Capability Coaching: A Framework for Developing Continuous Change Management Capacity 

To continue to be effective and create value in today’s rapidly changing world, we must be capable of managing this change and increasingly, managing ourselves in the process. No longer can we rely on clear directives from the outside to guide us from step to step. We all must develop capability for new levels of  self-direction and self-management.
One critical challenge is that at scale, we are severely lacking such capacity and the capabilities that create it. Nearly all of us have been educated and trained from an old paradigm, as a result becoming reliant on receiving the answers from experts. We expect to be delivered training programs with clear best practices. We want guides and checklists to direct us through well-defined procedures. We want to know where we can go to find the solutions we need, as quickly as possible. This makes us vulnerable and brittle in the face of continuous change.
Of course there are tasks for which best practices and checklists and quick solutions apply. However, this work is disappearing for human beings at an alarming rate. If it’s clear and programmable, a machine either already has or soon will be programmed to do it. Why would we program a human being to do what a machine can do faster, cheaper, and in most cases more effectively?
Even when there are clear best practices for human work, as things change faster and faster these practices become quickly obsolete. We try desperately to keep up with changing demands. Yet we find ourselves two steps behind today and three tomorrow, caught in an accelerating cycle of waste and frustration, frantically updating content for “upskilling” and pulling our hair out.
In this context, developing “future skills” has become all the rage. Some call them “power skills” or “human skills” or classically “soft skills.” Yet by and large, we are still struggling with how to develop these types of skills. We often default back to old approaches focused on delivering best practices or building out comprehensive competency models. Almost always, these approaches fail to deliver meaningful change. We struggle to see that a more fundamental shift is needed in our thinking.
One way to frame this shift is from Direct to Indirect Learning and Development.
Instead of trying to “program” individuals directly with the skills and competencies we’ve decided they’ll need, we indirectly support them to build a foundation of developmental capability so that they can self-manage the ongoing upskilling process on their own. Our focus becomes less on learning and more on learning to learn.
While the idea of learning to learn is nothing new, most initiatives currently focused here are still coming from the old paradigm. Here “learning to learn” is about getting better at downloading and implementing best practices–becoming a more effective machine. Unfortunately, that is bound to be a losing battle with emerging automation technology. What’s needed now is a new view of learning, an approach that is more alive and more human.
Our approach to supporting this type of development in the workplace originated with the revolutionary work of Charlie Krone at Proctor & Gamble in the 1960s. It has since been carried on by a protege of Krone’s and our mentor Carol Sanford, who has been working for over 40 years to build developmental capability in organizations such as DuPont, Google, Colgate-Palmolive, and Microsoft, to name only a few.
Our Continuous Change Management Capacity Framework builds on this legacy of work by identifying 3 core capacities and 9 key capabilities that build a foundation of an individual’s, team’s, or organization’s ability to continuously learn and develop in an increasingly complex and fast-changing environment. 
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A Capability Coach, as the term is used here, is focused on building developmental capability within individuals, teams, organizations and other stakeholder systems.
To guide this work, Capability Coaching is based on the following  propositions:
  • We propose that to effectively develop the skills needed for an unpredictable tomorrow, a foundation of developmental capacity and capability is urgently needed.
  • We propose that building this developmental capability, as the foundation of change management capacity, should be a primary task for all leaders in all organizations.
  • We propose that the current dominant paradigm in Learning and Development (L&D) undermines the development of these capacities and capabilities and must be transcended.
  • We propose that not making this paradigm shift poses an existential threat to the L&D function and should be a top priority for all L&D leaders.
  • We propose that L&D professionals are uniquely positioned to step into Capability Coaching roles where they will add more strategic value for their stakeholders, evolving the role of L&D at large.
Summary and a Call to Action
Learning & Development leaders are in a critical and unique position in this necessary transition to more developmental ways of working. On one hand, the old ways of doing things are failing and fading away. On the other hand, something new and exciting is emerging.
Those that see this and act to not only adapt, but to participate in this shift, will find themselves creating more value for their stakeholders at a time when learning and development, in general terms, is becoming more and more central to any business strategy.
Yet to serve in this role requires that we develop these core developmental capabilities ourselves, as individuals and teams, as well as the skills we need to effectively support others in new ways.
Helping you do exactly that is our focus here. It begins with a friendly conversation to help you better understand this approach and how it might help you create more strategic value in your organization.
We invite you to book a short 15-minute call below and look forward to speaking with you then.