Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Heinz College: A Quick Capabilities Audit

In "Capitalizing on Capabilities," Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood lay out a helpful "capabilities audit" for analyzing an organization. Their thinking is that an organization is best able to implement its strategy if it is aware of all of its assets, especially the intangible ones. Naturally, this got me thinking about how the Heinz College stacks up. Off the top of my head, this is how I see a capabilities audit of the Heinz College:

  1. Decide which business unit to audit.
    • The H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University.
  2. Consider relevant, intangible assets. I think five of these are highlighted at Heinz:
    • Talent- Heinz attracts and retains high-level faculty and students.
    • Shared mindset and coherent brand identity- Heinz is consistently identified as a top policy program that produces quantitatively-minded graduates.
    • Collaboration- Heinz ties different programs together within the College, as diverse students are joined together in Systems Synthesis projects.
    • Learning- As an academic institution, Heinz obviously has a commitment to learning and developing new ideas.
    • Leadership- Heinz has leaders all throughout its faculty and staff.
  3. Gather data on current and desired capability performance.
    • My impression is that Heinz gathers data and conducts surveys all the time, although I'm not sure that the school acts on that information quickly.
  4. Identify the two or three capabilities most required to deliver on strategic goals.
    • (strength) Heinz needs talent to maintain its prestige, bring in new faculty, and draw top-tier students. 
    • (relative weakness) Heinz needs to be connected with and adapt to students. I think Heinz hears its students, but I'm not sure it listens to them.
  5. Develop an action plan.
    • Heinz does not have anything resembling a strategic plan available on its website. Is there one? Serious questions: does the organization know where it is going, where it wants to go, or how it plans to get there?
Heinz has obvious strengths as well as notable weaknesses. As an organization, the Heinz College has many capabilities and is probably able to skate by because of the talent and leadership that exists throughout it. Nonetheless, without a clearer sense of direction and strategy, one can easily surmise that the organization is not fully in tune with its assets or reaching its potential.

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