Capability Planning

One of the critical tasks of a leader is to understand the skills needs required to meet the business demands that person faces. Capability planning is essentially thinking about what needs exist or will exist, where your team currently is and defining a plan to close the gaps.

Pain Points

  • You get caught off guard too often with requests that don’t align with your current team’s capabilities
  • Tasks routinely take longer than expected due to unexpected learning curves
  • Bottlenecks for talent seem to pop up across your organization


The obvious benefit of capability planning is a clear picture of where you are, what you think you need and the ability to think critically about the gap and how to close it. In addition, your teams have an ability to better understand the kind of skills that the organization values and will be in a better position to look at areas they may want to focus on as part of their on-going learning.


✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental

Adoption Experiment

Steps to first adopt this practice:


  1. Collect data related to skills needs for the last 3 to 6 months for your teams
  2. Talk to peers and leaders as well as industry experts and determine the skills your team will need 1 year from now
  3. Talk to marketing and product professionals about the features they envision in the future and get their perspective on this


  1. Compare what skills you have today with what you estimate you’ll need 1 year from now
  2. Analyze the areas that seem off. Is that a gap or just a difference in view point? How different is the picture?
  3. Show your data to a trusted colleague or your boss and get a second opinion

Evaluate Feedback

  1. What did the adoption experiment show you? Are their gaps?
  2. Could gaps actually be just weakness in a certain existing skill rather than a non existing skill?
  3. What are possible ways to close identified weaknesses or gaps?
  4. How practical are the ways to close gaps you have identified?
  5. Pick the option best suited for your needs and get to work!

What Does it Look like?

Capability planning is essentially an exercise in research, analysis and validation of results. It is something that is not a one and done activity, but rather something you, as a leader, need to repeat yearly. The steps to follow as a starting point can mirror the adoption experiment but think about other ways you might accomplish this task and adopt what works best for you. In the end, the benefit is largely in going through the exercise to collect the most accurate data available analyze that data, then getting help validating your results.

Warning Signs

  • Data is not available to look at for capability planning
  • your company doesn’t have an idea of the types of software they will be expecting you to build one year out
  • You show your planning to a colleague and they find the exercise a waste of time

Growth Path

This planning exercise is more difficult to get immediate feedback on compared to other practices but you can’t afford to wait a year to see if your planning was accurate. Jump in with the items you have some degree of confidence in. Start internal training programs, define the types of talent you’ll need to attract or contract. Have contingency plans in place when something unexpected happens.

How To Fail Spectacularly

  • Ignore this and don’t worry about what comes down the road, just focus on the current workload.
  • Do the research and analysis but then tell yourself, this can’t be right and ignore what you discovered
  • Do the research, trust the results but then don’t take action

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