Steven Forth is a Co-Founder of TeamFit. See his Skill Profile.


For the past two decades or so I have kept detailed records of what I have been learning and how I have been putting it to use. I use a simple structure for this model. Each year, I define a set of goals, resources that I will use to reach those goals, and evidence that I will create that I am actually achieving the goals. Pretty simple and I keep it in a spreadsheet. I sometimes share parts of this with other people, usually people who share a goal or who are one of the resources.

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As I spend more and more time studying and building competency models and working on the tools needed to support these activities I am seeing connections between learning plans, as I use them, and competency models. Yes, a learning plan is a subset of a full competency model. And in my world, the learning plan is something the individual needs to own and control.  But I am now wondering if the same tools that an organization can use to design and implement a competency model could be used by an individual to design, implement and track a learning model.

To make this more concrete, let’s look at a goal I recently added to my 2018 learning model (it is a living document that I update daily and modify from time to time). In June, I was at the global marketing meeting for one of our major clients where one of the most compelling presentations was on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). This is emerging as a major global challenge on the scale of climate change. Our current generation of antibiotics is becoming less effective as ‘superbugs’ that have evolved resistance spread. This is serious not just because we rely on antibiotics (and antivirals) to treat infections, but also because many current interventions from cancer treatments to surgery assume the ready availability of effective antibiotics. If the current trends continue, AMR could cause more deaths than cancer (while making cancer treatments less effective) and have a global economic cost of more than US$1 trillion per year. The implications for our industrial agricultural system are equally severe. For more alarming details see The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

I left the conference with my mind on fire. I am now committed to learning more about AMR and finding ways to contribute, in however small a way, to preventing this future.

Here is a simple model of my own learning plan. Let’s see how I am applying it to my new obsession with AMR.

Unpacking this, my goal around AMR is as follows:

  • Know enough to be able to contribute to identifying and supporting solutions at a policy, medical practice, agricultural practice and technology level
  • Know enough to be able to make investments that will contribute to managing and reducing the impacts of AMR
  • Know what personal behaviours I should change

I am still working on the resources. I began by reading the book Superbugs by William Hall, Anthony McDonnell and Jim O’Neil and by reaching out to my community of angel investors to see who is already investing in this area and who would be interested in joining me to find investment opportunities, work on due diligence teams and to syndicate investments. I quickly discovered that I understand relatively little about evolutionary mechanisms in bacteria (specifically the role of phages) and I am currently working on correcting this hole in my knowledge. I am also looking at doing some research into the values of people who are most concerned about this problem and who are in a position to do something about it (getting an understanding of economic and emotional value drivers is central to a lot of my work). I am a social learner (technically I am an abstract, written, historical, social learner, but that is a different blog post) so I want to attend conferences and have lots of conversations on this theme.

The evidence part of my plan is a bit better baked. This is natural as I often work from goals to evidence to resources and then look for the resources that will help me to generate the evidence I am looking for.

Evidence …

  • Make at least one investment in this field (possibly help organize an angel fund investing in early stage innovation on AMR)
  • Connect AMR with my other work in pricing innovation and skill and capability building through writing and software

So how does this connect back to competency models?

A learning plan is really a way of defining a path to competency. This is why skills and skill management should be central to both learning plans and competency models. Skills are what connect learning to performance. A competency plan is a way to model and support performance.

The critical insight I have had over the past few weeks is that the tools we use for organizations to design and activate competency models may also be relevant for individuals who want to better design their own learning plans. A shared repository of individual learning plans may be of direct use to the individuals while at the same time help organizations design better competency models. It is a direction we plan to explore.

There is a natural fit between the skill models that TeamFit enables, competency models and learning plans, but it is the skills that tie all of the pieces together.