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The Building Blocks of Organizational Capacity

By Marcia Potter, President, SynTactSolutions, Inc.

The strength of any organization is the knowledge, skills, experiences, creativity, insights and judgment of its people.

The breadth and depth of these dynamics are known as competencies. And the collective energy leveraged from these resources is what we refer to as organizational capacity.

Competencies are the building blocks of organizational capacity. What keeps an organization thriving is its ability to sustain and develop, replenish or recycle human assets. The quality of the products and/or services provided by a business is a direct reflection on an organization's ability to leverage the strength of its people. This means that management and employees must work together to understand what skills and expertise are needed to conduct business at the leading edge. It takes a shared commitment from both sides of the equation to keep the skills development cycle ᮤ recycling 鮠balance.

Two things are critical to building and maintaining capacity. One, there must be a well defined and communicated business strategy. Two, the organization must have a defined and well communicated organizational strategy and a process focused on competency development. These two strategic plans, when linked together, become the road map for managers and employees to navigate their way to success.

The type of business an organization is in is the first clue in defining what competencies are and will be needed in the future. For instance, the skills and behaviors needed by managers and employees in a manufacturing environment are going to be very different from those needed in a financial services or consulting business. What made employees valuable over the past 10 years is changing and it is critical for companies to dedicate time and attention to shaping a profile of skills that will be needed in the next 10 years.

Where do you find competencies? Individuals, teams, and entire departments or divisions have them. We find that most organizations really do not know the full extent of their available resources and/or know how to build and maintain capacity. Typically, senior managers and decision makers know who the key resources are; they rely on these few individuals tapping them on a regular basis to conduct projects, carry primary responsibilities for work as well as provide input into critical decisions.

Two myths haunting organizations today are that there aren't enough people to get the job done, or that large percentages of employees are overworked and overburdened. In actual fact, there may be some percentage of employees that are overloaded, but it's because a greater percentage of employees, with the potential to do more, are not being utilized and leveraged to their fullest. This reservoir of untapped skills, knowledge, and capacity often remains hidden and the myth of not having enough people to do the work creates a cycle that drains some employees and leaves others standing on the sidelines or hiding out.

One other factor that plays into this picture is the fact that many companies are in the throws of significant change. The natural (or unnatural) transition of roles and responsibilities creates a sense of overload that may have very little to do with skills or competencies. We find that very competent employees go through a process of feeling less than adequate as they move through reengineering. In balance, rapid growth and other business expansion dynamics may create a true resource deficit. The trick is in knowing where you are in maintaining adequate resources.

In addition to a defined organizational and business strategy, there are three values an organization must establish in order to sharpen its ability to build competencies and grow its capacity to produce.

  • Place a value on identifying what skills are needed now and those that will be needed in the future. Create a pipeline filled with this information and make it readily available to your employees. We call this information a skills profile. This profile should have a great deal of detailﴠjust a few general categories like leadership, teamwork, or technical skills. The skills categories should be clearly defined.
  • Establish a strong corporate value for constant attention to skills and knowledge development at all levels of the organization. Everyone is competent in something and these competencies are most valuable when aligned with the business direction. The question becomes "who knows what and how can their knowledge be applied to current and emerging business or customer needs?" We refer to this process as a calibration of skills.
  • Emphasize a value for transferring skills and learning from one another. Assign people to projects who have diverse skills and knowledge. Leverage everything they bring to each given work situation. We've noted that "skills transfer" increases employee confidence, boosts energy, and helps to grow capacity at every level.

Having a strategic business and organizational road map and a set of values that communicates and leverages information about skills and knowledge is the fastest and most effective way to build competencies and organizational capacity.

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