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The Future of the Future: Future competencies to weather the storm

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Three storms are brewing in today's business environment: globalization, the shift to solutions and traditional/obsolete organizational structures. Alone, each of them presents formidable business challenges. Together, they are interacting to create a storm much stronger than the sum of its parts ... a storm that is generating intense pressure on our businesses and people.

Organizations that will flourish in these rough waters will be those that develop people with the competencies needed to support high-performing teams in dynamic and virtual work environments. High-performing teams demand high-performance skill sets among knowledge workers and leaders, yet most people who work within traditional organizational structures are not equipped with the necessary competencies.

For years consultants have been facing the kinds of challenges that most knowledge workers and leaders are now facing: adaptive and creative/disruptive leadership, virtual team-based work, fast and continuous learning, dynamic work processes and the need to work collaboratively to produce rapid and innovative results. By adapting competencies from the consulting world, we can better prepare our people and teams to work effectively and survive the storm.

But what exactly are those competencies? The authors have defined five to 10 key behaviors within each of eight consultative competencies (see graphic of chart on Page 20, KMWorld, Vol 15, #8)) that are emerging as practical and relevant attributes of high-performing consultants, knowledge workers and leaders. In practice, high-performing people continue to develop skills and experience in each of those competencies throughout their careers.

To ensure both specificity and breath, key behaviors for the eight competencies were defined at three proficiency/career levels: practitioner, project leader and strategic business leader (knowledge leader):

  • Level 1: practitioner (knowledge worker/individual contributor for projects and tasks),
  • Level 2: project leader (project or program manager/provides management and direction to project teams to deliver optimalresults), and
  • Level 3: strategic business leader (business unit and knowledge leader/provides overall context for business relationships and achievement of business objectives).

While all three levels share the same eight competencies, organizations require somewhat different behaviors from practitioners than they do from project leaders and business leaders. For example, here are examples of behaviors for the strategic thinking competency at each level:

  • Practitioner: analyzes situations to understand the whole problem,
  • Project leader: defines overall project vision and direction, and
  • Strategic business leader: articulates specific measurable and achievable goals at the organization level.

To support and guide development of the competencies for the strategic business leader level, a knowledge leadership framework is being developed and applied in several organizations. The framework focuses on four key areas that successful knowledge leaders must address to lead and maintain an effective environment for knowledge-based businesses to flourish: attention, alignment, shape and support.

Attention: Great knowledge leaders create and maintain attention. They provide a compelling vision for the role of knowledge in the future of the enterprise. To confront the reality of the organization's knowledge capabilities in a rapidly changing global marketplace, they establish a ‘burning platform' for change. Through conversations and dialogue, knowledge leaders build understanding of the power of knowledge practices, tools, roles and incentives, and excite people about the possibilities for their organization. They keep knowledge management on the leadership agenda and maintain a long-term commitment to an enterprisewide culture of innovation, knowledge sharing and continuous learning.

Alignment: Great knowledge leaders align and prioritize enterprisewide initiatives. They seamlessly weave knowledge and learning into the enterprise's overall strategic direction, core processes and ongoing operations. Aligning and leveraging all stakeholders inside and outside the organization optimize resources to ensure all KM initiatives directly support the strategic and operational objectives of the organization.

Shape: Great knowledge leaders shape desired behavior. They create the demand for knowledge transfer and collaboration by setting expectations for stretch performance. Performance reviews are used as opportunities to coach managers by asking the business team: how learning from others changed their plan, before giving them approval for project funding; what they are learning during the project that is making a difference to performance; and what they will do differently next time and who else could benefit from their learning.

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