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Mihalicz_Skills and Knowledge

The first of the three fundamental capabilities of managers, Problem Solving Capability, helps us understand how problems are solved and decisions are made. For managers, however, there are other types of abilities that are necessary for success. The second of the three fundamental capabilities is embodied in Skills and Knowledge. Having the appropriate knowledge, as well as the ability to demonstrate and apply that knowledge both technically and socially, is key for effective management.

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The topic has been defined in a variety of ways by a broad range of academics. For instance, Elliott Jacques discusses managerial leadership skills. Peter Drucker speaks to effective management and all of the different elements or skills needed to be successful. And in Systems Leadership: Creating Positive Organizations, Ian McDonald, Catherine Burke and Karl Stewart discuss human capability and the elements of individual capabilities or skills required to sustain a “systems” approach for managing effectively. Rather than broadly defining the capability as “skills and knowledge,” let’s examine how they differ.


Knowledge refers to the body of knowledge that an individual has accumulated over the course of his or her career or life. For instance, as a CEO, you would be required to have a body of knowledge that gives you the capability to do the work, the knowledge you need to be successful in that position. Similarly, to be an accountant, one would need to have the knowledge that is obtained through the education required for the acquisition of an accounting designation.

Technical Skills

Technical Skills refer to the proficient use of knowledge, meaning how well you can apply what you know. It is possible to have knowledge recognized by appropriate academic degrees, but lack the technical skills to apply that knowledge in a meaningful way in the organization. Demonstrated ability means having the ability to use knowledge in an effective way to accomplish the work needed to complete a task, or produce and output. For example, a Director of IT, would need to have the technical skills to be able to apply the knowledge acquired that would be appropriate for the Director level position. Similarly, a Project Manager would need to have the knowledge with respect to project management and the project management technical skills to be able to use that knowledge to successfully complete the project.

Social Processing Skills

Finally, Social Processing Skills are those that give an individual the ability to function in different kinds of social situations while understanding the processes needed to complete the work. Front-line workers, for instance, must have some understanding of how to interact with the people around them so that, together with their peers, they can accomplish what the front-line manager expects. As you move up in the organization, the complexity of social situations increases. A CEO must be able to manage not only all of the social interaction between his or her employees and across departments, but also interactions between key stakeholders and others in the external environment such as government agencies.

A skilled organization effectiveness consultant will be able to help you determine how the management in your organization can become more effective in effectively using these categories to design positions and recruitment strategies.