In my previous post, I promised a framework for thinking about the balance of skills required in a team. So here we go!
First, I am sure there are as many frameworks as there are people who would like to think about frameworks for skill balance. This happens to be one of them. My exposure to the basic concept came from reading The Three Boxes of Life And How To Get Out of Them. I was at a career crossroads of sorts, and this book, by Richard N. Bolles (author of What Color Is Your Parachute), provided me with the insights I needed to realize where my own strengths were, and what I wanted to do with them.
Bolles borrowed heavily from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for his work, and I have found it to be ageless in thinking about skills in the workplace.
The model I adopt for the purpose of this framework is where we look at the competency of individuals in regard to three specific areas: Technology, People, and Information.
My overall definitions for these:
- Technology – an individual’s general ability to interact with technology. Machinery, computers, even their own automobile or VCR if they still have one. We all have some ability to manage the technology in our lives.
- People – an individual’s general ability to interact with other people. This is much more than if they like to work with people (and who hasn’t heard THAT in an interview), but about how they can get things done better from how they interact with others. They are more productive and they enable others to be more productive. Or not.
- Information – an individual’s general ability to interpret information for a usable purpose. Control screens, reports, instruction manuals, training materials are all examples of information that an employee may face every day, but not all of us handle that in the same way.
So that’s the framework. We have three types of skills. So what? Well, that depends on your workplace. If you are trying to build a workplace that requires a high level of interaction among employees, then people skills are pretty important. If the team is operating manufacturing equipment, then you are going to needs some technical abilities. And if you want people to respond to the flow of information coming to them while they do their work, information skills have got to be there. In many cases, and this is where the framework matters – a team is comprised of a diverse set of skills. It’s a rare candidate that walks through your door with just the right balance of these three skill areas. But if you are building a team, then you want to achieve a balance of strength across all the areas with the right quantity of each for the work that is to be done.
The next installments will look at each of these columns. Each of us have some measure of skill in these areas, and each of us to a different degree. The arrow on the left of the diagram represents a continuum of skill for each area. Some of us have high level skills, some have low level skills, but each can be essentially assessed and plotted on that line.
Next up: Technical Skill