A Theoretical Summary for MCPA Feedback

April 1, 2016


The MCPA abbreviation stands for Modified Career Path Appreciation. The Career Path Appreciation process is traditionally a face to face interview and was modified to be conducted on line. The purpose of a Career Path Appreciation is to gain an understanding or an appreciation of the nature of work that an individual prefers and focuses particularly on the complexity of work that one would prefer at a particular time in one’s working life.


As we go through our careers our approach to complexity could change as we take on increasingly complex roles. However for some the approach to work is quite consistent due to the specialised nature of work e.g. a dentist who follows a consistent approach each day.


According to the theory and our experience in practice, individuals add their best value and are most rewarded by work when the complexity of tasks and decisions faced is well matched with what the individual feels comfortable handling at any time in their career. This is what we refer to as being in flow with ones work. When we are in flow, we feel energised and engaged in our tasks and as a result we also tend to make good decisions and add good value. There would therefore be benefits to the individual and the organisation when one is in flow. When we find that work is more complex than what we feel comfortable handling we begin to feel overstretched and when the work is not sufficiently complex there is a sense of being underutilised. We can all cope with day to day tasks that overstretch or underutilise us but if it becomes excessive or extends over a lengthy time period it can become very stressful and lead to poor decision making which impacts negatively on the individual and the organisation in the longer term. Finding the place where one is most in flow and managing the process of development as one’s preferences change is therefore mutually beneficial to the organisation and the individual. The (M)CPA process explores where we are most in flow and how that process could change into the future.


The process is based on the Matrix of Working Relationships Theory is an organisational theory which identifies 5 broad value adding themes in an organisational context, where each theme focuses on complexity and decision making in a different way and adds value to the organisation in a different way. The themes are summarised below.


As complexity increases the scope of work becomes broader, there are more decisions to make and there are more variables to take into consideration when making those decisions as well as more uncertainty. One would need to involve a broader range of stakeholders and use more personal judgement and discretion to make the best decisions. Importantly as well, the time horizon over which ones decisions realise their full outcomes becomes longer. All 5 themes of work are important and add value to the overall success of an organisation.



Quality Theme

This is the first and least complex theme of work but by no means least important. In this theme of work the focus is on direct task execution and the individual prefers work where they have a touch and feel relationship with work and where the tasks and standards are clearly defined. There are usually clear procedures to follow and the person would need to follow these procedures in order to meet the standards. There is very little uncertainty and not much room to use one’s discretion since the procedure is clear. Most people in hands on roles work in the theme of quality. Examples could be a bricklayer laying bricks to a standard, a dentist filling a tooth according to procedure or possibly an airline pilot flying a plane according to clear procedures. The outcomes of work are almost immediately measurable and there is not much need to plan very far into the future. The time span of discretion in this theme would probably be at most 3 months ahead.


Service Theme

The second work theme allows for more discretion. The focus of the service theme is on situational interpretation and work is done through an accumulation process. The individual would look at each situation on merit to determine the who, what, where, when and how of work. There would also be a focus on finding the methods that are most efficient in achieving the best result. Very often the first level of management or supervisory work focuses on service but a lot of specialised professionals also approach work in this way, e.g. a doctor gathering information around the symptoms of a patient in order to find the best way to treat that patient at that time given his or her unique circumstances. The process of seeing results takes a little longer in this theme and we look at a time span of discretion of about a year ahead in service.


Practice Theme

This third work theme is one where the focus shifts to seeing the organisation in a more holistic and connected way. In practice one would be looking at finding systems and processes that can optimise the business outcomes. There is an emphasis on delivering best practice approaches and therefore also a need to focus on continuous improvement and innovation to realise the best outcomes for the business as a whole. One also begins to see how a change in one part of the organisation can impact on other areas and the overall business outcomes. The kinds of roles one usually finds working in practice would usually be middle to senior operational management roles where the focus is on establishing the best use of all the resources the business has at its disposal and connecting organisational aspects for business success as a whole. Roles where the focus is on development of new business approaches and innovation are also often practice oriented. In this theme the time span of discretion extends to around 3 years.


Quality, Service and Practice we refer to as the Operational Domain and most people in a business will add value in one of these themes where the work really focuses on keeping the business going in its current state.


The remaining two work themes, Strategic Development and Strategic Intent form what we refer to in the theory as the Organisational Domain. A much smaller proportion of the organisation will work here and the focus is essentially on creating a viable and sustainable organisation for the future.


Strategic Development Theme

In this work theme the focus is on creating a business model that can take the business forward into the future and maintain a viable, profitable and competitive organisation in its environment. In the process the individual would need to process a number of parallel functional business areas while also focusing on the impact of the broader environment from a social, political, economic and technological perspective. Typically the work done in this theme would be done at a General management or executive level in an organisation and the time span of discretion would usually be 5 years or more.


Strategic Intent Theme

This is the final and most complex work theme. The focus of this theme is on weaving the organisation into the broader context and could even involve influencing the environment to ensure long term sustainability of the organisation. This type of work would typically be done by your most senior leaders in a large multinational organisation. The time span is also the extremely long term and the focus would be on sustaining the organisation in its environment and industry for many years ahead.


Your MCPA would look at which of these 5 value adding themes would be the one where you would be most in flow at this stage of your career and possible themes where you could add value in future. On a day to day basis we probably do tasks that could fit into various themes of work but what we look for in the MCPA is the one where you are most confident and comfortable at a particular time in your working life.



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