Five Essential Capabilities for Change

by Jeff Scott, on Oct 30, 2017 9:27:00 AM

What_Is_BusArch-1.pngChange is the core ingredient to organizational success. To put it bluntly, if you can’t change, and change rapidly, you can’t exist. At least not for long. In today’s world, the ability to change is a requirement for success, both business success and personal success. As business architects, it is essential that we identify and nurture the specific capabilities necessary for change. But do we?

One of the most common ways to develop a capability model is to look at the functions an organization has and uncover the capabilities behind that function. This leads to capability models that are tightly related to functions and organizational design. Many organizations have an organizational unit responsible for change such as Organizational Develop but most don’t. So where are the capabilities for change located? Everywhere. They are distributed across the entire organization. These capabilities are not intuitively obvious and are often missing from the capability models I see. Here are five essential capabilities change every organization should have and should be improving:


We often think of leadership as a set of people at the top of the organization but it is actually a capability that can, and should, exist at every level. Leadership is the capability to inspire and motivate people to fulfill a mission. At the top of the organization leadership includes directing others while at lower levels it is accomplished through influencing others. Your company’s leadership performance has a lot to do with how much the organization can change in a given amount of time.


Collaboration is the ability to work productively with others. At the low end of performance, collaboration provides the ability to effectively break down complex tasks and distribute the parts across a group of people or organizations. At higher levels of performance collaboration creates organizational synergy, producing a performance boost where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Some organizations might require a higher degree of collaboration than others but every organization needs to collaborate to drive change.


At no time in our history has adaptability been as critical as it is now. Products, services, organizations, companies, and even whole industries come and go in a heartbeat. Adaptability is the organization’s ability to give up the existing skills, processes, and technologies that have led to its past success and create new skills and approaches that ensure success tomorrow. Organizations need to be adaptable just to survive and highly adaptable if they expect to drive change and thrive.


The problems we face today are much more complex and time-critical than those of the past. They often cannot be solved by brute force alone. Creativity describes the organization’s ability to think differently and allow different thinking to influence day to day and strategic decisions. At the low end of the performance curve organizations can be trapped in tradition and best practices, unable to solve persistent problems. At the high end they are often challenged to prioritize among numerous new ideas.


Innovation goes beyond creativity to turn creative ideas into reality. It is the ability to translate a good concept into a compelling value proposition that others are willing to support and invest in. When innovation ability is high, companies go beyond innovative products to design innovative processes, organizational structures, management practices, and employment engagement approaches.

The bottom line:


These five capabilities permeate the entire organization and every individual. Functional units can be established to act as centers of excellence that support and encourage the development of these capabilities, but that is not where the value resides. Yet each of these capabilities is essential for driving change and building a high-performance organization.

Are these capabilities in your enterprise capability model? What other capabilities would you put in this category?


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