How do you build change capability?

It’s a question that is really core to many large corporates these days is how to build change capability. It’s a great question – and one that when you unpack it reveals many perspectives.

The value of organisational capabilities and the use of the word as a corporate jargon really rose to prominence as a result of the strategic management researchers and popularised by strategy consultants.

McKinsey defines organisational capabilities rather broadly as “anything an organization does well that drives meaningful business results”

Within the Resource Based View of the firm, Barney (1991) and Wernefelt (1984) recognised that organisational capabilities are a major source for the generation and development of sustainable competitive advantage.

It’s not that far of a stretch to see why change management as an organisational capability has risen in popularity.  A company that is adept at managing change remains agile and can continuously generate sustainable competitive advantage.

The term capability is often used interchangeably with competence, but I tend to think in context of change it is broader than simply skills sets.

3 Questions to work out how to build change capability

For me it comes down to answering a simple series of questions:

  • What does it take for the organisation to be highly capable of change?
  • What does it take for our managers to be highly capable of change?
  • What does it take for our people to be highly capable of change?

6 clues to spotting change capability

Change capability then looks something like the following

  • An organising structure for change management – this might be a governance model, a centre of excellence, or a centralised portfolio or internal consultancy
  • Change management as a central construct in the learning and development systems (induction, internal courses, mentoring)
  • Change management as a central construct in the human resources systems (recruiting, performance management, and recognition)
  • Change as a cultural imprint within the leadership – lived values of innovation, agility, and of course, people
  • Common supporting toolkits, frameworks, processes and templates that enable people to carry out successful change
  • A multi level framework that distinguishes between levels of capability (first order skills, second order and so forth, think Quinn’s master and novice distinction)

How does that fit with you? Does your organisation define the term differently? Something similar — or an alternative perspective?

If you are looking for more resources on the topic, try the following:

The easy way to build change capability…

Of course it would be remiss of me NOT to point out there’s an easy way to build change capability… get yourself a few copies of my book for your team and work through the questions at the end of each chapter 😉



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