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The pandemic has been a watershed for many businesses and many corporate leaders are emerging from it with a new strategic vision and the desire to engage in transformations intended to better shape their companies’ futures.  Whilst this is laudable, the message to all companies, whether embarking on new or tweaked strategies, is that of “mind the gap.”

This is the “capability gap”  – the lack of skill, knowledge, role understanding, motivation or behavioural capacity to perform a specified task as well as you would wish.  The bad news is that many transformations, particularly in the medium term, fail because of this capability gap.

Leaders who launch new strategies without investigating whether or not their organisation has the specific capabilities to carry out what the strategy demands, are very much doomed to fail.  Too often, CEOs and MDs focus on the end-game and what they wish to achieve, without considering the all-important ‘how’ – the ways in which they can achieve it.

The importance of capability building

Focusing on the ‘how’ is imperative.  Management consultants McKinsey surveyed companies in both 2010 and 2014, to assess just how crucial skills development was to their business performance.[i]  They found that the top performers were those within which capability building was a “high strategic priority” and which focused on sustaining skills, as well as linking learning to business performance.

McKinsey also found a shift in whose capabilities are being built in these organisations, between their two surveys.  In 2010, capability building amongst frontline employees was only a priority for 22% of the businesses surveyed.  By 2014, it had risen to 33%.  Why is this?

Human capabilities building

Deloitte may have a good explanation.  In June 2020, they talked about companies needing to develop their “human capabilities” more than ever before, developing workers’ curiosity, imagination, creativity, empathy and courage, across all levels and departments.[ii] As Deloitte says, “the more advanced and pervasive technology becomes, the more important humans are to the equation.”  Echoes of our emotional intelligence training can be heard.

Deloitte sees such human capabilities as the key to differentiation, relationship-building and added value – all fundamental to business success in the fast-paced, uncertain and pandemic-impacted business world.  The global professional services network believes that “cultivating capability is a win-win, delivering value for the company, the customer and the workforce”, whilst also unlocking full business potential.  Specific skills become obsolete over time.  Ongoing skills development across an organisation, and not just amongst leaders and higher management, is vital.

Targeted skills interventions

Here at Space2BE, we like to talk about the power of “targeted skills interventions”. We help clients take the helicopter view of their business that is so necessary and we facilitate the identification of the capability gaps.  People strategies fall under the microscope with our help, as we analyse who needs what.  These can be any types of capabilities – unique to your business and strategy.  If we see a strategy that pinpoints at least five, and ideally seven or eight core capabilities, it is an indicator that it has been given the considered thought that it deserves.  Examples of capabilities include collaboration and inspiring performance.

With access to so much professional expertise at our fingertips, we can help our clients focus on what it is that the customer demands of the organisation, what the strategy requires in order to succeed and how we can marry those two things together, through regular and ongoing evaluations of the capability gaps, rather than just a one-off exercise.

Sometimes, a client strategy workshop unveils the need for a specific ‘unique’ capability. This might be a specific bit of DNA that is not commonly understood. In this instance, we help the client ‘define’ it and then create very niche and bespoke capability building programmes, from scratch, to deliver it.

Successful capability building

At Space2BE, we go one step further than just providing the training, coaching and mentoring tools that help achieve the ‘how’ within strategic delivery.  With strategic and OD expertise, we help ‘embed’ the capability into the day-to-day work  and culture of the organisation.

Crafting the right capability building programme, as part of a people development plan, is fundamental to how you compete in the business world.  Get it right and you can unlock the true value of your business and its ideas – perhaps even achieving the forever challenging ‘sustainable competitive advantage.’  Neglect capability building and your business will not only underperform today but also not be future-proofed for tomorrow.

 

[i] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/building-capabilities-for-performance

[ii] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/insights/focus/technology-and-the-future-of-work/building-capability-unleash-business-performance.html