Capacity and capability. What's the difference?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

When I did STATIK exercise with different teams, I noticed that it happens to confuse capability with capacity. Step 4 of STATIK says: "Analyze capability" and yet teams focus on counting the number of team members. I usually explained it on a vocabulary level, but it doesn't always work.

Recently I had a chance to spend a few days transporting all my family's belongings to the new house and it gave me a lot of time for thinking, cause my brain didn't have to focus too much. One of these thoughts was: "If only my car was so nice to move all these books upstairs..." And here it is - visualization of "capacity" vs. "capability" issue.

Main characters: our car, a lot of boxes, bags, our family and of course - the Oscar for a leading role goes to... books!

Episode 1 - Capacity

This is our Red Mustang, unbelievably patient, when we decided to move 12 years of our life outside the city by ourselves. It didn't look so bad until we started to pack books, which we love deeply, but are the worst nightmare when it comes to removal.

Books were everywhere and they didn't want to finish. We put them in every single box or bag we had at home, and then everything was squezzed into the car.

What you can see in the picture is visualization of capacity. Capacity of Red Mustang vs. capacity of smaller bag and even smaller box. Here it means how much space you have to fit your stuff.

For your process it means free space, available time, even people. Capacity tells you how much you can accommodate over the time you have.

Episode 2 - Capability

This is again a Red Mustang, but now compared to our 3-person family. The size of the people in the picture truly reflects how many books they can move at once from the car to the room upstairs.

Now it doesn't matter, how many books I can grab at once, but how many books I'm able to move at once. And my capability in terms of moving books is completely different that my husband's or daughter's.

It does not depend on the number or size, but on the weight and our capability to handle this weight.

Of course, when I prepared boxes and bags, the bigger ones were intended for my husband and the smaller ones for me, whilst our daughter usually picked one or two books. But it also happened that I was not able to move the smaller box due to the nature of its "filling".

Summary and things to remember:

  1. Capacity and capability are obviously not the same.

  2. STATIK tells you to focus on your capability, not capacity.

  3. Capability may relate to the size, but doesn't have to (!).

  4. Think about capability in terms of nature and complexity of your work, not in terms of size.

  5. Design process the way it is synchronized with your current capability to deliver work. Observe and adjust, when needed.

  6. Don't overreach your capability, because you may cause serious injuries in your whole process.

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