Strategy Development: The Five Competencies Framework

Toolkits
January 2009

In the influential book Learning to Fly, Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell (2001) describe five key organisational 'competencies'. As already stated, we see these of being of high practical relevance for knowledge management and organisational learning initiatives. The Five Competencies Framework has been promoted widely and is now being used by many different teams or groups, to work out how well they are performing against organisationally established criteria for knowledge and learning, and to identify goals and priorities for improvement. The competency framework works on the principle that effective knowledge and learning is based on improving performance five important competency areas:

  • Strategy development
  • Management techniques
  • Collaboration mechanisms
  • Knowledge sharing and learning processes
  • Knowledge capture and storage

Based on these competencies, Parcell and Collison have developed a framework to be worked through by groups and teams within a given organisation. This framework can be used to discover how well teams or groups believe they are performing against the pre-established criteria, and where they most wish to improve.

Detailed description of the process
The five competencies framework is an exercise enabling an organisation (or a group of organisations) to work out, in a simple and effective manner, what different elements have to learn, and what they have to share in the realm of organisational learning and knowledge management. Importantly, the framework also provides a common framework and language to support the knowledge and learning, and can be used to connect people with something to share to people with something to learn.

For each of the five competency areas outlined above, the framework describes five levels of performance, from basic to high. The framework is therefore a 5x5 matrix. The first step is to get a group of stakeholders from across an organisation or team to work together to discuss relative strengths and areas for improvement in terms of knowledge and learning. The group should work to determine the Current Level for each of the competencies (use italics to highlight these) and the Target Level for each. The idea is to get the statement that best describes the organisation, rather than that the most exact. The target should be determined by projecting some reasonable time into the future - say, two years. The framework can also be used to determine the priorities for immediate action, through selection of the competency area which will yield greatest benefits if improved.

Key points/practical tips

  • As stated in the introduction, this tool can be used to establish clear entry points and rationale for applying the range of tools contained in the present handbook.
  • It is also a very good tool to support the improved communication and understanding of knowledge and learning strategies.

Example: CARE International
As part of a Partnership Programme Agreement (awarded by DFID), CARE International UK was looking to develop four regional knowledge networks, focusing on HIV/AIDS, private sector partnerships (PPPs), international financial institutions (IFIs) and civil society organisations (CSOs).

As part of a two-day training course to help with the knowledge and learning aspects of this work, the CARE team was introduced to the five competencies approach, as well as a number of other tools that would help build capacity in each area. Following this, the team decided to run a KM strategy session as part of a five-day conference in Quito, Ecuador, under the PPP theme. The core of this was to explain the five competencies framework, and to get participants to think through where the network was at present, and where it wanted to be. The workshop proved to be a resounding success with participants, and laid the groundwork for the operation of the network in the future.

This tool first appeared in the ODI Toolkit, Tools for Knowledge and Learning: A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organisations.

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