Defining core competencies

There can be varying definitions of what is meant by the term “core competencies.” In academia, for example, the concept is often used as a way to bash faculty in higher education the way “accountability” is used to bash teachers in elementary and high school.

In their book “Building a Better International NGO” James Crowley and Morgana Ryan define core competencies of a nonprofit as the collective learning in the organization, especially how to coordinate diverse production skills and integrate multiple streams of technology.

Crowley and Ryan write that attention to core competencies requires attention to the following conclusions and implications:

  • Clarity on organization-wide core competencies is a useful concept to help with management focus in the near term and sustainability in the longer term.
  • Most international nongovernmental organizations (INGO) are too widely spread and do not have a realistic chance of gaining real depth in all of the core competencies implied by their strategies.
  • Alignment on an organization’s contribution to development is likely to be an essential foundation stone in defining an organization’s core competencies.
  • Strengthening and evolving carefully selected core competencies requires sustained and aligned efforts across all parts of an organization.
  • Newfound clarity should be used on core competencies to spawn and mainstream new products.
  • Alliances and joint ventures, as well as mergers, can supplement or speed up acquisition of missing (or weak) core competencies.