You can’t have it all!

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QSTCAchieving an acceptable outcome from any initiative within a business is fraught with obstacles. Achieving an acceptable balance between the dimensions (below) is essential when establishing a plan to execute.

Scope: What does the initiative cover; what are its requirements; what does it need to deliver?

Time: How much time do you wish to allow developing the initiative before it becomes reality?

Cost: How many resources (including capital) are you prepared to expend?

Quality: How good does the delivered initiative have to be?

You can’t however have it all. When building a plan compromise is essential.

For example, with a given

  • Cost and Time to complete, the scope and or quality will need to be tweaked to suit;
  • Scope and Cost (which is the usual scenario) both time and quality of outcome are the key variables.

Change during the course of realising an initiative is almost inevitable and constraints affecting the delivery are almost always applied.

  • An increase in scope with no change in time can be accommodated by increasing the cost (throwing more resources at it) and/or reducing the quality.
  • A decrease in time can be accommodated by increasing the cost, decreasing the scope or reducing the quality.
  • A reduced budget can be addressed by reducing the scope and/or quality.

Of course no one ever wants to reduce the quality of the outcome.

Good planning and good management will keep in mind each of these dimensions when exploring change.

Disregarding these dimensions during the planning/change process will cause problems with unexpected cost-overruns, scope-creep and time blow-outs.

Being aware of the interaction between these dimensions is crucial.

What can’t be accommodated is incompetence which can result in high costs, long time scales, unmanaged scope and poor quality.

You can’t have it all but with good planning and management you are not left with nothing.

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Skills, Knowledge and Experience.

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How often do we use the terms skills and knowledge interchangeably and/or erroneously?

Knowledge is information acquired through our experiences and the use of various sensory inputs. These include reading, watching, listening, touching, smelling. Knowledge refers to degree of familiarity we have with factual information and theoretical concepts.

Knowledge can be transferred from one person to another through training or it can be self acquired through research observation and study.

Skills on the other hand refer to our ability to apply our knowledge to specific situations.

Skills are developed through practise, through a combination of sensory input and output. It is essential, in developing skills to apply knowledge acquired to real world situations.

To make it simple, knowledge is theoretical and skills are its practical application.

Training by itself does not provide skills. For a skill to be realised knowledge must be applied.


In order for individuals to achieve a desired performance at a task they must be provided with opportunities to perform the actions required. Without the opportunity to practise they will not improve.

Much what is actually called training is basically nothing more than an information dump. Good training should be about activities, scenarios, and simulation.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • The Learner Driver is required to apply their newly acquired knowledge of driving through consistent practise. It is only through an adequate demonstration of their skills that they are allowed to take to the road unaccompanied.
  • A newly qualified doctor or surgeon spends many years under supervision practising the knowledge they have acquired through training and learning through continuous experience. Hopefully potential errors being identified by supervisors prior to them being instigated.
  • An architect trained in say the use of an Architecture Framework (eg TOGAF, FEAF, etc) should not be regarded as a skilled practitioner until such time as they have applied their knowledge in real world situations and demonstrated real business benefit. A real danger is in saying ‘I have the skills because I am trained’.
  • A residential building architect, even when fully qualified still has much to learn. With each structure designed being different and in response to unique client requirements it is their experience that ameliorates the application of their knowledge.

When training is just about lectures, presentations, and quizzes we end up with individuals who know a lot of things but can’t do much with it. They have knowledge but few skills.

Experience is the glue that bridges the gap between Knowledge and Skills.

  • Without experience skills can never be developed.
  • Without experience new knowledge cannot be developed.
  • Without experience skills cannot be improved.

Unfortunately not everyone learns from their experiences. Some individuals are resistant to change. If an experience is negative then ‘there must be something else that is wrong’ Knowledge can be grown through appreciating the experiences for what they are. Many, though not appreciating their experiences are destined to make the same mistakes over and over.

