Professional development and continuous improvement (article)

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In this article, Derek Stockley comments on the link between professional development and continuous improvement.

Continuous professional development

I have always been a strong believer in the importance of personal development. In this article, I want to concentrate on professional development, which relates to those activities and programs undertaken to develop or maintain competency in work related skills and aptitudes.

Professional development is like a continuous improvement process. It is an ongoing program, whether formal or informal, undertaken to ensure that we as individuals have the skills and abilities to undertake our work in a professional, efficient and effective manner.

Organisations and businesses should be always seeking new and better processes.

Continuous improvement philosophies require constant attention to the task at hand. Everyone involved in a process should be evaluating and reviewing what they are doing, so if possible, improvements can be identified and implemented.

A continuous improvement approach and methodology should apply to individuals as well.

Informal and formal development

Informal development can occur through accessing newsletters, magazines, journals, books and other media.

More formal development can occur through learning programs, whether self organised or organised by others - training courses, seminars, conferences being examples.

There are always developments in our fields of expertise. There are many ways to keep up-to-date, but it does take self-organisation. It has to be a planned, conscious approach.

Neglect can have serious consequences, although they may be hidden. You may not realise that your knowledge is becoming out of date.

There are three basic parts of professional development:

  • Keeping up-to-date - keeping current. Income tax legislation changes. A tax accountant has to keep abreast of the changes.

  • Expanding into related but new fields of operation. The impact of technology has meant that tax accountants have had to acquire a wide range of computer skills, including the proficient use of specialised software packages. .

  • Growing the role - assuming greater responsibility, either in the same position or through promotion. As they become more senior, a tax accountant expands into the role of business advisor. This involves a whole new area of knowledge and skills.

Summary and reflection

Professional development is an important continuous improvement process.

How do you measure up?

  • Are you up-to-date?

  • Is your professional knowledge growing every day?

  • What mechanisms do you have in place to ensure that you are informed of the latest developments?

  • Have you attended a formal training/professional development activity in the last three months?

  • Are you investing 5% of your salary (or equivalent) in professional development?

  • Are you spending 10 days (or equivalent) in professional development activities each year?

  • What is your current "special interest subject" - the topic you are investigating/researching on a consistent basis?


References relevant to the above are:

The importance of striving for continuous improvement and innovation - explores the importance of innovation and continuous improvement. Specific personal examples provide a basis for the development of principles, with customer service in organisations being highlighted.

Sourcing information for business and personal use - provides insight into the importance of personal and business information, particularly sourcing it.

The impact of the Google search engine on our daily lives - how Google (and other search engines) can help you find useful information.

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