On the Question of Competency

The established structure governing how our society functions and the methods, policies, and mindsets that defines it has proven to be, more often than not, incompetent and shortsighted. Processes and rules are devised according to how they look on paper and with public image and profits in mind, but which prove to be inadequate in practice. Those in control or who have a vested interest would have us believe this system is effective, productive, and even necessary – but it is not. It is a colossal waste of time and resources while adding unnecessary stress for many.

We see emphasis placed on form rather than content, quantity rather than quality, appearances rather than authenticity, and lip service rather than actual intent. Misleading standards have been put in place to provide a veneer of competency which is questionable and most certainly cannot be guaranteed.

The world is flooded with so-called experts whose expert status is actually diluted because they are so entrenched in their way of thinking and being. They surround themselves with the rituals of their profession and its specific language and are not tolerant of other voices. In such cases learning and progress stops as they see themselves holding a very defined and privileged role within society and within their clique. Anything or anyone who presents a challenge to that role is viewed with suspicion and disdain, and is firmly discounted and dismissed.

Accordingly, much weight is placed on accreditation, degrees, and recognition, or should I say the trappings of these. Obviously knowledge and skills are essential to have, but when what’s on paper becomes more important than quality or intention we end up with false and disingenuous assurances and assumptions that can be, and often are, lacking and problematic.

Meaningful education is no longer part of the equation in our bureaucratic labyrinth of a system. It has been deemed unimportant – dangerous even – and has been relegated to a distant past. Education has been corrupted and turned into an automated production line which promotes rote learning in a politically minded environment and is not conducive to meaningful questioning, exploration, learning and growth. And this negative educational experience isn’t even free; we are charged steep tuition fees for it.

Thus, we generate people who are not always suited to the profession they choose and are therefore incompetent and ineffective. Completing required courses, passing mandatory examinations, and paying all required fees are the criteria deemed necessary for determining competency to work in many occupations. It has become common and acceptable for people to hide behind their credentials and thus deflect their responsibilities but, as I have stated before, training and education by themselves guarantees nothing. It is by no means representative of the whole picture.

Everywhere within our society are inadequate administrators and managers who care little for efficiency, common sense, or merit based work, and those who enjoy (and abuse) their power too much are all too common. Corruption is rampant and pervasive. Politics and power cliques are detrimental as they create and encourage negative and toxic environments where questionable behavior, ulterior motives, and poor performance are rewarded. This is accepted as normal in our society.

For the capable managers who do exist – and there are some – they find themselves caught in between a rock and a hard place. For them, trying to maintain positive, productive, and fair work practices while operating under oppressive guidelines and expectations from those they answer to is an unfortunate and unnecessary reality.

Inadequate teachers are a problem many have encountered. Most of us have had experience with one and in many cases more than one. Some choose this profession because they want summers, holidays, and weekends off, not because they have a real desire to teach or because they possess any talent for it. Their students suffer for it, and many times blame for the results of poor teaching is placed on the students and/or the parents, while quality teachers are routinely hindered by increasingly constrictive standards and testing that allow little time for any real teaching or constructive interactions with students to occur.

Businesses, especially those beholden to shareholders and a board of directors, are so focused on profits that they will manipulate and make use of whatever they can to increase them – including people. Management from the top down instead of the bottom up is typical of how these businesses are run. In other words, the people at the top not only have no clue of how to do the jobs their employees do and what they entail, but they don’t care to know. New procedures and goals they come up with as they sit behind their desks often don’t take into consideration effects in real time, what it takes to make things work, and the added stress to those expected to make them work.  When competency is absent at the top it affects competency at all other levels, including motivation and loyalty.

Governments are besieged with incompetency, and try as they might it is getting harder for them to hide it. The chaos, unrest, and exploitation are widespread and increasing with no end in sight. With all their talk and covert and overt actions they are unable to solve anything. They are, however, excellent at making matters worse, and it is rare that they are ever held accountable for their actions. Thus we have people in prominent positions who, if they were average citizens, would be viewed and treated as criminals. This is a hallmark of an incompetent government, yet it is also a reality.

Having to deal with any type of organization, public or private, is often a time consuming, unclear, and frustrating experience, for workers as well any who have dealings with them. Effective and honest communication is often missing, faulty, or purposely misleading. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing as departments are often run independently of one another. Obscure verbal and written communication is practiced regularly as they believe this will benefit them – at other’s expense, of course.

Yet they all strive to project an image of competency, caring, and trust – or at least they try to. But these things require more than excellent marketing skills and dressed up language. Competency has to be consistently worked toward, trust must be earned and caring – well you either you do or don’t, and when you don’t it tends to come out sooner or later.

The system is warped with a focus not on capability, suitability, intentions, or productive results, but on a willingness to play by the rules of the game – and it is a game. Real time experiences, passion, ability and potential ability and the inclination to cultivate them are downplayed, even ignored, and replaced by superficial concerns with uncertain, unproductive, or damaging results.

Paying homage to the system and its mechanisms is a sacrosanct duty we are all expected to abide by and participate in to advance and succeed in life. For those who are not willing players in this game, or who possess a conscience or common sense, this often results in experiences that are at best unsatisfying, and at worst a total nightmare.

Competency requires strength beyond knowledge and skills. It includes an ability and willingness to continue the learning process beyond educational or social status attainment by stepping outside comfort zones, engaging with others to consider problems, issues, and goals from multiple angles, and being open to change for the benefit of many rather than just a few.

There are plenty of competent people in the world, but my observations and experiences have led me to believe that they are outnumbered by incompetent ones, especially in positions of power and influence. The system is designed to encourage and reward incompetency and so it permeates our world everywhere from individuals to groups, businesses and organizations, to political leaders and government.

Many people simply don’t have the strength of character that competency requires. Protecting the clique they belong to, and their place in it, is the primary concern. Relying on manipulative, deceitful, and abusive tactics along with an unwillingness to cooperate and tone down agendas is not strength. It is the height of incompetency, and it’s costing us dearly. It all comes down to how competency is defined, and it’s defined by, and for the benefit of, those who possess it least.


“Every clique is a refuge for incompetence. It fosters corruption and disloyalty, it begets cowardice, and consequently is a burden upon and a drawback to the progress of the country. Its instincts and actions are those of the pack.”  ~ Chiang Kai-shek