Team Competency Matrix to foster transparency about the existing and required skills in a team in product financial innovation areas

Introduction

At the beginning of financial product development, often new team members come together with different skills in cross-functional teams. The required skills and the corresponding skills of the individuals are often not clear. This creates often obstacles to collaboration and productivity. Like this, it happened also in my team — so we developed a vision to know each other's skills and learning fields so that we grow TOGETHER as a real team matching our goals and personal abilities.

The practice: Short explained

The team brainstorms which skills (e.g. technological, organizational, and personal) are required to succeed in the new financial product development. Then, every individual places her own skill level in:

  • expert: The individual is able to teach. (Green)
  • practitioner: The individual is able to do it (Yellow)
  • and novice: The individual is not able to explain what the skill means. (Red)

After this round, the teams have transparency about the current skill level of the individuals of the team and the team itself. There is transparency if the teams have already all the required skills and also who as an expert can support one another who is e.g. a practitioner. The learning fields from every individual are clear.

Why did I decide to use this practice?

My team got a complicated financial product development with new technologies and also the way of working in an agile environment was new for them. They were very unsure how to start the first Sprint and how to plan in a good way. Therefore after the first Sprint Retrospective, I run a team competency workshop to improve transparency about the skills and foster a common understanding of each other and also the complexity of our development challenges (technological, organizational, and personal).

How did I help the team in addition to transparency?

I introduced the Vegas rule in one of our sprint retrospectives: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and ask for everybody’s commitment to be open and constructive with each other. Then, we used the way how it was described above to identify the relevant skills on a whiteboard and to identify the suitable level for everyone by categorizing skill level by skill level. It Important was in this case, that we ask each other if the categorized level is ok for the other to make a checkup about his/her emotional situation. If I as a facilitator was recognizing any kind of stress for somebody, then I raised this issue up and ask, which questions or remarks, or wishes this person has to discuss regarding the categorization.

What actions and results were carried out?

We decided as a team to repeat this practice every three months in one of our retrospectives. Furthermore, it was important that everybody took the task to already identify relevant seminars, training, e-learning, or possibly reasonable next projects to improve her/his competence and experience in the identified learning fields/skills. I a facilitator was speaking two weeks after the retrospective with everybody in a one-on-one speech to provide guidance and help for every individual for the possibly already identified next steps

My learnings as a facilitator

The workshop was so much successful, that I would do it next time already at the beginning of our team during the kickoff event on the second day of the kickoff after the product goal is clear and the technological boundaries for the customer's production environment are discussed. The facilitation during the first sprint retrospective was effective and I used an online whiteboard to let the team visualize their required skills and the skill levels of the individuals. This enabled trust inside the team fostered by the newly established skill transparency and now runnable inspection and adaption process for our team skills.

What was the use of knowing how they were? Were there any changes later?

We learned, that this practice helped us to grow together as a team. We had another awareness of each other's abilities to foster our success and in the way how we worked together. This means there was a new level of transparency about the necessary skills and the skills which every individual had to improve to foster our common goals. This fostered trust, self-confidence as well as resilience — for my team members and for me as a facilitator to treat everybody in a better way.

Is there a specific experience that you can share with us on how this improved the team?

At the beginning of the second team competency workshop, we had a check-in phase of everybody was giving short feedback on how she/he already used the knowledge about the skills to be improved. They were very happy about their gains and first suitable one to two pieces of training/seminars in the relevant skill fields in which they already participated. The team members did not only feel much stronger and be part of our common mission with the matching skills, but they also had already the next goals in mind to improve. This was already a totally different emotional feeling at the beginning of the second-team competency workshop for my team mads as well as me as a facilitator of the team.

If I had not applied this practice, would it have been something different?

My team would not improve as much focussed on the relevant skills as it did. The new transparency about the required skills and the alignment of every individual in our team about her/his learning feels fostered a positive energy level in a way, that I did not expect myself before this experiment.

What experiments can I think of doing with the implementation of this practice?

In the third time, I will include this practice not only in a retrospective, but I will also run the third workshop during a team weekend on the second day after we played some team building games together and had a common evening together. I hope that the individuals in my team will raise up also more additional soft skill learning fields. We identified already in the first workshop besides technical skills also soft skills like conflict management and emotional intelligence but I believe that the team weekend will open the room for even more personal improvement skills for every individual.

Literature

https://management30.com/practice/competency-matrix/

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