How to find and fill your team’s skill gaps.
You have a large project coming up and need to know if your team is up to it, or you simply need to reassess your team’s skills before diving into a project to see what they’ve learned and what new challenges they’re eager to take on. So, how can you figure out what skill sets your team has developed, what they’re capable of, and when you need to hire a new member to bridge a skill gap your team can’t fill before you go too far into your project? Here is an approach that might help.
Project – Challenge – Align
In order to make sure your team is ready for the next project on the horizon, identify the challenges in the project that will matter most to your team.
Do not make the mistake of sitting down with a pen and paper to compile a list of the challenges you believe are critical to include in the project briefing. By doing so, you’ve neglected to include an important piece: your team. They are the subject matter experts, not only for the project but also for themselves and what skill sets they can bring to the table.
Furthermore, not only are the challenges you felt were essential in your notebook one-sided but they were never visualized by the rest of your team by simply stating them in your notebook. It will be much easier to identify and align the most important challenges for your team if you include your list of challenges with your team’s list of challenges for everyone to view. To do this effectively there are some elements that you need to be aware of first.
Alone, Together Principle
Alone together refers to a situation in which your group or team comes together to address a problem, but the ideas and topics of discussion are generated separately and anonymously. This prevents groupthink and idea pollution from pitching influencing ideas. This also helps to level the playing field among your team’s personalities by allowing the more introverted members to express ideas they might not otherwise be able to.
As I mentioned before, having everyone’s ideas out there (typically on sticky notes) for everyone to see keeps the process anonymous and all ideas top of mind. Without this method, the human brain can only keep about 5-8 items in its short-term memory at a time. This method allows for everyone to have a much faster recall of the ideas because they are always in front of them.
Everyone has a limited time to speak when necessary. This helps prevent the discussion from becoming circular and eating up all your precious time. The rubber chicken method is a fun way to accomplish this where if you have the chicken, you get to speak without interruption but for a limited amount of time.
You will not only add time limits to discussion but also to all aspects of identifying challenges, creating solutions, and creating actions. This creates a sense of urgency and helps to eliminate overthinking the details and keeps the discovery process moving along.
Challenges and Solutions
First, you need to identify and prioritize the challenges your team thinks they will have for the project. Take your top 1-3 challenges and, using the alone, together method, like a note and vote to create possible solutions and vote on the top ideas.
Actions Identify Skill Gaps
Create up to three assignments that will put the top three solutions to the test. Your team should be challenged by these tasks. Ask your team members to volunteer for the jobs they think they can perform once they’ve been developed. The higher your team’s physiological safety, the better your results will be because they will not feel forced to volunteer for anything. You want to see not only what they can do, but also what they can’t do because of skill gaps or they don’t want to do.
Passion vs. Purpose vs. Capacity
Not wanting to do a task isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness; rather, they lack the motivation or capacity to do so. This may suggest that your team has reached its work capacity limit or skill gaps exists. This knowledge will also be useful when you decide to take on a new project, so you may hire not just for the talents your team lacks, but also for the abilities your members no longer have the capacity for in order to avoid burnout.
Why This Process Works
You’ll have identified the challenges that matter to your team, developed testable solutions, and determined skill gap shortages and your team’s capacity to take on more in just two weeks. The early insights gathered during this project discovery activity are valuable since they put you one step ahead in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. You’ll be able to get started on the project faster since you’ll have a clear, effective plan in place before you begin.
You’ll save time and money by identifying project risks, and you’ll get a head start on determining whether your team is a good fit for the project and whether you need to make hiring adjustments before the project begins. This is also beneficial to team culture since it allows everyone’s ideas to be considered equally, and everyone will begin the project with the feeling that their input was valued.
Finally, having an outside facilitator lead the team through the process helps everyone to focus 100% on the difficulty at hand, rather than worrying about note-taking or the workflow we just discussed. The facilitator is also indifferent about the project or its difficulties. This can allow them to raise questions that would normally be dismissed by the team but could have a significant impact, such as identifying misinterpretations of a typically straightforward problem.
I hope you will consider some of these problem-solving methods the next time your team is faced with a challenge or you need help to discover where skill gaps exist in your team.
Spangl, J. (2017, March 13). Want better meetings? Meet Helmut, the rubber chicken – Work Life by Atlassian. Work Life by Atlassian; www.atlassian.com. https://www.atlassian.com/blog/inside-atlassian/why-rubber-chickens-make-better-meetings
Bryan, R. (2019, July 1). What experiment did George Miller conduct into memory? – handlebar-online.com. What Experiment Did George Miller Conduct into Memory? – Handlebar-Online.Com; www.handlebar-online.com. https://www.handlebar-online.com/guidelines/what-experiment-did-george-miller-conduct-into-memory/
Shipp, M. (2021, January 2). Quickly Solve Your Business Problems | Emberi Solutions. Emberi Solutions; emberisolutions.com. https://emberisolutions.com/quickly-solve-your-business-problems/