columbus, capability model, Toby Elwin, blog

Capability model incompetence

capability model, competence, toby elwin, behavior, ability, incompetence

“Ah, India! See, Giuseppe! See what happens when you demand a capability model before you set sail. Success!”

A capability model is a planning source of what needs to get done to execute against strategy.

Frequent association for capability models are organization needs and the ability of a process to do what is necessary.

Those that look at the organization as a product of social interactions takes a human capital set of relationships critical for capability, particularly:  people talent and competence.

A capability model represents a plan, capability is not solution, but a map of a chosen course.

That you need a capability, does not imply you have the capable or can tap into capability when needed.

The law of identity presents a clear capability disconnect with a human capability models that reveal behavior gap and an organization capability models that reveal incompetence.

Competency Model Above the Rim

Competency is defined as a capability or ability (Boyatzis, 1982, 2008; McClelland, 1973, 1985). Capability is a group of related but different sets of behavior organized around an underlying construct called the “intent”.

Organizations are made up of people, some may be capable, but others can prove rather incompetent, but what presents capability risk is less around competence and more around behavior.

Behavior represents the intention or motivation to get something done. That I am capable of doing something, does not mean I will behave with competence to do something.

A capability, in human capital terms, is a set of knowledge, skills, and ability. Do I have the capability to dunk a basketball?

  1. Knowledge: the body of information applied directly to the performance of a function.
    • I certainly know the concept around slamming a ball through a hoop.
  2. Skills: an observable competence to perform a learned psychomotor act.
    • I am 6 feet tall, do I have the vertical thrust or the spring to reach above the 10 foot rim. Of further importance:  can my hand palm a ball, is my hand large enough?
  3. Ability: the competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product.
    • Without a trampoline and a smaller ball, I do not have the ability.

So, I may be competent enough to dunk a basketball, but I am not capable to dunk a basketball … unless you lower the rim, but that is a post for another time. And we did not even talk about the behavior, intent, or motivation to dunk a basketball.

Company of the Able

Organization capability models are rarely an aggregate sum of individual, people capability. The organization capability model usually fights optimum opportunity against the behavior of those unwilling and unable.

It is not that organization capability is sabotaged by people capability, but organization capability rarely covers the contingency of the unwilling, the unable, and the unmotivated.

… capabilities are “what” the company needs to be able to do to execute its business strategy … [o]rganization capabilities are “how” the organization achieves its business capabilities … [t]hese capabilities need to exist throughout every aspect of the business. They create competitive advantage by building the capabilities that employees desire, customers love, and competitors can’t copy. The Capable Company: Building the capabilities that make strategy work. by Richard Lynch; John Diezemann; James F. Dowling.

So it can be a set of knowledge, ability, and skills, divided by motivation that cuts to the core of capability model incompetence. Incompetence through the inability or unwillingness to do something successfully.

Capability Models are things that were designed by Information Technology (IT) Architects that, very often, have never worked in a Business, built a Business, or run a Business. Some times, it’s better to build models using terminology your Business understands, such as “Services,” “Features,” or “Functions,” all terms that most Businesses are far more familiar with. International Foundation for Information Technology

Organizations are a product of social interactions, not industry feature. People decide to inter-act and inter-relate based on individually, motivated capability. Rarely will team motivation peak at 100%, people’s motivations do not align against an individual’s self-interest.

Coalition of the Willing

More likely, motivation steals collective capability. Organizations are made and conceived as products of human interaction and social construction rather than an expression of an underlying industry or natural order. People form the organization, the accumulation of organizations make up an industry segment.

Maximum performance is believed to occur when the person’s capability or talent is consistent with the needs of the job demands and the organizational environment. Competencies as a behavioral approach to emotional intelligence, Richard E. Boyatzis

The person’s talent is described by his or her: values, vision, and personal philosophy; knowledge; competencies; life and career stage; interests; and style. Job demands can be described by the role responsibilities and tasks that need performance.

It is not the industry that demands the organization capability model. People create process, not the industry. It is not the technology that creates the capability model. People utilize the technology, the technology only speeds decision design people programmed.

People within your organization may be capable but not motivated to be able.

Organizations may have capability, but are incompetent to motivate.

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Comments 5

  1. Hi Toby,

    There are different frameworks for defining and for measuring their maturity. It’s easy to identify measurement and grading levels to say that my “ability to sell products to a specific market segment” is:

    Level 0 = Non-Existent
    Level 1 = Below Industry Average
    Level 2 = Average, compared to the rest of the Industry
    Level 3 = Above Industry Average
    Level 4 = Industry Leader

    However, how would one create such grading scales and measure the capabilities of “people”? Or, how would one measure an Organization’s ability to deliver a specific Capability, such as the “ability to sell product to a specific market segment”?

    My Best,


    1. Post

      People capability are rational, people, have proven highly emotional. Further challenge is presented that someone has capability – the knowledge, ability, and skill – but not the motivation.

      Here is the challenge. If 5 people are on a team is it likely to get 5 people 100% motivated, at one time. 100% motivation is unlikely, so capability is not expected, but needs to be managed as a finite resource, with variable burn rates:
      Person 1 – 65% motivated;
      Person 2 – 33% motivated;
      Person 3 – 80% motivated;
      Person 5 – 92% motivated; and
      Person 6 – 12% motivated

      Team motivation alignment: 56%

      Motivation is variable by the hour, if not minute.

      A real answer: I do not know, but I do know it is not rational to expect capability motivation is constant.

      1. Agree with your comment Toby, that motivation varies. And even if you had a reliable measure for it, what would you do with that?

        Effectiveness is what we are after, yet that can also fluctuate as salespeople (to build on Frank’s example) prioritize time and energy between multiple deals at various stages in the cycle, determine whether they can meet customer needs, make judgments about what the competition will do and how their customer will respond and much more..

        Key is to hire for the qualities and skills that are consistently required next for the role and then to create the behavioral touchstones that help people stay on track.

        1. I have a friend from the company HubSpot, they say their success, this morning HubSpot had their IPO, is tied to commitment to always hire for culture fit.

          Know your culture means you know that without culture someone’s knowledge, ability, and skills become wishful thinking.

          I agree that motivation is not measurable, but I think motivation requires constant top-off, like a gas tank, as motivation is constantly tapped.

          People and culture change, so motivation needs to account for what is needed, not what was.

          Now, I wish there was a tool to map and manage culture against someone’s desired state, know of one?

  2. Yes, I do know of the Competing Values Framework and OCAI!

    As for knowing when to top off the motivation or inquire into a change in momentum, some of the real-time sentiment monitors seem to hold some real promise. By monitoring email, social media and other data sources, firms can find out when pockets of the firm are diverting from their intended path. Sears has stated that they can correlate sentiment to appliance sales. So, just as farmers can now use real-time monitoring of soil nutrient and moisture levels, combined with GPS, to give just the right dose of fertilizers, leaders can now do the same across the enterprise.

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