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How interchangable are you? Think about it: Where can you go right now in your organisation and still help out to at least 80 % of your actual position capabilities. I have had some thoughts about it and would like to share them. Let us talk about unique competences and why they hinder more than help.

Carousel of competences

I have recently watched something quite odd: A carousel of position turning throughout different parts of my company. Senior project leaders switching positions in a triangle as well as hierarchical managers. I asked myself why the company does it and I remembered to see something similar at university where administrational members of the rectorate turned back to research based institutes and the professors there switched to the rectorate board.

Thinking about the way that I have witnessed the maturing of engineers in my company, I have never seen this action on their level and I wondered why. I mean, in the end it might make sense to broaden up the spectrum and networking by switching the departments from time to time. It helps for sure to get rid of the ever same turning wheel. But why are these people not switched?

Overspecialisation of competences

However, there seems to be a huge difference between engineers and managers: The unadaptablity of specialists and their unique competences. It is interesting and sad to see the issues of technical experts. Let us say you are an expert in mechanical engineering of rotors. Well, that means that you have to work on rotors for ever and ever. It is ineffecient for the company to change you to a position in which you would work on any other objective.

And it is hard to get into other companies. There will be just rare open occupations of your specific topic. Rarity usually should be paid accordingly and you should be aware of your worth, even if you are low-level in hierarchy.

Managers are interchangable? Leaders as well?

At least the question rises: Are managers really interchangable? Can an organization use them as they want? It seems so. As long as the managers are fitting to the specific management philosophy and are aligned with the spirit of the organization, switching positions is not a problem. That means that the middle and upper management have similar skill sets of budgeting, controling and planing, paired with a bit of ressource development.

Still, I disagree on low level leaders. They are very much aligned with people and technology and have to get a very deep connection to technical experts which is hard to achive and hard to sustain. Their unique competence level is very high. Thus, it is very difficult to replace these people within an organisation.

Broaden the spectrum!

It is dangerous for a company to just invest in the unique competences of their low level managers and engineers. They should at some point broaden their spectrum of talents for the sake of redundancy. It has the following benefits:

  1. Brake the wheel: The engineer sees something different from his daily attitude and can reflect his work style on the given experience.
  2. Help out when necessary: Have you ever had the situation that your engineer got ill and you could not progress? Well, luckily you have someone that at least knows the basics to continue the work.
  3. “I know someone who …”: Networking, networking, networking. It is so importnat. Many people do not know the ressources, infrastructure and people of other departments.
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