Teams and Balancing Skills, Part 3 – Technical Skills

In the previous post for this series, I gave an overview of a skills framework I have used when looking at the balance of skills on a team. Now it’s time to look at the three components. In this post, the focus is on the Technical Skills column.

Technology is a broad category, and not everyone’s workplace has this as a major issue. If the most complicated technology your team works with is their computers, you still need to have people on the team who understand more than how to boot them up and save files. In most of my career, I have been dealing with situations where people operate sophisticated machinery and consumer packaging equipment. So I have always had to have people who understood the basics of how a machine works.

I define this column of skills this way: 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.

And within that skill, there is a range of skills that people have. At the lowest level, they cannot interact with technology effectively. In my skills framework, we don’t start there, we start a step up.

Technical Skills – moderate to high capability

I divide the continuum of technical capability into three subsets.

  • Design and Improve – the ability to understand enough about technology to consider and create improvement in the technical processes.
  • Operate and Control – the ability to effectively operate a machine within its normal range of operation and return it to standard when a variation in operation occurs.
  • Onload/Offload and Tend – the ability to supply the process with input materials, or to move finished products from the end. Minimal interaction with the equipment is needed.

That’s it. Simple, right? At the high-end, we have the ability to innovate with regard to the technology, and at the low-end we have the equivalent of manual labor.

So if you have a process that involves a lot of technology, do you have room for a person on your team who is maybe in the “Operate and Control” category, but only just a little bit better than the “On-load/Offload” category? Well that depends on how big the team is, how many technical processes they are accountable for, and what other skills that individual brings to the game.

Most people can adequately assess themselves against this simple definition. So where are your technical skills? Hint: If your VCR is flashing 12:00, or if you needed your middle school child to set up your smartphone, than you are, at best, either at the low-end of this continuum, or just simply not interested in knowing how things work.

Next up: Information Skills

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