Market of Skills

I recently facilitated a Market of Skills session with 3 Scrum teams I have been coaching. The original Market of Skills is detailed in Lyssa Adkins’ book ‘Coaching Agile Teams’, but here I will outline the way I used it for my teams. The aim is to help team members understand each other’s skills, abilities and ambitions.

How it Works

  1. Each team member is asked to draw up a personal skills market stall as part of a team skills marketplace
  2. The top of the counter is where they should make note of all of the relevant skills they currently bring to the team
  3. Underneath the counter is where they should make notes of any ‘hidden’ skills they have: this could be abilities they used for previous roles or careers, or maybe in their spare time or as a hobby. Depending on the team and the aim of the session you can ask them to keep them professional or allow them to include anything they want to share
  4. They should also make a note (perhaps on different coloured post-it notes) of any skills they would like to learn or improve
  5. When the teams have finished their stalls pin them all up on the wall to form the marketplace
  6. Team members then playback their stall to the team (and to other teams if facilitating a multi-team session) with the others making notes of what skills might be useful in their work, where they can help teach or mentor a new skill, or where a team member may be able to help them improve a skill
  7. With Agile, we focus on building self-organising, cross-functional teams, so focus on what learnings you gain that can help the team achieve this
  8. That’s it! You can then encourage Q&A or discussion sessions, or help people set up lunch and learns, mentoring or communities of practice if there is interest
A sample completed skills market stall

How it Went…

Teams hard at work on their market stalls
Team playback!

Outcomes and Thoughts

The session was definitely a success for us: we now have a much broader picture across the 3 teams of the skills and abilities we have access to, and also where people would like to improve. We had a number of potential future Scrum Masters, UI designers and champion badminton players come out of the woodwork! The teams brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the session, and many carried on the conversations about what they had learned back to their team spaces after the session had been formally closed.

As with any session like this, always remember that good facilitation is the foundation. Remember to formally open your session, ask for commitment and engagement, and agree the timebox with the teams. Make sure you prepare the space and the supplies before hand: we gave each team their own table to allow organic discussion during the creation stage, and made sure each table was equipped with sharpies, coloured pens, index cards, post-it notes and large sheets of paper. This exercise isn’t about producing the most artistic piece of work, but by providing your teams with a number of different supplies you will find that people will express themselves in the way that is most comfortable for them.

As the facilitator — whether as a Scrum Master, an Agile coach, or a team member who has volunteered — always aim to take something away from each session like this that you run. It might be a successful way of holding the timebox, it might be a way to change the format for next time, or it might be learning something interesting about the team. One great thing that came out of this session was how one team member included their ‘ultimate life goal’: in this case to write a novel. I really loved the thought of including this in future sessions to encourage people to really think outside of the box when it comes to their skills, abilities and what they’d like to learn.

So there you have it: one experience of running the Market of Skills with Scrum teams. Have you tried this session before or are tempted to give it a go? Let me know about your stories in the comments!