The work “capability” has been part of natural language for hundreds of years. During this time it has acquired a general common sense and large variety of specific meanings.

There exists uncountable kinds of capabilites, of which some are relevant to people in work they do.

How do you find what kind(s) to work with? The simple answer is to look for those pragmatic (work) situations where discussions and deliberations about Potential Capacity to achieve some Result are important.

A longer answer: It is important to understand that the idea of capability does not replace any underlying and grounding concepts, it adds additional aspects such as possibility and substantiality.

An example: The understanding of the idea of marketing comes by necessity before an understanding of marketing management, both as the concept of managing marketing and markets, and also as a set of marketing management activities. When these three concepts are understood then, and only then, it is possible to formulate and discuss a marketing management capability that delivers marketing management.

The unique contribution of the concept of capability is that it allows you talk about something that is important, a talking point. The importance comes from that a capability represents a possible (potential) substantiality (capacity) to achieve some result.

The addition to the example is that the concept of capability enables discussions about how capable an organisation is to deliver marketing management, how much should be invested in relation to investments in sales management, which source factors contribute to the result, etc.

The following subsections provide descriptions of different kinds of capabilities that are frequently used. They can be used as a starting point for evaluating what kinds can be interesting and important for people in their discussions, deliberations and when answering specific questions.

Examples of Kind of Capability include: 

  • Ability kind of capability
  • Competence kind of capability
  • Dynamic kind of capability
  • Outome kind of capability
  • Leadership kind of capability (competitive advantage)
  • Excellence kind of capability (operational excellence)
  • Customer Value kind of capability
  • Purpose kind of capability
  • Objective kind of capability
  • Component kinds of capability
  • Processual kind of capability
  • Risk kind of capability
  • Performer kind of capability
  • Thing kind of capability
  • Theoretical kind of capability
  • Requirement kind of capability
  • Instrumental kind of capability
  • Ideas kind of capability
  • Abstraction kind of capability
  • Specification kind of capability
  • Interweaving kind of capability

Component kind of capability

The Component kind of capability is a fusion where the idea of Capability is mixed with the idea of Component and component thinking. The focus is on how some parts of an organisation, business, mission, enterprise, company, or system can achieve some result.

The component part of the fusion provides ideas and thinking of how to organise parts onto clusters, modules or components. These parts are selected, organised, grouped, composed, and configured together according to some principles, which often originate from a component oriented method or framework.

From a capability point of view, a component simply provides a set of ’source’ elements that can ‘lead to’ some ‘result’. By adding a ‘substantiality’ or capacity part to a component it becomes possible to discuss the capacity of the parts, or the component, to achieve some result, outcome or purpose. “We are configured to be capable to deliver this the product famility”.

In some cases this kind of capability is divided into two pieces, a capability specification and capability realisation (or capability configuration). This separation enables discussions of how one can achieve the same result in two or more different ways, I.e. how different realisations can ‘realise’ the same specification. This division is commonplace in military frameworks and planning, where one or more configurations of personel, units, processes, equipment etc can achieve the same mission.

In some frameworks or methods, a component capability kind is also a processual kind of capability.

Examples: This kind of capability is frequently part of military and engineering frameworks, but also business component oriented frameworks.
Grounding: Components, business component and any part of an organisation, business, mission, enterprise, company, or system, such as people, machines, AI, organisation unit, resources, material, patent, information, data.
Purity: The idea of Component is the dominant aspect.

Processual kind of capability

The Processual kind of capability is a kind of Capability that is grounded in an idea of something that is being “done”or is happening.

The focus is often on something being “done” by someone, in the scope of an organisation, business or enterprise, such as “Market Management”. In some cases, the “doing” is assumed to be executed by an organisation, and the “doing” is considered as desired and intentional, although the details of the “doing” are assumed to be unknown.

From a capability point of view, the “doing” provides the ‘lead-to’ element. Here the other participating elements in the “doing” such inputs, outputs, etc. provide the ‘source’ elements. The “doing” is attached with or assigned to a ’result’ that is often intented to be achieved. By adding a ‘substantiality’ or capacity part to the “doing” it becomes possible to discuss the capacity of a some “doing” to achieve some result, outcome or purpose. “We are capable to manage our innovation!”

It is important to separate this kind of capability from other kinds of capabilites. For the business idea of “Innovation Management” several capabilites can be constructed. The idea of “Innovation Management” consists of many part such as the business ideas and ways of “Innovation” and “Innovation Management”, and also “Management of Innovation” activities. At least two kinds of capabilites can be constructed:

  1. The processual kind of capability: “Innovation Management Capability” is grounded in the activities of conducting of “Management of Innovation”. The result is here related to the doing itself or the outcomes of doing the specific activites that are considered as part of management of innovation.
  2. The idea kind of capability: “Innovation Management Capability” is grounded in the broader idea of “Innovation Management”. The result is here related to everything that concerns of applying the ideas and ways of Innovation Management in a business or organisation.

The ‘result’ of a processual capability can be defined in different ways:

  • The “doing” can be done or not at all.
  • Quality of the “doing” itself, such as effectiveness, efficiency.
  • The product of the “doing”, such as output, outcome, impact, effect.

In some frameworks or methods, a processual capability kind is also a component kind of capability.

Grounding: Process, abstract process, activity, function, routine, practice, course of action, doing, ways of doing, servicing, and any other business or operational ideas.
Purity: The idea of "doing" is the dominant aspect.