Can you answer these 5 questions about your capability plans?

We all know that life at work is getting more complicated. Apparently senior managers in the most complicated organisations spend 70% of their time or more on writing reports and attending co-ordination meetings[1]. So in the snatched time between meetings and writing email updates, when the ‘real work’ gets done, you need to know your efforts are well spent.

If your organisation has a capability gap, and you are accountable for closing that gap,here are the 5 essential questions to focus your valuable working time on.

1. Which of your organisation’s strategic goals will your capability plans help to achieve?

Reflecting on the business objectives and strategy, look at the drivers of capability (more on this here) and define where things stand today and where you need to get to. What are the capabilities needed to achieve the business goals, and what does the gap look like? What are the issues and opportunities, what are the barriers to overcome? A powerful way to express this is simply capturing the ‘from – to’ your capability plans need to deliver. This is the beginning of the roadmap for closing your capability gap. It should embrace all the drivers of capability, not just processes but organisation, people, skills – both professional and leadership, and culture

2. How will your plans connect and build capabilities not just within departments but across business functions?

It’s unlikely that the business objectives and strategy can be achieved by individual functions working in isolation, especially when it comes to delivering the desired customer experience. It will be futile to focus on building the capabilities of the marketing or sales teams independently if the step change the business needs to achieve its goals lies in the collaboration of marketing, sales, customer service, and IT. Of course there is often the need to spike the performance of certain functions in certain areas. But increasingly there is a move to organisational capability development. This is how customer-centred capabilities get lifted – working across functional divides.

3. What real employee insights do you have and how will these influence your plans? 

What have you done to get under the skin of the real in-work challenges your target employees face day in day out? At the end of the day, learning in the workplace is aimed at improving performance. Unless the learning experience and learner journey is designed around the real in-work challenges of individuals and teams, how can you be confident it will lift their performance on the working challenges they face? Take a look at a recent case study of our work with Novartis in which the learning experience was integrated with the workflow and tied to tangible business deliverables.

4. Are you sure your budget will be invested in the right things?

You don’t have to embrace zero-based budgeting to take a fresh look at your capability investment and whether it is well directed. This isn’t the necessarily about the ‘cost per head’ or squeezing more from less, though of course value for money is important. It’s about putting the investment behind the areas that will have the biggest impact on improving performance. Designing the right processes and training people in the skills to apply them will be wasted if the organisation design and operating model aren’t right. An optimised organisation design for the strategic ambitions of the business means you have the right people in the right roles, then you can segment the capability needs of these people making programmes more relevant and targeted and ultimately more effective.

Likewise learning programmes aimed at effecting a significant change will be less likely to have the impact required unless also supported by a wider and meaningful effort to change the organisation and leadership culture.

5. How will you measure results? 

Even if your capability programme is already underway it’s never too late to start measuring its impact. Get started with capability influencers immediately attributable to the programme, this will include data on participation and usage.

Then look at the team performance Impact – there are tools available to help do this, and an investment in this will pay dividends in insights and evaluation to inform future plans

Finally select the commercial measures your programme is aiming to drive improvement in.

The case study of our recent work with M&S describes the measures they selected and the impact the programme had on these measures.

If you can answer all 5 of these questions confidently, congratulations.

For more insight into how your capability plans can instil effective and long-term behaviour change within your organisation, follow this link.

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BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogertrapp/2014/03/31/operating-in-a-complex-world-does-not-have-to-be-complicated/#4d7baf034f41