A Focussed Issue on Identifying, Building, and Linking Competences: Volume 5


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Part I of this issue begins with a paper by Colin Eden and Fran Ackermann on “Competences, distinctive competences, and core competences.” Eden and Ackermann draw on their extensive work with top management teams in workshops focused on identifying the competences of an organization. They describe an interactive process of engagement with managers through which an organization's competences are identified, some of which are further judged to be “distinctive competences” of the organization. Analysis of the interrelationships among a firm's identified competences then leads to the discovery of a pattern of competence interactions in which some competences appear to be at the “core” of the organizations distinctive competences. The paper presents an interesting perspective on how the capabilities and competences of a firm are often interrelated in ways that invite special attention and development by managers. Further, the paper explains the systems methodology that the authors have developed for use with managers to help identify and assess an organization's competences.

In order to elaborate the concept of resources (a key component of the well-established resource-based theory of the firm) this paper concentrates on exploring and elaborating the associated concept of competences, in particular distinctive and core competences. This exploration includes an examination of the extant literature, alongside and in parallel with, an extensive body of action research undertaken over 15 years and with 44 top management teams engaged in strategy making. As such the concepts are scrutinized both in terms of their theoretical underpinnings as well as their impact on practice. The research reinforces the view that distinctiveness emerges most powerfully from the identification (or creation) of unique bundles or combinations of competences and that effective and meaningful core competences can be identified from understanding and refining the links between competences and organizational goals. The resultant conceptualization of the systemic competence/goals structure emerges from the interaction of theory and practice.

The dynamic capabilities perspective focuses on the ability of an organization to develop its resource base in order to meet environmental expectations. Therefore, it is closely interrelated to the issue of managing the interaction of exploration and exploitation. The competence of continuously optimizing the interaction of exploration and exploitation has been referred to as organizational ambidexterity. Managing this interaction implies resolving a firm's permanent struggle to overcome the barriers related to the right configuration between exploration and exploitation.

By incorporating the concept of combinative capabilities as balancing routines into the conceptualization of ambidexterity we distinguish structural, interaction, and socialization capabilities that are deployed in overcoming these barriers to resource (re)configuration.

Drawing on knowledge management and barriers to resource configuration we expect that the way organizations deploy combinative capabilities to manage the interaction between exploration and exploitation depends on the observed barriers to resource (re)configuration. By combining the constructs of barriers to resource reconfiguration, ambidexterity, and combinative capabilities we intend to gain more insight in the way organizations manage the actual interaction between exploration and exploitation. Our paper will introduce a set of propositions indicating the relationship between ambidexterity, barriers to resource (re)configuration, and combinative capabilities as balancing routines.

The objectives of this study are to reveal the relationship between strategic options and competence building processes and to investigate the effect of environmental and firm-related factors on competence building. Competence building is defined as the qualitative change in firms' existing assets and capabilities; exercising strategic options may trigger this process. In this study an empirical model is developed and tested using structural equation modeling techniques. Many researchers have examined the relationship between strategic options and competence building theoretically, and this study aims to support these theoretical efforts with empirical research.

The paper investigates the role of alliances in periods of industry transformation. It addresses the research question why firms ally in dynamic environments. This takes place with an interactive qualitative research design and fieldwork in the changing German health care sector between 2004 and 2007, primarily using qualitative longitudinal data from a focus group panel. From the theoretical side, the resource- and competence-based views have proven useful for alliance research. For our theory-driven investigation we applied the perspective of the competence-based theory of the firm and extended this view by insights from the Austrian School in order to cover developments on multiple levels of analysis in an integrated way.

On an aggregated level we elaborate a taxonomy of three categories reflecting motivations and alliance types against the background of industry transformation:(1)closing resource and competence gaps in so-called “gap-closing alliances,”(2)preparing for unexpected developments in so-called “option networks,” and(3)intending to proactively exert influence on the relevant business environment in so-called “steering alliances” as an alternative way to enhance fit.

For each alliance type, propositions are derived and validated. Summarizing the findings from a meta point of view, a twofold role of collaborative arrangements turned out: On the one hand agents are pushed into cooperation with others in order to manage change and uncertainty in transforming business environments. But on the other hand joint forces themselves act as an accelerator of industry transformation and thereby as a jolt to other economic agents.

The competence-based management approach has shed light on how firms represent open systems that link assets, strategic logic, and capabilities in order to create new competences. Nonetheless, we find that there are too few empirical studies that illustrate how competences are distributed within an industry. The following case study is based on an in-depth analysis of innovation and standards-formation in industrial automation. Two examples, the standard-setting community PROFIBUS and the field bus-related sensor consortium IO-Link are used to analyze partnership arrangements and competence-distribution patterns.

