Thinking about a hierarchy of capabilities


Virtually every senior executive I’ve had the pleasure of working with has a secret wish.

They wish for employees who have the capabilities and drive to go beyond the basic requirements of the job, and actually go further. To be proactive. To innovate. To initiate.

As one put it bluntly – what’s needed are employees who are “batteries included”.

In today’s world of post-pandemic languishing, quiet quitting and pervasively “meh” levels of employee engagement, this quest has become particularly elusive.

I came across this hierarchy of capabilities model which is helpful in understanding the challenge:

To me, the key insight that pops from the model is that unlocking the most valuable contributions of employees requires moving beyond the traditional top-down structure of management. Daryl Conner put it best: “a command-and-control approach will get you bodies, not souls.”

Thinking about a hierarchy of capabilities is an invitation to consider what conditions bring out the highest and best use of talent. It’s become increasingly clear that such an imperative calls for a fundamental re-think of organizational management and culture. One that celebrates change agents, builds community and ignites a sense of shared purpose in work.

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Dear Change Leader,
I’m sure you’ve read all the articles warning that 70% of changes fail – but don’t panic. That statistic has been largely discredited, and I’m sure you’ve totally got this.
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