Experiences, if acknowledged, will augment skills already acquired.

With experience (both good and bad) comes the knowledge of which of a variety of tools are best used in a given situation. It is only experience and the application of appropriate knowledge that allows skills to be fully developed and utilised.


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Building Capability

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Business Capabilities do not stand by themselves. They have both inputs and outputs and have explicitly defined service expectations. They may be hierarchical with established dependencies or inter-dependencies.

Business Capabilities are the fundamental components that provide an organisation’s capacity to achieve a desired outcome.

They can be thought of as describing the organisation’s potential. When looked at in full they describe a model representing all the functional abilities a organisation needs to execute its business model, fulfill its mission and realise its vision.

The relatively simple views provided by a Capability Model establishes the foundation for complex discussions on strategy and resource allocation.

Capability models do not in themselves reduce business complexity, but they do highlight the complexity in a manner that provides for higher levels of insight and perspective.

Before going to ‘market‘ it is essential that an organization understands both the capabilities it requires and its ability to deliver.

A business that understands its capabilities understands what it is able to do and how well it can perform.


A Business Capability

  • May be ‘built’ or enhanced as a consequence of a defined business strategy.
  • May deliver a service.
  • Is constructed from a collection of Business Functions
  • Is supported by one or many business processes
  • Consumes and creates Business Information

The delivery of a Business capability will not remain static. It is reasonable to assume that when first defined there will be aspects of the delivery that can be improved.

Capability Maturity Cycle

As a business grows and evolves it should continually reassess the capabilities it has to ensure that:

  • All capabilities required to deliver on the current Business Vision are defined
  • Each capability is delivering what it should.
  • New capabilities are developed or existing capabilities are improved in alignment with the Business Strategy.
  • Capability developments or enhancements are prioritised to provide the greatest long term benefit to the business.

A business when managing its capabilities should ensure that it has a good understand of what they are and how they relate to one another.

Establishing a Capability Model of related capabilities allowing a business user to drill down to greater levels of granularity provides the opportunity to establish:

  • what might be missing
  • what is redundant
  • which capabilities need to be improved.

A Business Capability Model should encompass all capabilities required by the organisation whether they are currently delivered or not.

A rigorous process of assessment should be established that enables decision makers to prioritise which capabilities should be the focus of attention when evaluating initiatives to be progressed to realisation.

Acknowledging Capabilities that are currently not provided or provided poorly realises opportunities that may be exploited.

Example of a Capability Model

Insurance_Capability_ModelHigh Level Insurance Capability Model
Insurance_Capability_Model_Detail1High Level Insurance Capability Model – Detail 1

Insurance_Capability_Model_Detail2High Level Insurance Capability Model – Detail 2


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Aligning Strategy to Vision

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Having a vision statement is essential for an organisation to know ‘why’ it is doing what it is doing. A vision statement supports the rationale for why an organisation exists. It provides both guidance and a means to assess the worthiness of any potential organisational activity. Vision statements articulate what the organisation aspires to be at some point in the future.

It is also critically important for organisational success that a Strategic Plan be established. A Strategic Plan describes ‘where’ you want your organisation to go. It does not necessarily describe how you’re going to get there.

However, like a detailed “travel itinerary,” without knowing where you want to go, making plans on how you will travel are meaningless.

Strategic planning defines the “where” that your organisation is heading.

When defining a Strategic Plan and the activities it will encompass care must be taken to ensure that progress will be made towards the realising the organisational vision.

All objectives and goals to be incorporated within a as strategic plan should be questioned as to how they contribute to the eventual outcome. It is important in defining a strategy that the question ‘why?’ be frequently asked.

  • Why is this being done?
  • Why not do this?
  • Why is this option better than another?

Asking why and also demanding an answer to the question ‘what impact will doing this have on progress to realising the vision should keep an organisation on track.

A business vision provides the focus essential to the shaping of the business strategy. The strategy will be influenced by current and anticipated business drivers, business constraints (financial, organisational, capability, …) and where the organisation actual sits (the ‘as-is’ scenario).

