Ranks and Skill Levels

Nothing can be said about the activity concern of the boss: it is rambling, to the extent that he understands his authority. Likewise, nothing can be said about the activity concern of the person as the bearer of the rank/title. The words “professor”, “Ph.D.”, or “colonel” tell us nothing, except that a person has some experience in some incomprehensible activity. It is the same with organizational units in which there is more than one person: a shop of advanced production culture, a frontier platoon—it tells us nothing about what the shop does, what the platoon does, what their roles are. You just have to remember that “Honoured Artist” gives nothing to the knowledge of whether we are talking about playing the role of Hamlet or Pinocchio in completely different theater productions. It is some general characteristic of the performer of the role, but not of the role itself.

But the level of skill/qualification/competence of the performer of a role is important. Today qualification is not seen as a set of some individual knowledge, skills and abilities, but as a set of competencies that are sufficient to play a role. Competencies mean that the performer of a role that requires these competencies can successfully perform some activities not only “on the exam”, but also in real life, in a real project. Competencies include not only knowledge-and-skills, but also attitudes towards activities, assumption of professional role responsibility, self-determination in the role.

In fact, traditionally used in pedagogy knowledge-experience criteria do not include the skills of problem-setting in the nontechnical conditions of real life, and competences include problem-setting in real life for their subsequent solution—finding objects of role concerns in life, the ability to stay in a role while the jumble and abundance of unimportant details for the role play.

Roughly speaking, having the knowledge, skills/experience for the role of Prince Hamlet can play Prince Hamlet in rehearsals, in silence and without distracting spectators. But he who has the competence of Prince Hamlet will be able to play Prince Hamlet somewhere in a dense crowd in the midst of turmoil (the usual conditions in projects!), and when it is necessary to communicate with Yorick’s skull, for lack of a skull he will adapt a potato or at least a paper with a drawn skull for this purpose, and will make this “skull” himself, will think up how to do it. But the most important thing is that the one who has the competence will find himself in the crowd of other participants in the play and will be able to organize his role dialogues with them. He knows how to fit his role activities into the activities of the entire play’s ensemble. This is the “competence to play Prince Hamlet”, not the “knowledge, skills and abilities” of Prince Hamlet himself.

Further we can move away from the pedagogical slang (both old with knowledge-skills and new “competency-based”) and talk simply about the mastery of practice, the mastery of playing a role. A boss who has begun (often unnoticed) to play a role (for example, a requirements engineer) can be either a master at it, or a well-trained novice, or have no understanding of requirements engineering at all. It is important to understand not only what role a person plays, but at what level of skill they are playing that role. For if there is no skill, then the project will have to find someone who does play that role well, otherwise there will not be a successful project.

The question of roles and selecting people to perform those roles are two different questions! First you should say “we need a metrologist”, and then only select people to perform that role according to their skill in performing the practice of that role. So, Jane’s skill/qualification/competence as a metrologist is zero, Joe has never done metrology, but he took a metrology course at the institute five years ago (so he has a little nonzero skill in metrology), and Mr. Black defended his doctoral thesis in metrology a month ago—his skill in metrology is higher than that required to perform the metrologist job in the current project.

*An excerpt from Systems Thinking course