The Expertise Enigma
Expertise is a process, driven by the interaction of different practitioner characteristics within groups and organizations, resulting in optimal performance at a particular time.
Expertise is fundamental to business success. Managing expertise proactively is key to unlocking the potential of each business domain and corresponding competitive advantage, yet no framework is in place to proactively articulate, assess or manage expertise throughout a business. Expertise is concerned with practices and ‘getting things done’. As our working practices continue to evolve in response to the ongoing ripple effects of the pandemic, new organizational structures, roles and responsibilities that recognize this requirement will be introduced. Consequently, a new genre of professionals will emerge to support these practices. But businesses are still over-focused on other aspects of organizational development, like data architectures and process flows. Without addressing expertise as a first-class citizen of executive-level concern, businesses will continue to miss the opportunity to develop one of the major value drivers in their organizations. Improved technology without effective people to work with it is akin to an excellent orchestra playing on the sinking Titanic.
Why does this matter now?
We are in the accelerated now. As we rapidly transition to a new technology era involving substantial automation and the introduction of multiple new technologies, the expertise of the workforce also requires rapid transition.
The dynamic, complex and interdependent nature of the business environment means that practitioners require a breadth of various expertise, ranging from distinct business disciplines like Finance, HR, Sales and R&D to the technologies that increasingly power these domains. Expertise exists throughout the organization in all functions from corporate to business units and IT.
Expertise is capital and potentially an organization’s most valuable asset, albeit an intangible asset. Most businesses undervalue expertise because there has been a longstanding deficit in research into its value, and – critically – there has not been a clear way of articulating, assessing and managing expertise.
People are at the heart of processes. Success hinges on two critical components, technology and people, and the overall management of these components. This is particularly true as we move to an increasingly digitized economy, where all roles now require a complex mix of domain knowledge and technology know-how. Educating, managing and developing people in such interdependent, complex roles is a different proposition to training people in less complex roles not subject to the same breadth and extent of contextual influencing factors. This has direct implications for a number of major areas including Workplace Strategy, the Operating Model, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) and all organizational integration and disintegration including M&A and internal restructuring.
Expertise is not just skills & competencies
Skills and competencies alone do not constitute expertise. The conventional and inaccurate concept of expertise is often bound up in misleading stereotypes, for example: talent, skill, specialization, credentials, professionalism, age, experience, excellence, gender, authority, elitism, competence, capability, intellect, paternalism, industrialism, technology, rationalism, hubris and objective truth. None of these constitute expertise; they merely allude to it.
Expertise is comprised of multiple dynamic and interrelated components. A comprehensive and holistic view of expertise is required, made up of distinct, managed components to enable expertise to be managed as an asset for the whole organization.
The figure describes the fundamental dimensions and attributes characterizing expertise as well as the dynamics and interrelationships these attributes have. Expertise is required in each business domain, throughout the organization, and at all organizational levels, including leadership and executive management levels.
Whilst this model was developed in the BPaaS domain, it is generic and widely applicable across all business domains; practice is embedded in the collective expertise of practitioners.
Figure 01: Model of Expertise Overview – Primary Constructs
Expertise is a process: Reinvestment of what’s derived from expertise, progressive problem-solving and momentum via motivation are powerful constituents of the overall process of expertise. Expertise is not static, nor are any of its constituent components. To respond to these complex conditions in which they operate, organizations need to develop a unifying conceptual understanding of expertise, as it specifically applies to individual performance as a basic requirement for managing human capital. This model of expertise can provide a starting point for exploring your own organization’s specific context.
Act now: We are in the era of the accelerated now. The longer an organization goes without understanding expertise as a critical factor for success, the greater the potential risks for organizational management, education and training, human capital management, human resource development, and the capacity to manage organizational integration and disintegration. LEF can help you establish an expertise strategy to ensure your organization is primed for the future. You can also contact us to participate in research in expertise as we launch a significant research channel in this area over the coming months.