Do you (really) understand what you Want, Have & Need

What capabilities does your company WANT, what capabilities does your company HAVE and what capabilities does your company NEED? An obvious question, right? Everything from recruitment to development relies on an innate understanding of these three elements with regards to what drives performance in a role. But what if the basic principles that underpin an organisation are not fully understood, or worse, wrong?

The Situation

Our experiences when proving our hypothesis – that performance is a function of individual capability and the requirements of the environment in which they operate – led to an epiphany. Hiring managers found it challenging to identify what they wanted in a high performer. Two managers had differing thoughts on the performance drivers for the same role (they both can’t be right) and the actual capabilities of a group of high performers were not what either manager thought they were. A clear misalignment emerged and inspired our most in-demand programme, Want, Have, Need. We worked alongside a global Saas company’s ANZ region to drive performance through optimising the capabilities of one of their key segment’s sales team.

The Solution

As the name would suggest, we began with the ‘Want’. Fifteen sales managers were invited to use our Job Profile tool to define what they individually thought drives high performance in an account executive. The fifteen managers returned fifteen entirely different results. Remember, these are all for the same role in the same company. We presented the initial findings to the sponsoring executive who replied, “that’s the biggest problem I have.” Our reply, “indeed, it’s a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem.”

We aggregated the results of the fifteen profiles to establish what capabilities the managers collectively thought drove high performance (in that specific role). Upon seeing the findings the sponsor agreed that an individual who possesses these capabilities is exactly what they were looking for. We Imprinted members of the sales team across the region and again aggregated their results. Of the eight most important capabilities identified by the managers, only two were present in the aggregated results of the entire sales team. And they were not the top two. “That’s my biggest problem,” they replied. Our reply, “indeed, it’s a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem.”

It’s a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem.

We asked the managers out of the hundred strong sales team which individuals they would rehire knowing what they know now? We took the Imprints of these high performers and aggregated their results to find the strongest eight common capabilities they shared. Just two of those capabilities appeared in the aggregated results of the entire workforce. And again, they were not the top two. Furthermore, just two of the capabilities these high performers possessed were in common with what the hiring managers thought they wanted, what the recruitment team had been sourcing and what sales enablement had been developing for years. Now THAT is the biggest problem.

Just two of the capabilities these high performers possessed were in common with what the hiring managers (thought they) wanted.

The SUccess

Performance within a role falls neatly under a standard distribution curve – 68% lies with one standard deviation of the mean average with 34% above the mean and 34 % below. AbilityMap’s aim is to close the distance between the two extremes and shift the curve to the right. Without understanding what drives performance, training, development and recruitment becomes redundant. Being able to quantitatively assess the drivers of high performance in a role allowed our client realign their organisational activities to drive greater performance.


The incredible technologies that organisations invest heavily in are not working. AbilityMap’s co-founder Mike Erlin spent twenty years supporting and selling them. The organisational psychology our co-founder, Kevin Chandler, spent forty years developing needed to change. And the reason it is not working is not inherent flaws in the technologies themselves, but a fundamental need for context. First an organisation must fully understand what they want, what they have and what they need. Without a deep understanding of the qualities of high performers the status quo will remain. A company’s resources can properly align to drive productivity using the lessons we learnt from our AbilityMap research.

Resources Used