The (Unofficial) ITWorx Technical Architecture Blog

Personal Capability Maturity

Posted by archworx on February 11, 2007

So I’ve been thinking about classifying candidates for interviews, or even team mates and colleagues at work according to their capability, for some time.

Disclaimer: Before you go on – please note this isn’t to establish workplace supremacy, but instead to enhance communication between team members!

Sometimes you’re sitting there talking to someone who seems to be spewing out jargon without really understanding what the underlying implications are. Other times you can discuss a topic with someone and find out that they’re trying to convince you of a solution that is so advanced you can’t readily grasp it!

So I’ve come up with the following theoretical model to classify people according to their vocational performance. I think this kind of classification is very important for each and every one of us. This isn’t so we can gain fake karma points or establish supremacy of any sort; but instead to know where one stands and what challenges you need to overcome in order to advance your career. This goes back to the post about reverse-engineering success, if you still remember that.

It is also important that you consider this model in terms of how to deal with co-workers. The most important aspect of industrial development is team work. A team can never work with dysfunctional communication, so you need to use this measure all the time in order to use the right tools to communicate with different calibres within your team. If you don’t immediately identify your team-mates specific capability at the start of a conversation you risk wasting the time the rest of it is about to take.

Back to the theoretical model I was talking about earlier, let me take you through its different levels, and we’ll be getting back to this every now and then as we work with answers to interview questions, and find out where the proper balance between pragmatism and ingenuity is achieved.

Here is the model – keep this in the back of your head the next time you work on a technical puzzle; I will call this the “Mkaram Intellectual Capability Model”, blatantly stealing prevalent industrial nomenclature (thank you CMU/SEI/DoD):

  • Level 0 – This is when you are totally stumped, you have no clue, and you can’t even start to address the question
  • Level 1 – Someone asks you a question and you start babbling for a few seconds, being mostly incoherent for some time until finally starting to mildly approach the problem with a mediocre solution that may be buggy or stands a marginal chance of working
  • Level 2 – You are asked a question, which may or may not take you a minute to think of, but you end up giving a perfectly functional framework for a solution that will work, and will do so elegantly
  • Level 3 – You give the question a moment of thought, and either leverage powerful solution patterns that you know inside out by virtue of how well you’ve worked with and thought of them previously, or challenge yourself to come up with clever shortcuts (because you know innately that they almost always exist for every problem). In either case your end solution is not only perfectly functional, but also covers new ground in terms of efficiency, elegance or otherwise.

If you combine this theoretical model with the 80/20 rule, that only 20% of your work is where 80% of the most critical application time is executed, then you should work as hard as possible to make sure your baseline never goes below Level 2 (or change your industry), and in fact, continuously push yourself towards Level 3.

As an extension to the disclaimer above, note that these levels are dynamic and relative, instead of absolute. Your own personal level can vary greatly according to how well you know your turf!


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