Jorgen Sandberg writes engagingly in the March 2001 Harvard Business Review about "Understanding Competence at Work". (No, the HBR isn't on my normal reading list; a friendly librarian (LK) who knows what I like forwarded the article to me.) Sandberg identifies three types of people whom he terms:

  • sequential optimizers, who tend to work their way, flowchart-fashion, step by step through highly structured procedures, and who focus their attention somewhat narrowly on technical skills rather than on learning or teamwork;
  • interactive optimizers, who try to understand and control a system as an interwoven set of feedback loops, and who value learning and teamwork significantly more than do sequential optimizers; and
  • customer optimizers, who incorporate the mental modeling and systems thinking of the interactive optimizers, but who see the real goal of their job not from the production side but rather from the viewpoint of the ultimate user — the person who is going to receive the system when they have finished working on it.

Customer optimizers turn out to be the most competent and effective workers ... but according to Sandberg, few people whom he interviewed could explain why that third group was so good. Sandberg then asks: "And if people don't recognize or value the attributes that really determine success, how easy will it be for them to acquire those attributes?" That's a good question — one which applies much more widely in life than merely to one's employment.

Sunday, April 01, 2001 at 19:09:57 (EDT) = 2001-04-01


(correlates: AnnotationPunctuation, MountainsOfThings, AfterlifeGrosses, ...)