Capacity is the third of four critical elements of successful change. It refers to the new skills and competencies you need to develop in order to take the actions necessary to bring about the change you want. For example, a leader who wants more substantive and challenging feedback from his team may need to develop the capacity to listen well in order to achieve that change. A company that wants to increase repeat sales through improving customer satisfaction may need its managers to learn how to conduct performance evaluations that focus on quality of customer service.
In addition to new technical skills, capacity also refers to the ability to manage change itself. Change is often messy, unpredictable, and uncomfortable. To get through it successfully, you have to be able to persist in the face of adversity, tolerate emotional discomfort, reflect and learn from your experience, and communicate effectively with others.
Both technical and “change management” skills are rarely mastered in a classroom. While training might be the starting point, most people will require repeated practice over time to learn both kinds of skills. You may understand a new skill well, but in order to execute it successfully your body has to move, speak, or behave in ways different from what you’re used to. Developing capacity is a biological process. That’s why driver’s education isn’t just classroom-based.
It’s also why commitment and clarity are necessary, but not sufficient, for successful change. You can be extremely committed to making a change and very clear about where you’re headed, and still struggle to actually achieve your goals. The capacity to make changes that involve habitual behavior doesn’t develop overnight. It takes practice and time, especially for new behaviors to become integrated and automatic.
Action Steps: Building Capacity for Change
How have you been most successful in building the skills you’ve needed to make a change?