Competencies—Strategic and Operational

Home/Publications/CIDM eNews/Information Management News 05.03/Competencies—Strategic and Operational

Vesa Purho
Development Manager, Nokia

When discussing competencies required in a certain jobs now and in the future, you may find it useful to divide the competencies into two categories: strategic and operational. The methods used to develop the different types of competencies in your group will differ.

Operational competencies are needed to perform the tasks required by the job. They can be thought of as skill-based competencies. An operational competence can be, for example, using Adobe FrameMaker, calculating metrics, translation, and so on. Usually, the need for operational competencies changes as the operating environment changes. For example, if you are moving to authoring in XML, the competence of using Adobe FrameMaker does not help much.

Strategic competencies, on the other hand, could be called knowledge-based competencies. They are derived from the vision and strategy of the company and are usually quite general and can be applied in many situations. Examples of strategic competencies include project management, analytical thinking, and the ability to learn new things. The need for these competencies does not change often unless the strategic direction of a company changes.

Both types of competencies are needed and neither is more valuable than the other. Operational competencies help you work as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, strategic competencies are essential to help you plan for the future and change the way of operating. Determining whether a competence is strategic or operational is not always easy. My suggestion is that if you are in doubt, the competence is probably strategic.

When thinking about what kind of competencies you and your team need, it helps to think about the different types of competencies and their relevance in what you do. If you manage a group, you can make a competence map showing the competencies needed in your group, based on the company’s strategy and the team’s mission, and chart the current situation as the sum of the competencies of the individual team members. The competence map helps you see if you have the competencies you need in the number that you think you need, and it helps you plan for competence development actions.

The development of operational competencies is usually straightforward. You may participate in training to get the basics and then learn the rest on the job. You may also learn by just doing the work. Strategic competencies are more difficult to develop. Some are easier, like project management, because you can attend training, but it requires a lot of experience and hopefully a good coach or mentor to get really good at the competence. Some strategic competencies are really hard to develop. For example, if you are not an analytical thinker by nature, learning to think analytically is difficult. So, sometimes the method for developing a competence in a group is to add a new member to the group.


This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia.

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