Cheat sheet: map your team’s skills to scale growth and clarify your culture

This is a repost of something I created in a prior role. It’s gained traction. So I’m sharing it with you.

It’s not uncommon for leaders in quickly growing agencies and departments to rely on certain people for certain things — Joe’s a specialist in X and Y. Sara’s a pro at A, B and C. While that’s helpful much of the time, it can lead to problems: an overdependence on some people, and underutilization of others.

In a prior agency life I launched a skills inventory initiative to address this. As I began, I realized my incentives expanded beyond resourcing — the skills inventory could address our growth as a group, inform how we see ourselves and help others leverage our strengths.

I initially had four specific questions that I wanted to address:

  1. Who’s expert at what?
  2. Who’s conversant in particular skills/topics, but not necessarily an expert?
  3. Who has no skills in one area, but wants to learn more?
  4. And finally: who has no skills in an area, and has zero interest in learning more?

What then? I created a Google Drive doc and invited team members to collaborate. Each person was asked to identify their own areas of expertise, interest, etc. It looked something like the above when it was finished.

Once it was completed, I printed it out and put a large-format version of this on the wall in a highly visible space. The takeaways were many — and most of them surprised me. Here are four.

First: we surprised ourselves.

Some of us didn’t know Phil won an Emmy. Or that Sara was an ethnographer in a prior life. Or that Tony was a sound engineer in the evening. Or that there was a huge gap in one area where I thought we each had fundamental knowledge. Seeing all this this added dimensionality to our team members — and this makes effective collaboration more likely.

Second: we found the gaps.

Although we benefited from what I think of as a very advanced design culture, the holes in our understanding or abilities were explicitly clear. So in those moments when you need someone to fill in for you in a client meeting or big presentation, you would know exactly who’s going to rock it, and who shouldn’t be tossed in the den because they play a very different game.

Third: we had a high-probability learning snapshot.

Most organizations want their people to evolve in one way. Some have no idea if that maps to their own employees’ interests. Which makes learning initiatives a gamble. Those blue spots: that’s what people in our team want to learn. If those interests map to my goals for the organization, that’s a natural opportunity for true growth.

Fourth: we scored internal PR wins.

I took to the plotter and printed this on the wall because I wanted to broadcast our talents within our group. What I found is that — especially when the artifact is designed well and placed in a high-traffic area — lots of people outside our team stopped to gaze and make sense of it. Which sparked new conversations among others who may not know us well or properly tap into our abilities.

There are countless ways to organize and articulate a skills inventory. All of which should be valuable in meeting one goal: mirroring and evolving our culture. For us, it’s something that added value with each quarterly iteration.

If you’re interested: I have a simple Google template available and am happy to share if you’d like a jumpstart. My only request: if you use this tool, you must improve on it and share your progress with me. Email me: noel@franus.com if you’d like access.


Originally published at franus.com.