What is a capability model

A capability model (sometimes called a maturity model) represents the idea that organisations have different levels of capability in carrying out some organisation tasks. The first model was built around developing computer software. Models are now available for a number of topics: purchasing, innovation, projects and programmes for instance.

Most capability models now follow a standard format with 5 levels of capability (or maturity) covering a number of competencies relevant to the topic. At the lowest level the organisation does not have a capability and doesn't realise it needs one. This is a state of unconscious incompetence. At the top level the organisation has a finely tuned capability which it is continuously improving and is an industry leader. This may even make the capability a strategic asset. The levels in between represent stages of becoming conscious of the need for a capability and then steadily improving the way the whole organisation works together to be efficient and effective. The idea is that once an organisation understands at what level it is operating at it can increase its capability (or maturity) by working to the next level. No organisation goes from the bottom level to the top level in one go!

Whilst the capability model is based on an organisation the people in the organisation have to change their thinking and behaviour to increase their own capability. However the behaviour that an individual can express is constrained by the level of the organisation they work for.