Archive for the 'Human Capability' Category

How to Lift Your People’s Capability – The Ultimate Force Multiplier

If you’d prefer to watch on video than read, just click here – 5 mins with captions.

“I need lift the capability in my team so I can do more future-focussed work”.  It’s in the Top 3 things I’m going to hear whenever I have a chat to a manager at any level, and it’s a good idea. 

What’s rarely covered is how to actually do it.  That’s what we’re going to sort now.

Coming to Grips

Ever thought of yourself as a production line?  It’s easy to do in manufacturing, might look like this:

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How to beat the New System Blues

(If you’d prefer to watch this on video rather than read, just click here)

You put it in a new system, you’ve got it through the initial getting it up and running. It’s still not quite causing the joy that you thought it would cause, particularly for the people who are using it. What you and your people have got is a case of the New System Blues.

Here’s what to do about this.


The first thing we do is… acknowledge it. This means say out loud that the new system, in many circumstances does not work as well for the people who are using it as the old system did.  Why?  Because it’s true!  If people are experiencing something, then that is their experience!  You can’t win that battle.

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Create the Capability in your team so the work gets done…without you!

(If you would prefer to watch me go through this on video rather than read, click here)

In my previous article, I introduced the Three Cs so your people can do their jobs, which allows you to do your job.  They are:

The previous article was on Clarity, this one’s about Capability – what each individual needs to bring to the party so they can do the work.  

There’s no genius to the idea that for someone to be able to do their job (so you don’t have to do their job), they need the capability to actually do their job.   What we need is a way to understand what this means.   This is useful in hiring when you’re bringing people into a role, but also more commonly when you’re thinking about why isn’t the job happening the way you thought it would happen.


The pyramid shows five aspects that make up a person’s capability to do the job.  And like all pyramids, the foundation is at the bottom.  However, we’ll start from the top, and we’ll use the analogy of a professional cyclist to help understand.

The Capability Pyramid
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A Talk – Designing for Quality Leadership

Adam ACSA May 2017

Something different this time around – a talk!  I spoke recently at the Leadership, Culture and Governance Symposium put on by Aged & Community Services Australia in Adelaide.

The topic – Designing for Quality Leadership   The point?  Leadership depends as much on your organisational design as it does the people in the jobs, so….stop fidgeting and start building something! 

Click here to watch.  Goes for about 40 minutes, and sorry about the hissing at the start – that blissfully goes away at 4:15.

It’s the stuff we teach in detail in our workshops and our online learning so you can design departments and enterprises where people can do great work.

And…if you’d like to see what was on the screen, or want the super-quick version,  click here to see the slides.  I’ve written short explanations on many of them so they make sense even without the presentation itself.

Feel free to download and distribute the slides to those who might be interested if you think it might help create a conversation that makes your place better.

Thanks to Derek Dittrich from ACSA and Tim Levett for the video production.

As always, if there is anything I can help with, just let me know.


Don’t (automatically) blame the performance appraisal

“We’re thinking about ditching performance appraisals” said Bill.  He was the CEO, I was sitting down with him and Theo his GM of HR.  “Or at least revamping the whole thing.”

“Run me through it” I prompted.  “What are you seeing that makes you think they aren’t working?”

Theo answered; “Formal feedback and anecdotal evidence.  We put out some simple questions, namely, to each employee; ‘I find the performance appraisal process to be useful to me in my work’, and to each manager ‘I find the performance appraisal process helps me to make my people more valuable’.  Both with the usual 5-point system between ‘not at all’ and ‘absolutely’.”

“What did you get?”

Bill jumped in; “We struggled to get to 3….which meant ‘somewhat’.  Mostly got 1s and 2s which means ‘not at all’ or ‘barely’ some value.”

“So as you can see…” Theo continued…”the system that my area leads isn’t too flash!”

“Maybe not” I answered. “But there’s a fair chance you’re looking at a symptom here, not a cause.”

“How can perform appraisals not working be a symptom?” asked Theo.  “A symptom of what?”

“Ineffective organisational design.” Read more…

Stop happying and start helping


“HAPPIER EMPLOYEES ARE MORE PRODUCTIVE” screamed recent headlines as a study from the University of Warwick hit the streets.  Music to the ears of some HR practitioners who see their role as Entertainment Officers with the responsibility of making work fun for employees, rather than their actual role of assisting managers to provide the conditions to lift productivity.

I don’t think the study is necessarily wrong.  An employee that does not feel that their organisation respects them, that can’t trust the organisation to not cause them harm, and who gets treated in a way that does not feel fair is never going to put their best effort forward.  And they’re not going to be happy.

But to conclude from the study that organisations should provide chocolates and bean-bags or offer free meditation sessions for every employee is simply not valid. Read more…

Higher up does not mean vague it up

Tractor 2

Where to sir?

There’s something I’ve seen in organisations more than once, that if we put into a saying would read like this: “the higher you go in management, the more vague you can be about what you actually want“.  This sentence will not exactly generate wise nods around the executive table, but it seems to be true a lot of the time.

Why does this occur? Three reasons 1) behavioural , 2) cognitive capability and 3) knowledge & skill

For behavioural, it means Read more…

How to increase your capability

I had some questions from my last post on cognitive capability on how to increase it.  Here’s the answer:

Don’t smoke.  The is the single most important thing you can do to increase your capability.

The second is 30 minutes of movement per day.

The third is healthy diet.

Not what you expected?   The thing is, the only way you can increase your cognitive capability is to not die.  This is because while your cognitive capability will unfold at it’s own rate, that rate has been shown by research to be predictable over time. Read more…

See the whole board

Some people just get it.  When faced with decisions they seem to see what others can’t.   One second before they gave their view, you were floundering, not sure which way to go.  Now it seems so obvious it’s almost embarrassing.

We know this ability when we see it.  Here’s a 3-minute clip so you can see an example for yourself (link here if you can’t see anything):

At 2:20 Sam Seaborn says “I don’t know the word”, as he’s trying to work out how President Bartlet pieces it all together.

Well….there is a word.  Two words.  It’s called cognitive capability, Read more…

The five factors of individual performance (it’s not personality)


I think out of the box, I'm a type J.A.C.K

Managers in Australia love to try to ‘get into the mind’ of their people.  Robert Spillane’s book The Rise of Psycho Management in Australia‘ contains an excellent analysis of how this came about, and the effects that it has had.  One fact that might be startling to some is that the empirical evidence shows that the amount of performance difference that is due to personality is 4%.

Yep, 4%.  In other words, 96% of the variation in performance is due to something other than personality type.

So what are the factors that determine performance?  I like to use the model put forward by Elliott Jaques, if you want to go to the source, track down either Executive Leadership which he wrote with Stephen Clement, or Requisite Organization.

Here are his factors:

Cognitive Capability: does the person have the ability to handle the amount of variables, options and choices the role requires.  This Read more…