What Is Competent?

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What is competent? Competence is the standard set of competencies and abilities that allow, permit or enable an individual or organization to attain an objective. This standard set of competencies and abilities includes all the basic skills and abilities that are needed to accomplish an assignment or project. The word “competent” first appears in an article written by R.W. Whit in 1959 as a useful concept for high performance motivation. More recent researchers still regard it as a useful standard for judging people’s levels of competency.

What is competent? Competency is the ability to do a particular task successfully and within the limitations needed for that task. It is often used as the benchmark against which the performance of an individual, a group, an organization can be compared. Sometimes, some people compare the competence of individuals and groups. Sometimes, some refer to the competence of a task as its level of complexity.

What is competent for an individual might not be competent for a group. Thus, in the case of an individual who wants to join the American Red Cross, one might ask, Is he [the individual] competent to lead a team of people to cross a river? In the case of an individual or an organization, one might ask, What is competent for a group of people to achieve their goal? In the case of an organization, what is competent for it to build a tower? One might also ask, What is competent for the team of programmers to write the largest program ever?

A group might ask, What is competent for one member of the group to work with the other members of the group? And, what is competent for a group of individuals to complete the task of writing a book? Thus, one should take into consideration the type of expertise possessed by the individuals or teams involved. The competency of one individual or group becomes relevant only if that individual or group has demonstrated abilities that are necessary to accomplish the task.

An individual or a group can demonstrate the type of skills necessary to accomplish a task when asked, What is competent for a group? One answer might be the ability to cooperate with others. When an organization has individuals who exhibit these types of skills, there are many ways in which the group can achieve the desired objective.

When answering, What is competent for a group, one might find the answer, What is competent for me? If one works in an office environment, the answer might be, What is competent for me is to follow the rules. This might sound easy, but even in large organizations, there are individuals who believe that it is more important to meet the deadlines quickly, than it is to follow the rules. Such persons can be dealt with appropriately, through procedures that help to ensure compliance with the policies and procedures. Those who are determined to disobey or ignore the rules will not only be reprimanded appropriately, but their job might be eliminated.

The point of What is competent is important because it enables individuals and groups to think for themselves. It also helps them make important decisions when confronted with a choice. Often, what a person thinks, is not necessarily what is right. What is competent for one group might not be applicable for another. When dealing with decision making, flexibility is important.

In the final analysis, What is competent is a subjective question. No one knows what it is. In most cases, it is something that each individual in a team or organization must determine for him or herself. What is competent for one group may not be applicable for another. In some cases, people within an organization may feel that they know what it means, but it is up to each individual to decide.