Building Capability

How Identifying Accountability for Capability Building Program Execution Helps Build Organisational Capabilities


Sadly, organisational capability won’t build itself. Having someone who’s accountable for the creation, rollout and execution of a program is really the only way to ensure you’re on track to your goals.

You’d think defining accountability is a given, but it’s often not seen in organisational capability building given how many people influence the process. Make sure you include this crucial step to ensure this doesn’t just become another addition to the dusty failed business plan shelf.

How to define accountability for capability building programs 

Before you can lock and load a capability building program in your arsenal, you need to focus on building and optimising the program itself. Part of that process is defining who is accountable for what and when. 

Start with who has the greatest understanding of both your organisational capabilities and business goals. That includes understanding the maturity and capacity of your current capabilities in line with future priorities. 

For this reason, we recommend starting with senior business leaders. They have hands-on experience with executing both business strategy and capability building programs. That’s according to McKinsey, who found organisations perform better when capabilities are linked to business outcomes.

At Acorn, we’ve created the first performance learning management system (PLMS) to help with this process. A PLMS is an AI-powered platform linking L&D with business strategy and performance, designed to codify and operationalise capabilities to improve organisational efficiency. It works to make a clear link between business and role-specific capabilities and your organisational strategy.

Senior business leaders shouldn’t have sole responsibility, though—HR and L&D teams should be partners in this process. They are integral for execution. But when it comes to accountability, roles in the organisational development and people capability realms should come to the fore. We’re talking about roles like:

If you’re not quite big enough for those roles to standalone, build organisational development and people capability into your existing HR and L&D roles.

The challenges of identifying accountability for capability building programs 

We just went hard on the definition to make it super tangible. But does that make it easy? Unfortunately, no. We said before that senior leaders don’t have sole responsibility for developing and executing capability building programs. In general, it’s a collaborative process, but issues can arise when the burden of accountability skews too far in one direction.  

HR and L&D teams cover processes that senior leaders don’t. Their job is to define organisational capabilities. This means evaluating which capabilities the workforce currently possesses, which are needed to meet desired business outcomes, and assessing the gap between both sets of data.  

It’s the job of these teams to gain buy-in from senior leaders through a clear scope for the situation. That’s not just in terms of organisational capabilities, but in regards to organisational strategy as well. Buy-in from senior leaders is unavoidable; their social equity carries a whole lot more weight than HR and L&D’s when it comes to influencing change.  

On the other hand, senior leaders just don’t have the capability to do what HR and L&D leaders do. You need to make sure you strike the right balance between inputs from business leaders and HR and L&D. You wouldn’t force your head of marketing to oversee organisation-wide capability assessments anymore than VP of L&D would takeover the social marketing strategy for your company.

The impacts of not identifying who is accountable for executing capability building programs 

If no one takes responsibility for seeing a capability building program through, you may find the program lacks focus, makes slow progress or simply loses steam before the finish line.  

Your senior leaders may also know what capabilities are high priority, but knowledge only gets us so far. Accountability—in terms of setting learning goals or identifying best practices—is what staves off confusion, complacency and potentially conflicting ways of work between your business functions. The latter point especially may cause dysfunction in your leadership team, which only serves to further damage the speed and effectiveness of strategy execution in your organisation.  

At a higher level, employees may simply feel disgruntled and stifled without professional development opportunities. Similarly, if they don’t see leaders buying into capability programs, they may fail to engage at all. Lack of engagement means lack of learning, which means lack of impact from a capability program, which puts you back at square one—and can make it harder to secure buy-in and partnerships for future organisational development.  

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