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Mastery Is Enduring
Jobs can be taken away. Mastery cannot. Choosing a profession or trade connects people to the basic human needs that drive us as a civilization. Professions and trades endure. Why? because high levels of expertise (mastery) in various fields of practice are required to serve the basic human needs of our global community - education, financial security, health and well-being, home and shelter, security, environmental health, spirituality, transportation, etc. Those needs have historically required crafts men and women to hone their skills and invent practices in order to take care of these basic needs. George Leonard, in his seminal book on MASTERY, claims that it takes 10-17 years to master any profession, trade, sport or art form.

The Web of Work model portrays the strong link between human needs and professions/trades. Professions and Trades endure. The further one’s work identity moves from the center (basic human needs), the more fragile one’s relevance becomes. Organizations are more and more transient. Jobs are the least stable area of the Web of Work.

“During the January 2003 through December 2005 period, 3.8 million workers were displaced from jobs they had held for at least 3 years.” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 17, 2006.

Jobs go away in a heartbeat. Why? because most jobs relate to partial mastery of a bigger body of knowledge in a field. In a merger, people in similar jobs often have to compete to keep their jobs. Due to economies of scale, many workers are displaced from their jobs. However, the professions or trades in which their jobs clustered – do not disappear. Some may be outsourced because they are not core competencies of the corporation, to use Prahalad and Hamel’s term.

In the last few decades, “filling jobs” has taken precedence over mentoring and developing mastery in a field. Many workers have lost their incentive or hope of being great in a field and making a contribution. They do whatever they need to do to hold onto their jobs. People’s natural desire to become good at something has taken second seat to having a job. Moving from profession to profession without instruction and practice in the field is commonplace. Individuals are frequently assessed on a set of disembodied competencies, sometimes purchased from outside vendors. Frequently, they have little to do with the core competencies required for success in the core professions. As people become jobbers (employing only some of the skills required for their profession) they become obsolete or outsourced. Stress goes up. Health goes down. And, ultimately the organization flounders.

Importance for Organizations?

Global competitiveness and leadership in any industry or organization require having masters in the core professions of the industry. The original founders of most organizations were seasoned in the core professions of their industry. Founders are frequently pioneers. However, success in an industry often breeds complacence. more...
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