I was asked to introduce some people to the agile mindset. One of the participants was an experienced IT manager. She was about to leave for a couple of months and shared her actual concerns during the training session. As a matter of fact “delegation” along with “competence” were two key words that often came up in her speech. This is the reason why I started talking about the management 3.0 “team competence matrix” tool after a previous deep discussion on the seven levels of delegation.
The problem she described was the following: she knew that starting from September until the end of October she would have been out of her Italian office for other work duties. She was concerned about finding someone among her employees who could “manage the team”.
All participants could easily see her point and empathize with her feelings and concerns. She knew she had to delegate but the problem was “to whom?”. In her opinion, one team member seemed to have some sort of leadership attitude and competence. Though she was not very convinced of her choice. She felt confused, overwhelmed. This is when I decided to introduce the competence matrix.
I asked all the participants to look at their own teams with the following aim:
- Identify the core competences needed for effective team work
- Assign to each team member a “score” in all of the competences previously defined
To make it easy and fast, I have just asked them to think about the level of competencies in terms of colours: green (completely fulfilled), yellow, orange, red (not fulfilled).
It was not an easy task. They were not used to look at their team from this perspective. And according to them, this insight was very helpful because it gave them another view of their team functioning.
We then agreed to focus on the case mentioned by the IT manager. I asked her:
- “According to your actual goal, would you change (add/eliminate) some of the competencies that you have described so far?”
- “What are the main competences you think your substitute should have?”
- “How many are needed?”
- “What are the competency level needed?”
This was a way to show how a competence matrix could be used depending on different goals.
As a matter of fact, each team competency matrix can focus on a single project. It can also be used as a “picture” of your team to see how it changes in terms of type and level of competencies. If you work in a culture where people feel safe, honest and transparent, it could be very useful to complete the matrix along with your team members including yourself: “What do other people think about your skills and skill levels?”.
When filled out during a team session, it can also facilitate an interesting dialogue between team members in terms of what skills are mostly needed and what kind of actions (hiring, training etc) should be taken in order to fulfill these needs. In other words the competence matrix can give a team insight about their strengths and weaknesses.
Going back to the IT manager issue, what got her attention and emotions was coming to realize that there was a completely different way to look at her concerns and actual goals. She couldn’t find a solution during the training session – find the right substitute – but she left the session with these two useful insights:
- Before choosing the person, it is very important to have a clear picture in mind of the competences needed.
- In order to complete any similar task you could also rely on your team members by asking them the same questions.
To be honest, if I were asked “what would you do differently next time?”, my answer would be to save much more time for this exercise. It was the first time that I have introduced Team Competence Matrix within a training session. Actually it was not my intention to use it at first. Although I am really satisfied with the discussion that this tool fostered within the group of participants, I knew and felt we needed much more time to discuss and apply it. I am pretty sure that next time I will have to save at least a couple of hours slot.