Expediting The Term - Capacity building

What is capacity building? In my terms, it is unlocking potential in a person. It could be in sports, at work, or academically. It is stretching a person within their capabilities.

Why stretch people at all? In today’s competitive world, one cannot get enough from self or others. Whilst the individual may feel stretched, it is for their benefit. Employers are looking for capable people, yet they are not available. So with capacity the employee is creating a niche for themselves.

How does capacity building take place? In different ways, training, exposure, coaching, on the job training etc. The other important element is providing the right tools and support. This may seem obvious, but I have found in some cases it is not.

It is normally done for one area at a time, and afterwards the incumbent is given the assignments to assess whether they can perform it on their own, and feedback is given. Performance discussions take place all the time. Once comfortable in that area, they are stretched once again, and so it goes.

The frustration for the supervisor or colleague who is handholding the incumbent tend to set in where no progress is registered. The tendency then is to withhold assignments. Support means exploring the reasons for lack of progress. Once discovered, they need to be addressed.

The other key thing for me is understanding the person or people you work with. Where are their interests? Do they have comfort zones? Once I understand these, it becomes easier to encourage them towards building the capacity and also to realize when they get comfortable and are unwilling to progress.

Attitude can be a barrier or enabler. I am sure you have worked with the willing people who will take on all assignments, and there are the ones who only want to only undertake what is in their job descriptions. In some cases the latter ones’ attitudes can be changed, but not always.

Let me give an example. There is an organization whose board I serve in. Capacity building meant spending time with some of the employees to understand the source of the problems, take them through what we were doing and handholding them to the desired end state. Does it take one sitting? Not at all. We started the journey in December and are still at it. It is exhausting, but building was never and will never be easy.

When do you give up or in?  It varies from one person to the other. It is important to note the law of diminishing marginal returns, which can be an indicator that the person is almost reaching their maximum capability.