It may be essential that a Strategic plan adopt tactical solutions in order to better place it for the longer term. A clear vision therefore allows for better strategic and tactical decisions to be made.

Being able to ask “Can the organisation get there from here?” is important.

Like the travel itinerary sometimes detours are essential in order to arrive at one’s destination.

Without a Vision a Strategic Plan will result in an organisation arriving somewhere.

Is this ‘somewhere’ a place where the organisation really wants to go?

Vision_StrategyThe Vision and the Strategy are mutually supporting. Without a Strategy there is no clear cut way of deciding how the vision may be achieved. Without a Vision the Strategy has no focus and what is achieved may not be what is desired.


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Ability, Capability, Capacity and Competence

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Organisations often promote themselves by expounding on their capability to deliver goods and services to particular market segments.

Organisational capability is only one side of a many sided coin.


In an individual it is accepted that an ability is the skill or competency to perform a task whether it is physical or mental. An ability is something that is inherent as it is dependent upon the genetic makeup of a person.

An ability is therefore an attribute that is either there or not. Organisations do not inherently have abilities that can be exploited. Individuals within an organisation do.

A capability on the other hand is a feature, ability, faculty or process that can be developed or improved. A capability is a collaborative process that can be deployed and through which individual competencies and abilities can be applied and exploited. A capability can refer to an ability that exists in an individual but can be improved upon.

For example:

• A runner may finish a marathon in 3 hours but may through training have the capability to complete a course in less than 2.5 hours. • A student may be regularly obtaining average grades but with study could achieve significantly better. • A researcher may have good analytical skills that can be greatly enhanced if they are provided with appropriate toolsets. • A business decision maker demonstrates the ability to make good decisions but could make excellent decisions if provided with sufficient relevant information.

Within a business setting a Business Capability is the articulation of the capacity, materials and expertise an organisation needs in order to perform its core functions. Defining the Business Capability does not mean that the organisation can deploy it. It must have the capacity to do so.

It is essential that an organisation when defining its required Business Capabilities understands its capacity to deliver. When discussing capacity, it is important to ask “How much do we have?” and the related questions, “How much is needed?” and “When do we need it?”

Having the capacity to deliver goods and services is more important than just having the capability. If a required Business Capability cannot be delivered through capacity issues, then reputational and financial damage is likely to occur.

So what is the difference between Capacity and Capability?

A Capacity is the ability that exists at present whilst capability refers to the higher level of ability that could be demonstrated under the right conditions.

As well as understanding abilities, capabilities and capacity it is important for an organisation to be aware of its competence. This is the quality or state of being functionally adequate or having sufficient knowledge, strength and skill to deliver what is required. Competence therefore is another word describing the ‘know-how’ or ‘skill’ of an individual or business.

As an example:

  • I have the ability to run
  • I have the capacity to run a 100m race in 18 seconds
  • I have the capability to improve my capacity through training to 15 seconds.
  • As a runner I am incompetent as I cannot compete successfully.

Organisations focus on the capabilities that they require in order to succeed. With good strategies and forward planning in place they may also be cognisant of the capacity that they require in order to deliver successfully. Hopefully they will also be realistic about their competence to deliver quality products and services.

Unfortunately, organisations often fail to realise the benefit of their greatest asset – the individuals it employs. Individuals often have abilities that are frequently under-utilised within their workplace. This may be that the role in which an individual sits does not require the skills that demonstrate their abilities. Consequently, entire valuable skills sets may be unused through there being no organisational awareness that they exist or the imposition of organisational constraints to their being leveraged. Business Capabilities that could be enhanced remain stagnant through ignorance of the actual capacity within the organisation or reluctance to cross organisational boundaries.

A successful organisation will be aware of all of its assets, understand the Business Capabilities it requires, have sufficient capacity and be competent in its delivery.


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