Competency Development

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Despite a growing interest of competency among mangers and human resource professionals in recent years, the modern competency movement in industrial-organizational psychology actually dates from the mid1950’s and early 1970’s.

In that regard, John Flanagan’s work (1954) and Dave McClelland’s studies (1970) might be cited as two landmark efforts that originally invented the concept of competency.

A Precursor of Competency Modeling : The Work of John Flanagan. A seminal article published by John Flanagan in 1954 established Critical Incidents Technique as a precursor to the key methodology used in rigorous competency studies. Based on studies of US Air Force pilot performance, Flanagan concluded that “the principle objective of job analysis procedures should be the determination of critical requirements. These requirements include those which have been demonstrated to have made the difference between success and failure in carrying out an important part of the job assigned in a significant number of instances”. From here, critical incidents technique was originally discovered.

Critical incidents itself can be defined as a set of procedures for systematically identifying behaviors that contribute to success or failure of individuals or organizations in specific situations.

Flanagan’s work, while not strictly about competencies, was important because it laid the foundation for a new approach to examining what people do. In a later form, the critical incidents technique would resurface to focus around significant behavioral events that distinguish between exemplary and fully-successful performers.

It is Flanagan’s critical incidents technique that sixteen years later inspires David McClelland to discover and develop the term of “competency”.

The Concept of Competency : The Work of David McClelland. The movement was originally propelled by dissatisfaction among researchers about the value of personality traits tests in predicting job...
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