Skills Up Down and Across

by  Steven Forth   |     TeamFit Profile     There has been a lot of debate recently on how to gather skills data. At many companies these are part of annual (or quarterly) performance reviews. One large Vancouver engineering firm requires employees to update skill information as part of their annual review in order to finish this task and get their bonus. At least this company let’s people define their own skills. Some of the more regimented companies we follow, a large player in the Vancouver apparel industry requires its people to choose the skills appropriate to the role they are in. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “The Unsexy Fundamentals of Great HR” Marc Effron and Miriam Ort list five frequently made claims by HR professionals. One of these is “3. Self-assessments of performance are more accurate than peer assessments but less accurate than a manager’s assessment.” They identify this as one of the claims that is false. At TeamFit we believe that peer assessments, properly analyzed, are more accurate than either self-assessments or manager assessments. Why do we believe this? There are reasons to be suspicious of peer assessments. There is peer pressure in many teams to award high scores Some teams show ‘grieving’ behavior in which one person is made a scapegoat and down-graded or competitive cliques appear Peers only have their own experience to judge from and they may not be aware of best practices (sometimes referred to as ‘leveling down’) These are all legitimate concerns. The first two are relatively easy to deal with. Our underlying machine learning system (a... read more

The road to excellence – allocate people to teams based on real skills (and not just availability)

by  Steven Forth   |     TeamFit Profile     Professional services companies can only win on the basis of differentiation. What does differentiation mean? You have an impact on some specific aspect of your client’s business that no other firm can deliver. That is it. Sounds simple, but we all know that it is very hard to deliver. How do you deliver real differentiation? There are two things you have to do. Say NO to work that does not draw on your differentiated skills and help to build differentiation. Assign people to teams based on their skills and aspirations and not just on availability. Saying No to work is always hard. But if your firm is good at what it does and has positioned itself in a growing space there will be work. And if your firm has serious skill gaps or is operating in a shrinking market grabbing at every job that comes along will not solve the problem. As we note in our post on “You have to make forward choices about deploying skills” you want to invest in the skills required by segments that are growing fast and where you have a high market share, and you want to figure out if you can win in segments that are growing fast but you have only a small market share. One reason firms say Yes to work that is undifferentiated is that they are trying to optimize utilization. Anyone who has run a professional services firm understands the relentless pressure to keep utilization rates high. And consultants know that their careers are at risk if... read more

Skill Mapping Provides the Insight Required to Meet Business Goals

By  Karen Chiang   |     TeamFit Profile   Running a company is like being the captain of a ship. You need to have direction, chart a course, and you need to have a crew to help you reach your destination. Having a good map is critical. Maps have been traced back more than 5000 years. They are one of the main ways we organize information. Cartography, the practice and study of map-making, combines science and aesthetics to effectively communicate data. It is a much needed skill. Whether leading a team, an entire company, a line of business or a project, having insight into your crew is essential to being an effective leader. At TeamFit, we help organizations maximize the skills and capabilities of their people while enabling people do work that is aligned with their skills and aspirations. We do this by providing a map of skills. In my last post, I explored repurposing the Boston Consulting Group’s classic Growth Share Matrix to help frame thinking about the skills you and your company are going to need to evolve and grow. For this post, I want to apply cartography to how we map skills.  To do this, I’ve asked team leaders and team members what insight they need to get the best result out of their teammates. Here are some of the responses: Insight What are the complementary skills that I have with those I need to work with. Complementary skills are those that when combined with other skills will create the most value. Real competency requires deep knowledge and specialization. As project complexity increases, we need to... read more

To win in professional services apply the right skills to the right project at the right time

by  Steven Forth   |     TeamFit Profile     We all have the talent religion. We talk about our people as our most important asset, we say we invest in our people, and we stay up nights thinking about engagement. None of this is enough. To win in professional services you have to make sure that you get people with the right skills together on the projects where they will have the most impact. And to do this you have to have deep insight into the real skills people are applying to projects. Very few companies have this (fewer than 5% according to our research). The Skill Map in TeamFit gives you real insight into skills distribution, who has used which skills on what projects, where you re strong and where you are at risk. Here is the Skill Map for Insite Consulting (names changed and some data altered). Looking at this, can you guess what kind of work this firm is focused on? Many of their top skills are the ones used in designing go-to-market strategies – market segmentation, marketing strategy, Economic Value Estimation or EVE™. And indeed, that is a mainstay of their business. With just under 100 consultants, Insite has a lot of skills. About 650 at this point in time. So scrolling down we can some of the less commonly used skills. These tend to be skills used on a specific project (like ‘Digital Citizenship’) or emerging skills that are just starting to surface at this firm (like “Cloud Data Analysis”). Skills data has a long tail. But some of the long-tail skills... read more

Building a big data team

by  Steven Forth   |     TeamFit Profile     Big data, data analytics, predictive analytics, data visualization … these are all emerging as critical skill sets at many companies. Ten years ago a lot of us were busy pulling together our data into data warehouses and layering on business intelligence systems. But what is happening today is going way beyond that. The key themes The business intelligence people have gone to start new companies based on data analytics. For example, some of the SAP team have gone on to start the HR analytics company Visier. Josh James, former CEO of Omniture, is now leading data integration giant Domo. But not all of us are giants in the data analytics world staffed with mathematicians, data scientists and visualization experts. Yet we still need to be able to build a data team and provide data analysis services into our projects. So what skills should we be looking for? Let’s begin with a quick look at the data science process. This helps organize how the skills fit together.   At TeamFit, we organize skills into technical skills, business skills and core skills. We also look for patterns on how skills are associated – for any skill there are associated skills and complementary skills. A high-level skill map for data scientists might look something like this: So what skills should we be looking for as we search for data scientists? Start with the technical skills. For data scientists that means math (I showed this to a data scientist who works with some of the companies in VentureLabs and he said that math... read more

Look for connector skills when choosing people for teams

by Steven Forth TeamFit Profile LinkedIn Profile On Twitter Skill in building teams is a critical competency in today’s world of team-based work. It is not an easy thing to do. Too often we bring together a group of people that we think will be able to work together but they fail to deliver. Sometimes this is a simple issue of a poor skills match. People are selected for teams based on simple availability and not their actual skill sets. Or there has been some effort to get the right skills on the project but people’s claims or the data in internal databases don’t hold up under actual working conditions. But there is another possibility to consider. Sometimes each individual has the necessary skills but there is no way to fit together the pattern of skills into a functioning whole. Yes, people who learn quickly and have superior communication skills can usually overcome this given time, but time is often something in short supply in project work. The key themes What are the skill patterns you should be trying to build when putting people together to work on teams? There are two to look for: complementary skills and connecting skills. Complementary skills We have talked about complementary skills before in The most important skills for building client relationships from the perspective of building client relationships. Basically, smart consultants build complementary skills with their customers. What are complementary skills? Basically they are a set of independent skills that create more value when used together. For example user experience design (UX) and user interface design (UI) are complementary skills. They are independent,... read more
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