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Practicing Organization Development: Leading Transformation and Change, 4th Edition by Roland L. Sullivan, Jacqueline M. Stavros, William J. Rothwell

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Chapter SevenCompetencies for Success

Steve H. Cady and Zachary D. Shoup

In the early 1970s, David McClelland (1973) wrote a groundbreaking article focused on testing for competence rather than intelligence. The reigning paradigm of that time was to focus on intelligence testing, particularly as it predicted grades in school. The assumption was that intelligence leads to high performance in one's job. McClelland challenged this paradigm by first looking at achievement motivation, then exploring what really predicts performance. He concluded (1973), “While grade level attained seemed related to future measures of success in life, performance within grade was related only slightly. In other words, being a high school or college graduate gave one a credential that opened up certain higher level jobs, but the poorer students in high school or college did as well in life as the top students.” (2)

When considering what it means to be a competent professional, we look at what is commonly referred to as KSAs—knowledge, skills, and abilities. Knowledge generally refers to a person's education and training. Skills refer to a person's potential to perform observable tasks related to a specific set of job duties. Finally, abilities refer to a person's capability to exhibit certain behaviors that lead to a predetermined result. These three provide statements of specific requirements for effective performance in a given job position. KSA statements guide the selection of a person for a job; ...

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