Respecting the individual

The competence of the individual

If some of the primary criteria for the selection of training are to satisfy unrelated requirements (such as to reclaim skills levies or to provide participants with certificates), then the organisation may have to lower its expectations of what the training can contribute to individual and organisational performance.

Sending a group of untrained people on such a course aimed at assessment against a predefined standard—such a generic NQF level in Project Management—disrespects both the present and potential capabilities of the individual, and does not recognise where they might make their best contribution to the organisation and its projects. Passing an exam does not warrant the ability to do the job.

Consider the following:

  • You can’t expect someone to run if they still don’t realise that what they’re doing is crawling.
  • You shouldn’t expect someone to waste their time crawling if they’re already capable of walking.
  • You’ll have problems trying to train someone to become a high-performance runner if they don’t yet understand why it would ever be necessary to run at all.
  • It would be an inappropriate use of time and money to train someone towards a role which will require running, if they have no feet, yet they’ve already shown good potential as a swimmer.

People don’t all depart from a common point, so they cannot be made to conform to a common standard by forcing them in the same direction at the same speed. Effort spent on individuals—time, money, energy, training, coaching, whatever—should be applied where it can provide the best possible return on the investment. The training strategy should respect the fact that individuals differ in terms of their (conscious or unconscious) competence.

The Four Stages of Learning (unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence) is a learning concept based on a model developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s.

The vision of the individual

For training to have the desired effect, the vision of the individual must overlap sufficiently with the vision of the organisation.

An organisation which has goals other than ‘just making money’ won’t get the best goal-driven performance from someone whose primary focus is simply to make money to take home to his ailing mother, or, for that matter, to get rich. Equally, an individual in search of a greater meaningful purpose should not be patronised by being subjected to inspirational hype and then sent back to work within the same ineffective and unlikely-to-change system.

The implication for training

Training must recognise and respect the individual’s personal vision. It must be appropriate to the individual’s present state of competence, their potential to learn, and their own inherent strengths.

This implies that every individual earmarked for Project Management training should be assessed to identify

  • their present level of competence within the realm of Project Management,
  • their personal vision, and
  • their potential to learn.

Then the learning can be structured in a manner that respects

  • where they are now,
  • where they could and should go,
  • how fast and by what means they can best get there, and
  • how their progress should be monitored.

Normal syllabus-driven standards-based courses only make sense if all the individuals’ job roles all require the same competence; if they are the same point of departure, have the same potential to reach the same goal, and if they can move at the same speed. (And, of course, if that standard reflects the organisation’s strategic goals and Project Management structure.)