Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Ariel Pinto

Committee Member

Edward S. Cavin


The purpose of this research was to develop and apply a systems theoretic framework for design, analysis and transformation of competency models using an inductive research design. This research examines the origins and development of competency models from a systems theoretic perspective. Competency models have been largely developed by a comparative method first proposed by McClelland, or the use of Delphi method survey techniques. The assumption that a population containing an exemplar and fully successful members would enable population of a holistic competency model has reported numerous failures. Similarly, reporting on the use of Delphi methods has focused on attempting to refine or augment Delphi methods to fill gaps in the competency models that are already in use. Rothwell and Lindholm called for methods that will reduce the backward looking bias of current competency development models. The literature of systems theory is applied to the concept of competency models via inductive theory building using Whewell's Discoverer's Induction supported by the structure of grounded theory. A competency model framework was developed that represents a distillation and synthesis of systems theory literature. The resulting framework can be used to design, assess and transform new or existing competency models. A single extant model was examined with the competency model framework revealing competency model inconsistencies that can be closed in a transformation effort.

This research represents a fundamentally new approach to the construction of competency models, focused on a theoretical outlook rather than the dominant pragmatic approaches in use today. Additionally, the use of Discoverer's Induction as the methodology in conjunction with the methods of grounded theory represents a methodological contribution to theory building due to the rarity of the combination.