Competency can be considered a central theme in contemporary public service reforms. This article analyzes the development of competency frameworks for senior public servants at the national–government level in three countries (the U.S., the U.K., and Germany). By tracing the development of competency as an idea, it is shown that competency reforms drew selectively on management ideas, and by tracing the nature and time-patterns of competency reform developments in the three countries, it is shown that competency came onto the reform agenda at different times and by various routes rather than by a simple pattern of international policy transfer or business-to-government transfer. It is argued that the adoption of competency frameworks took place at critical junctures for preexisting public service bargains or agreements in each case and that they were shaped by the particularities of institutional context. However, although competency is arguably central to public service reform, it is far from clear that the competency frameworks in these three cases contributed to the declared aims of many contemporary public service reformers
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