them that the people who work for
>> them have obsolete competences?
>> - could we design a system to get this feedback?

Adelaide, I had two 'gut' reactions to your posting:

1. It seems to me that a fallacy inherent in a view such as the one you
attribute to the French 'boss' is that it can only be done on an ex post
facto basis; i.e., in light of what competencies WERE USEFUL IN THE PAST,
not what competencies MAY BE USEFUL IN THE FUTURE. This might not be a
problem in a 'stable' (or relatively slow moving) competitive environment,
should such a thing exist (which I doubt very much). However, 'stable' is
clearly not the way most organizations would describe the competitive
environment they find themselves in today! Does the notion of 'slack
resources' in the context of an enterprise's ability to continually create
the new knowledge it needs to remain competitive (to paraphrase Ikujiro
Nonaka, Peter Drucker, and others) have any metaphorical or direct
applicability here?

2. In a related vein, I also have a problem with the way many companies
(and consultants) use the term 'core competency'. My feeling is most
capabilities that are typically defined as core competencies -- with the
possible exception of organizational learning -- AREN'T because (1) they
are defined on an ex post facto basis (as suggested above and with the
same implication) and (2) once they are defined, they can be copied by
competitors. This is not a problem, of course, unless and until an
organization equates core competencies with competitive advantage; in
other words, unless and until an organization comes to believe that its
core competencies yield sustainable competitive advantage. I would argue
that, almost by definition, this cannot be the case. (Again, with the
possible exception of organizational learning which would seem, almost by
definition, to be the ONLY sustainable core competency.)

Duncan Sutherland
Chief Executive Officer
The Sutherland Group, Inc.
698 Counselors Way
Counselors Close
Williamsburg, VA 23185

804-221-8077 Phone 804-221-8078 Fax