Coming from an organization that made its name in improvement methods and models of capability maturity, I have a unique perspective on this topic. I have performed capabilities audits against models of best practices which were fairly rigidly structured using "authorized" team members and methods. I have also performed capability benchmarking activities, that allowed for a bit less structure and a little more flexibility in the use of "expert judgment." In addition, my organization is undergoing a capabilities audit currently. From this exposure, albeit limited, I have a few observations- some are a bit cynical:
1. If senior leadership of the organization is not a vocal advocate of the goals and conduct of the capability audit, cooperation from the people below is made more difficult, to say the least.
2. Senior leaders of organizations often have an inflated sense of organizational capability before they hear the results of an audit.
3. The people below the senior leaders think the leadership is delusional and inherently feel put upon and potentially threatened when a capabilities audit looms.
4. Audit teams should include a mix of people from inside and outside the company to get a good breadth of experience and to limit internal bias while still providing the right context. The internal person selected is critical to get right.
5. Organizational capabilities are only measured as a snapshot in time and will likely change frequently- the organization will have to determine how often to audit, how often to monitor, etc.
6. If auditing a segment of the business, but not the whole company, the audit findings will not translate or generalize to the rest of the company. In other words, if the accounting department scores high in speed and efficiency, it doesn't mean the corporation in total should claim high organizational capability scores in speed and efficiency across the enterprise.
7. Results of audits are often surprising to the organization (even though they embark on this path to improve, but quickly find the work to get to where they want to be is hard)- if you are the bearer of bad news, they may try to throw you out of the room.