Why Defining a Clear Vision for Capability Building Programs is Both Challenging and Important
Consider your ideal end state when it comes to capability building, likely business strategy being delivered. But whether that’s increased revenue, maximised growth, optimised processes—you’ve got a vision for the process.
That vision is what keeps everyone accountable in the capability building process. It ensures that you’re accurately prioritising capabilities for development initiatives and effectively measuring the impact of those capabilities on organisational change and therefore performance.
Why do you need to define a clear vision for capability-building programs?
As with all good business planning activities, a vision for capability building programs gives you accountabilities, and accountabilities give you metrics. After all, capability building is an act of business iteration or transformation. Defining a vision for your program should be focused on creating continuous and significant business value.
Let’s look at it another way. A single organisational capability is intended to execute some aspect of business strategy. Combined, those capabilities are executing a larger strategic goal.
Without that goal, you can’t be sure that capabilities are hitting their mark, that your organisation is driving forward or that the people realising that execution (i.e. your employees) are performing to the standard needed. But with that goal, you have the data needed to show quantitative ROI on capability building programs. Theoretically, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
But a north star for your capability-led strategy gives you so much more than simple performance guidelines.
- It enables proactive prioritisation of capabilities, which in turn makes it easier to account for fixed costs and estimate variable costs within L&D and workforce planning.
- Demand planning becomes more accurate, since it’s informed by both future goals and current maturity of capabilities.
- A clear vision gives employees clarity of the future of their career and the organisation, as well as purpose for their individual development, driving engagement.
- Organisational resilience and workforce capacity are sustained by strategic training and development that is made to adapt to changes in business goals, since it’s designed to execute on those goals in the first place.
Why do organisations find this such a big challenge and how do you overcome it?
Creating credible metrics are what makes for sustainable capability building. Yet defining clear vision for a capability building program that links with overall business strategy is the number one challenge for, well, capability building.
For starters, getting a CEO’s buy-in and ongoing support for defining a vision before working on a program requires a solid business case for their time. CEOs must be involved early on in the process, too, as they are the ones setting strategic positioning and messaging, from which capabilities are distilled. Workaround this by facilitating their involvement—while are needed to provide the strategic nuance, they shouldn’t be the project lead or point of contact for every bump that arises.
Building consensus for the addressable pain points of opportunities can also make for a challenging process. There’ll be multiple stakeholders and business leaders who L&D will either rely on for supporting data or require to become co-owners. If their pain points aren’t addressed, they may not share in the vision for the capability building program. Create a common thread from your CEO’s priorities—think growth, reduced employee attrition, increased efficiency, as these will flow through business leaders’ functional objectives.
The impacts of not defining a clear vision when building organisational capability
Herein lies the reason for even building organisational capability to begin with. Without defining a vision, you may fail to accurately meet your CEO’s priorities (strategy, cash flow and people) as you won’t have properly defined them. Which brings us to another process challenge: HR’s ability to articulate the impact and consequences of both undertaking and not undertaking a program in a quantifiable way. Calculating return on investment before an initiative is a near-impossible task, made worse if HR and L&D don’t have the business knowledge of their CEO to ensure a program is strategically aligned.
- Alienating key influencers (your CEO and business leaders) and nixing a program from the start.
- Decreasing faith in HR and L&D’s strategic thinking and role in business value add, and can put you on the outs when it comes to resourcing and collaboration down the line.
- Inaccurately defining or prioritising capabilities, causing instability in business architecture.
On the other hand, say you do get a capability building program off the ground without a clear vision. You might then be facing a potentially un-sticky implementation or transformation due to unclear purpose for the program and a resulting lack of buy-in from influencers. Without that shared vision, shared ownership cannot exist and you’ll struggle to develop a learning culture that drives capability at speed and scale (if you can create a learning culture at all).
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