Transferring capability: developing culture not process


What does ‘transferring capability’ mean to you? A four-day ‘train the trainer’ programme? Or a strategy that can accelerate the performance of a business for years to come?

At the most basic level, transferring capability allows people in your business to follow a process sufficiently well that they in turn can train others, spreading an operational capability. The process tends to be tight and prescriptive – necessarily, as it is going to be used by numerous people with differing outlooks and capabilities, and has to be rigid enough to stay intact despite being passed from person to person.

This basic type of transfer works well lower down the hierarchy, and with simple routine business situations that can be safely scripted, such as performance appraisals or inductions. Organisations can save a lot of money by removing the need for consultants or outside trainers to do this for each new cohort.

““Transferring capability has the potential to transform businesses, because its focus is not on teaching processes, but on the development of the leadership culture””

However, when applied to more mission-critical business situations – such as organisational and leadership development – rigid processes become less useful, and may even be counter-productive because they take no account of the infinite variety found in individuals. Also, because business contexts change and evolve, it is inevitable that the efficacy and relevance of any fixed process will reduce over time.

Moving up to the top end of the scale, transferring capability has the potential to transform businesses, because its focus is not on teaching processes, but on the development of the leadership culture.

Here, the requirements for successfully transferring capability are the opposite of those needed at the basic level: instead of a rigid process for a defined situation, you are seeking to develop flexible thinking and agile judgement – which can keep up with (or even help direct) changes in business context.

And the ultimate goal is to develop senior people to a level that allows them to transfer their new-found capability to the leaders below them – in time, developing the organisation’s culture to include thoughtful and insightful leadership from top to bottom, sustainably and for the long term.

Not surprisingly, the training required to achieve this transformation in leadership thinking takes months, not days. Leaders need to experience development themselves, finesse new skills and be supported to refine judgements as they work ‘live’ in organisations.
Strategic capability transfer seeks to create an uplift in the thinking power of the broad leadership, bringing benefits in areas such as leading teams, creating followership, setting direction, and developing talent.

At this level, transferring capability is a win-win-win. It’s good for the senior leaders, who gain valuable new skills (and who, in our experience, enjoy both the training and the personal attention); it’s good for the individuals who interact with the leaders and benefit from their improved judgements; and, of course, the organisation is improved all round. What’s not to like?

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