Sustainable capability

Photo by Jo Kassis on

I may have mentioned before of a definition of capability I like:

Capability = Capacity + Ability


If you frame people development in this way, the role of the learning function is extended to also include the application and performance in the workplace. This is where I think the modern learning professional needs to operate.

One challenge in developing capability to this definition is the environment where the person performs changes, their relationships change, and the demands on them also change. To maintain an expected level requires elements of sustainability – consistent outcomes from consistent inputs in a consistent environment. There is no benefit to the learning function by letting the shelf life of skills fade. It might crate more activity for the learning function as skills need to be repaired, but is ethically wrong. What authority does a learning team have to NOT show people the current way to perform?

Building sustainability into capability means throwing out the once and done approach to learning, and thinking much deeper about building for the long term expectations of the business. That means having conversations about how plans, systems, relationships and culture need to be considered when building skills programmes, and making sure skills are forethought for the future shape, not just a record of what’s happened before.

I’m still working out what this feels like in practice. There’s an argument the learning function should make people self-determined, able to plan their future development with little guidance and I’m not opposed to this view. However, it does mean – as mentioned above – taking a wholly different approach to your learning strategy, i.e. the principles, purposes and processes you want to use to take you forward.

3 thoughts on “Sustainable capability

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