Strategic PM’s, Master the Three C’s For Career Advancement

This post looks at the three C’s – Competence, Compatibility, and Commitment. The three C’s are critical elements of the employee-employer relationship. We explore what they are, how they relate to one another, and what they mean for employees and employers alike. Finally, we think about the strategic and project management implications of the three C’s.

What Are the Three C’s?

The Three C's For Career Advancement

In the context of careers, Competence, Commitment, and Compatibility constitute the “three C’s” . Here’s how they apply:

  1. Competence – The Foundation of Skills and Abilities
    This refers to having the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform well in a specific role or profession. Employers seek candidates who possess the technical expertise and qualifications required for the job.

    Competence can include both hard skills (such as technical skills and proficiency in specific tools or software) and soft skills (such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork abilities).

  2. Commitment – The Pillar of Dedication and Work Ethic
    This involves dedication, loyalty, and a strong work ethic towards one’s job and organization. Employers value employees who are committed to their work, demonstrate reliability, and are willing to go the extra mile to achieve goals and fulfill responsibilities.

    Commitment also includes a willingness to learn and grow professionally, as well as an investment in the long-term success of the organization.

  3. Compatibility – The Key to Cultural Fit and Team Dynamics
    This refers to the fit between an individual and the organization’s culture, values, and working environment. Employers look for candidates who not only have the necessary skills and commitment but also mesh well with the company culture and team dynamics.

    Compatibility ensures that employees can thrive in their roles, collaborate effectively with colleagues, and contribute positively to the organization’s goals.

From the individual’s perspective, Competence, Commitment, and Compatibility form a strong foundation for career success and satisfaction. When considering careers and jobs, it is helpful to assess these aspects when evaluating potential employers. They help to identify the right fit for career goals and aspirations.

From an employer’s perspective, these factors are valuable considerations when making hiring decisions, promoting employees, and fostering a positive work environment.

How Do the Three C’s Relate?

Three C's IntersectingThere is an interplay among the three C’s. The reality is, if all three are not present, there is definitely a missing link.

Referring to the diagram just above, here is what you have when you have two of the three – and all three.

  1. Competence and Compatibility – but not Commitment
    Employer and employee like each other and think the job can be done. However, there is a feeling of lack of commitment – on either side.

    Something is there that could break up the arrangement – employee leaving, or employer changing direction.

  2. Compatibility and Commitment – but not Competence
    Employer and employee like each other and can feel the potential for commitment to each other. However, there is uncertainty as to whether the potential employee will be able to do the job well.

    Something about the job is not fitting – with or without training.

  3. Competence and Commitment – but not Compatibility
    Employer and employee think the job can be done and can feel the potential for commitment to each other. However, they are not so sure they like each other.

    Some element of chemistry is missing. There seems to be a mismatch on Compatibility.

  4. Competence, Compatibility, and Commitment – all three are present
    This is the sweet spot where all of the three C’s come together. This situation can work because employer and employee think the job can be done, they can feel the potential for commitment to each other, and they like each other!

The idea here is that the employer and the potential employee are both trying and hoping to hit the sweet spot. The are looking for evidence that might provide a warning sign on any one of the three – or looking for positives in all three.

Strategic Implications of the Three C’s

The three C’s relate to the operational aspects of a strategy. This blog provides many models and approaches to operational compatibility, including:

And here are some more broadly applicable posts – not strictly based as much on human resources:

  • Business Model Innovation – Looks at the business model of an organization – and considers how innovation may be applied to actually changing the business model itself
  • Core Capabilities – What is the core set of capabilities within the organization?
  • Change Management – Vulnerability and adaptability of the organization to inevitable change.

Here are some key questions that the strategist can ask regarding the three C’s:

  1. Competence – How likely is it that the organization will be able to find the required people with the competence to do the jobs required? How much will it cost to do so? Are the logistics compatible with other aspects of the organization’s operations? Are the various competences required compatible with each other? Is the organization trying to find or develop people with unique skills, or relative commodity skills organized in a certain way? How will the organization manage the distinction between hard and soft skills?
  2. Commitment – How likely is the potential for commitment on either side? Does the organization have, or can it build, a culture of commitment to employees for the long run? What will it take for the ideal employee to be committed and not look elsewhere for a better position? How can the organization derive the most benefit from the employee – and provide the most benefit back? What is the benefit of commitment for both employer and employee? How can commitment be both measured and observed?
  3. Compatibility – Is compatibility a goal within reach? Are there will be people that will like the organization…and can the organization find people it will like? Will adjustments or accommodations to the culture need to be made to make compatibility possible? Are other organizations more compatible to the target employees? What could make this organization the most compatible against the competition for the target ideal employee? What are the consequences of poor compatibility?

It takes asking a lot of questions to begin to understand how the three C’s might work within the organization. It is critical to identify and fix the issues that might make it difficult to success vis a vis the three C’s.

Project Management Application of the Three C’s

Here the focus is on implementing a strong project team as well as delivering something of lasting value to the organization.

  • The Project Team – A successful project manager strives to build a team that is competent, committed, and compatible. This combination ensures that the team can work effectively towards common goals, addressing challenges with a unified approach.

    The three C’s apply just as much within the project team as an organization as they do for the greater organization for which the project is being executed. The definitions and applicability of the three C’s are pretty much as outlined above. In addition to functioning within the team, the three C’s will be important to evaluate for each team member in terms of their ability to interact with the project stakeholders.

  • The Organization – The organization needs to have project teams that are compatible with the organization. That is, they need to have the right skills to get the project done (competence), need to be committed to getting the project done, and need to be able to execute in a pleasant way.

    Projects need to be designed or formed with this in mind: How likely is successfully executing this project with the three C’s? This has implications for portfolio management as well.

A Project Management Organization (PMO) can help manage the overall organizational approach to meeting the requirements of the three C’s for execution of projects.


This post looked at the three C’s – Competence, Compatibility, and Commitment – which are usually considered in the context of employment. We explored their meaning, how they relate to one another, and what they mean for employees and employers alike. Finally, we considered the strategic and project management implications of the three C’s.

For more information on advancing your career and the tree C’s, I highly recommend “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right” by Gorick Ng.

And here is a 5 minute video by Gorick himself as he presents to a large group of newbie attorneys on the job:

Leave a Comment