This study is based on qualitative interviews and it uses patent data to judge competences of a standard-setting community's partner firms. Referring to the empirical case of IO-Link, we show how the integrator firms’ competence-leveraging can be significantly affected by new technology approaches that reason a novel deployment of capabilities. It seems that the deployment of resources depends not only on industry segmentation, but also on the firms’ coordinated agenda concerning innovative, new functionality of a given standard. Our patent analysis also mirrors the variety of knowledge within a standard-setting community. Furthermore, we develop a concept of layered business systems, that is, a terminology of knowledge, organizational, and technology domains. Standard-setting communities bundle complementarity assets, they make their member firms create both proprietary and open technology, and they integrate knowledge across industry boundaries.

The growing modularization of complex products encourages the division of labor in industry. End product manufacturers outsource production of individual components to large module suppliers, saving on costs in the short term. In the medium term, however, they sacrifice competences. The competitive strategy they choose – either cost leadership or differentiation – determines how this conflict is resolved. This paper examines the shift in competences to module suppliers, and the likely reactions of end product manufacturers, particularly those pursuing a differentiation strategy. The discussion begins at a general level, and then focuses on the automotive industry as an example. The paper derives potential strategic actions going forward based on transaction cost theory and core competency theory, and conducts a content analysis to examine them empirically.

An issue of managing a business (unit) as a whole successfully is perceived to belong to the fundamental issues within strategic management. This paper proposes that a business unit can be managed successfully in short and longer term in its focal contexts as a set of three recursive, competence-based, and process-based systems. Many elements of Stafford Beer's (1985) viable system model along the key competence-based theoretical bases are applied to this system design task. The outcome is an ideal, recursive template for advancing competence-based business management (CBBM) and its conceptual modeling. It is assumed that it is possible to design a business unit as a viable system that is capable of sustaining a separate existence at only three levels of hierarchy, as part of single or multi-business firms. Business-process models and their redesign processes are chosen as the 2nd-order, focal system which produces a business unit's competitiveness and solves longitudinal CBBM problems. One level of recursion down includes a unit's value creating, capturing, releveraging, and respective processes that enable to solve cross-sectional problems. One level of recursion up includes a unit's existential foresights and their crafting processes that solve existential problems. Recursivity is designed inside each system in terms of three kinds of subsystems for (a) primary value releveraging, process-model redesign, and business-foresight crafting, (b) the management of varieties in releveraging, modeling, and foreseeing, and (c) the monitoring and probing of all three systems. Systemic competences are incorporated inside respective systems. Such competences possess three flexibilities of absorption, attenuation, and amplification. At each level of recursion, a competence-based process is a unit of conceptual modeling of CBBM. A business unit is defined as a set of its purposeful processes. No thing or one is left outside them. Viability is ensured by real-time interaction and the 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-order feedback loops between three systems. Overall, the suggested, recursive, 3-system template is intended to serve future, compatible modeling efforts among interested, pioneering firms, professional CBBM modelers, scholars, and alike. Its novelty is produced by choosing and designing the CBBM modeling as the 2nd-order system-in-focus with its two recursions, by designing and using systemic, competence-based processes as the units of conceptualization, and by choosing and drawing the figures to illustrate the 3-system template in the ways that allow also business managers comprehend and apply the suggested template in practice.

This paper draws on the conceptual and theoretical premises of the Competence-Based Management (CBM) approach to strategic management in elaborating the role of Management Processes in implementing a firm's Strategic Logic. We suggest how the CBM conception of Management Processes enables the integration of essential functional and support activities. We address these activities by characterizing Management Process as broadly concerned with marketing, strategy, and organization issues, and elaborating ways in which Management Processes can and should address these issues. In this regard, the paper essentially proposes a normative model of what “Management Processes” must do to enable an organization to function as a sustainable open system for value creation and distribution.

The purpose of this paper is to carry out a bibliometric analysis of the Competence-Based Management (CBM) field. From the first books dedicated to CBM (Hamel & Heene, 1994; Sanchez, Heene, & Thomas, 1996; Heene & Sanchez, 1997) to more recent publications, the CBM field experienced a significant development. As the International Conferences on Competence-Based Management is a place for exchange and development of new ideas and applications, it appears to be central to the consolidation of the field. The conferences are followed by the publication of a series of books and a journal (Research in Competence-Based Management). Therefore it seems particularly adapted to use these publications in order to analyze the CBM field. We identified 12 books and 3 journal issues published between 1994 and 2005. This corresponds to a total of 185 papers written by 213 different authors, and a total of 7,958 references cited in these papers. We present the results of our research in three steps. First, we analyze the profile of the authors of the papers. This leads to the identification of the most prominent authors and the identification of the authors' country of origin. Second, we analyze the content of the papers. We identify the type of the papers (theoretical or empirical), the main methodology (qualitative or quantitative), and the keywords. Third, we analyze the references. This allows the identification of the most frequently cited references, and their historical structure. In order to deepen the latter analysis, we perform a co-citation analysis to identify networks of references. The overall results lead to a better understanding of the organization of the CBM field.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Competence-Based Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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