The Nine Categories 2. Team Capability

Capability can be seen simply as the potential to deliver.

Regrettably, this is sometimes misconstrued as being the same thing as “capacity”.  In practice, the capacity of a team, as measured by its ability to process volume, is often defined based on a wide number of variables including its capability as a whole and the capabilities of its individual members.

It is not unusual to see organisations that have unrealistically high expectations of a team’s capabilities.  However, more commonly encountered is the scenario whereby a team’s capability is actually under-estimated due to latent potential being unnecessarily locked-up in its individual members and therefore un-deployed. 

TeamLytica can assist organisations to accurately and scientifically measure the actual and latent capabilities that exist within a team. They can be compared against best-practice norms and actions applied to increase the delivery of the team’s potential. 

Symptoms of capability challenges

To establish where there may be challenges in capability requires an extensive survey and the collection of multiple data vectors which are then analysed against each other. 

However, some of the following symptoms may indicate that there are problems in terms of this domain within your team:

  • the team does not spontaneously request periodic training and up-skilling.  In some cases, this may suggest that they are fully confident of their capabilities but this symptom is more commonly associated with a lack of interest, believing that the cause is “hopeless” or simply giving up;
  • a variation on the above theme arises when the team as a whole responds negatively or indifferently to suggestions of training and skills development activities;
  • the team’s delivery is consistently below par when measured against other teams in your company or external benchmarks;
  • your team shows a marked lack of interest in trying to stretch itself to achieve more or to delivery higher quality outcomes;
  • there are numerous observations from members that they lack the tools, training or the processes, in order to deliver;
  • external intervention is regularly required in order to assist the team deliver or to resolve their problems;
  • there is a tendency towards their activities reaching the 95% complete stage and then sticking;
  • there are expressions that they are somehow disadvantaged against other teams in the organisation.  Those expressions might include things such as rewards, equipment, location or training etc.;
  • individual members of the team are regularly expressing doubt as to where they are in terms of progress against targets and more worryingly, what they should be doing next;
  • the team leader appears to be uncomfortable with the prospect of delegating more responsibility to other members;
  • the quality of the team’s products is consistently at “just acceptable” levels.

Attribution of cause

One of the key concepts of the TeamLytica approach is the need to look at data relating to your team in a holistic sense.  Looking at one relatively limited subset of the total picture can yield misleading and erroneous conclusions. 

Even so, it is possible to speculate about some typically-encountered causative factors when a team’s capability levels appear to be a challenge:

  • the team may feel that they are not being provided with the personal development or technological/process environment required in order to deliver upon their true capabilities;
  • occasionally the above perception may be being used as a smokescreen to hide other problems that are inhibiting the team’s capability.  It is sometimes easier for individuals to blame a lack of equipment or training rather than other causes such as dissatisfaction with the team leader or senior management;
  • corporate communication processes can function sub-optimally, meaning teams are left in the dark about strategic direction and developments.  This can have an impact on capability;
  • capability problems can also arise if the team has been constituted on the basis of its members being put into it because they were not needed or wanted elsewhere.  This can be extremely damaging to morale and affect the team’s capability;
  • occasionally, the workload being demanded of the team can be unrealistically high. This is symptomatic of poor planning and capacity management and if it is allowed to continue, it will negatively affect this dimension of the team’s perceptions;
  • some teams may feel that they are carrying a passenger or two.  Rightly or wrongly, if the perception continues with no action being taken, there is a possibility that the team’s capabilities overall will sink down to the lowest common denominator. 

Possible remedial actions

Another principle of the TeamLytica approach is that without detailed analysis and information, applying “best-guess” remedial actions may be risky.  Even when they are well-intentioned, if they are not based upon an understanding of the real underlying cause, they run the risk of making the problem worse.

Keeping that caveat in mind, your organisation might find some of the following ideas useful:

  • the background skill levels of each individual member of the team may need to be examined and checked for correspondence with the requirements of the job. Where mismatches are identified, remedial training and development may be required;
  • the optimism and dynamism of the team leader may need to be similarly examined.  If the person leading activities believes that the capabilities do not exist to deliver against them, that is likely to be infectious with the other team members;
  • it is important to review the operational business processes that govern the team’s day-to-day activities.  If they are inefficient or poorly engineered, the team’s capabilities will be negatively affected, irrespective of their own personal orientations; skills and morale;
  • it may be necessary to hold an off-site workshop to try and understand what is driving some of the problems identified in this area. This can be used to supplement the raw data captured by TeamLytica;
  • difficult as it may be, it is often necessary to objectively consider whether or not there are malcontents within the team.  If that is the case and the problem cannot be addressed with remedial counselling, it should not simply be ignored but positively dealt with by redeploying the individual or individuals concerned;
  • interior senior management leadership communication processes may need to be reviewed and if required, revised and improved;
  • finally, it is important that what is being asked of the team is realistically achievable in normal circumstances.  If this has not already been done, an experienced and professional workflow and capacity planner should be used to look at demands upon the team with a fresh set of eyes and to re-plan if required.     

TeamLytica can assist you by analysing very wide-ranging data and identifying the exact causes of perceived capability issues.  This will allow the development of an action plan to remedy some of the issues identified. 

However, accountability is one of the most precious attributes found in a high-performing team.  It means that the team and its individual numbers are willing to take the risk of being wrong in their attempts to deliver quality outcomes for the company and other team members. 

The willingness of individuals and teams to take responsibility and accept accountability is a major objective in any modern team development programme. 

This cannot be achieved though in a cultural environment where individuals are blamed and even punished when their earnest attempts to deliver subsequently go wrong.  Should that become the norm, individuals will typically refuse to accept accountability in future and the team may become paralysed by inertia while waiting for others to accept responsibility for telling them what to do.

Teams with a willingness to accept accountability and readily demonstrate it are teams that win.  Teams where individuals dispute who is accountable and where accountability is seen as something to be avoided, at best “get by” or more commonly fail. 

Note that a willingness to accept accountability is critically important in a crisis situation. 

TeamLytica can assist organisations to accurately and scientifically measure the actual and latent capabilities that exist within a team. They can be compared against best-practice norms and actions applied to increase the delivery of the team’s potential.