Tips for Lean Managers

Skill Matrix Enables Suggestion System

By Jon Miller Updated on February 9th, 2021

We received a call from a kaizen facilitator who was concerned that their suggestion system was losing steam. We went to their Gemba to find out what was going wrong. This company was receiving plenty of suggestions. They had copies of Norman Bodek’s Quick & Easy Kaizen workbooks and kept the ideas simple and small.
They are a high volume food processing operation. Many of the suggestions were related to small modifications to the processing lines and equipment to make them safer, easier to operate, cleaner, for pokayoke (mistake proofing) or to enable quick changeover. This made it difficult for the operators to actually implement the ideas themselves, an important aspect of a healthy and sustained suggestion system.
In the case of this company, there were too many things the maintenance team needed to do between kaizen newspaper action items from kaizen events and all of the workers’ good suggestions. This resulted in a perception by the workers that the management was not supporting the suggestion system. This was not the case, but management also needed to keep costs down and could not justify hiring additional skilled maintenance workers.
We introduced them to the skill matrix, a simple and visual tool to show who has training and experience in what skill. Here is an example of a skill matrix that is used in our office, and here is a skill matrix template.

They found that certain people had some mechanical skill and even maintenance experience. These people could take on some of the simpler equipment modifications or assist in the maintenance crew on bigger projects. As a resultof using the skill matrix to involve workers in the implementation, they are completing suggestions quicker. The kaizen facilitator reports that the workers are coming up with better (smaller and more practical) kaizen ideas.
This led to further discussion with their management of the need for a full TPM program including Autonomous Maintenance and developing the maintenance skills and mindset of the operators. They have a focus on OEE as a metric but had not yet made the link with a cross-functional Total Productive Maintenance effort.
Once again, investing in people was the key to a sustaining Lean manufacturing results and developing a kaizen culture.

Download Free Skill Matrix Template

  1. Angela Avent

    July 18, 2006 - 6:48 am

    Can someone please tell me where I can find a sample of a Skill Matrix?
    Thanks in advance for your help,
    Angela Avent
    Organizational Development & Training
    Plymouth Tube Company – Eupora, Ms

  2. Jon Miller

    July 18, 2006 - 11:41 am

    Hi Angela,
    I will send you a skill matrix template. I have also added a link to a skill matrix template, right above the photo.
    Best wishes,

  3. Bill

    November 29, 2006 - 2:15 pm

    how do you fill in the circles for the amount of experience they have

  4. Paddy

    January 21, 2007 - 8:44 am

    like to have a skill matrix template

  5. Jon Miller

    January 21, 2007 - 11:05 am

    There is a link to a skill matrix template right above the image in this article.

  6. Ivonne

    January 30, 2007 - 7:06 am

    Do you have any guidelines for organizing/ categorizing the skills? Ours skills matrix keeps growing each day since we want it to measure technical, team, leadership, problem solving, business knowledge, computers, etc. Also, once it’s time to measure, how do you keep it objective?

  7. Jon Miller

    January 30, 2007 - 10:18 am

    Hi Ivonne,
    In general, the skills should be as specific as possible and linked to an actual process or job. This also helps make it measurable and objective.
    It sounds like you have one huge skill matrix. I would recommend several small ones by job, process or work area. A skill matrix is a matrix of a set of skills and a group of people, so you can expect the same people to be on several different matrices if they work in more than one area.
    Technical skills required for the job can be demonstrated so this is easy. Team work can also be broken down to observable skills, and the same with problem solving.
    Business knowledge is not a skill, it is a set of things you know. Making good decisions based on knowledge, experience, and situation is a skill. That’s called management and I’m not sure it can be taught, but you can certainly test for knowledge.
    Job knowledge is a prerequisite to job skill, and the first quadrant of the skill matrix (top right position) is usually the knowledge of the process (familiarity with tools, materials, equipment, quality standards, etc.) So I would think of knowledge that way.
    For computer skills as well, these should be tied to job skill. If someone is managing contracts they need to learn word processing programs, etc. If someone needs to print and scan work orders, they need certain computer skills.
    The best way to use the skill matrix is to show people how specific skills are tied to the work they do, and how having more people cross-trained helps everyone.
    The leadership skill matrix I would also tie to a job, such as team leader, supervisor, CEO. The same type of skills are needed to be a leader, though a CEO may require more knowledge, education, experience, etc.
    There should be an objective, documented standard that people are measured against. Tasks should be performed within a certain time to a certain level of quality.
    Instead of trying to capture all possible skills for the people on your team, have several skill matrices by process or job. The more you can tie these skills to specific jobs or work that happens and can be observed, the more practical you can make it.

  8. Dennis Smith

    February 1, 2007 - 9:10 pm

    Is there knowledge of a company using skill matrices to determine a pay scale based on an employee’s skills?

  9. Jon Miller

    February 2, 2007 - 9:31 am

    That’s a good question.
    Not too long ago there was a posting in the LEI forum on a similar topic. If you can find that, the person who posted may be able to share some information with you.
    One of our local clients is also developing something like what you describe but they are in the early stages.
    One point is that rather than using the skill matrix to determine a pay scale, you need to determine a pay scale based on several other factors and then use the skill matrix as a ways to measure the job skills development portion of salary evaluation.

  10. Jeannie Gilchrist

    February 11, 2007 - 12:40 pm

    Excellent article and responses. Thank you. I was hoping for an excel spreadsheet template where you pointed and clicked. I know…asking for cake and eating it too.
    Did you find the information?

  11. Michael Milton

    April 23, 2007 - 9:00 pm

    Searching for a Skills Matrix and was lucky enough to find your web site. Thank you, your sample is exactly what was needed at the University of Phoenix.

  12. sunita bhonsle

    May 25, 2007 - 1:07 am

    the matrix is good,we can make one for our company & depts

  13. Jon

    May 25, 2007 - 12:41 pm

    Hi Sunita.
    You can make a skill matrix for your company and departments, but unless your company is very small it is best to start with small, local teams. This might be a section or a team, rather than a department.
    It will be easier to manage a matrix with a smaller group of people and smaller list of skills. You can then expand it step by step to the whole organization.

  14. Lokesh Acharya

    June 12, 2007 - 4:00 am

    How to make skill matrix for IT Employees?

  15. Amanpreet Kaur

    July 12, 2007 - 10:21 pm

    I m working on a project named skill matrix. I want to get some good examples of skill matrices for my project? And i also want to get some information about the need of origin of skill matrix and some history of skill matrix.

  16. narendra

    July 23, 2007 - 4:32 am

    thanks alot for such an information, i was searching for skill matrix details from last 2 days, and finally got it,can anyone provide some more practical examples of skill matrix for a medium size organisation, and how it can be related to performance appraisal.

  17. ronald

    July 25, 2007 - 9:00 pm

    I like also to have a skill matrix template…

  18. Brion

    August 17, 2007 - 7:29 am

    Jon, In the skills matrix definitions, you use “can team others to perform.” How do you define this?
    Any other skills matrices people have used successfully?

  19. Jon

    August 18, 2007 - 9:57 pm

    You are the first person to catch the error Brion. It should be “train” and not “team” in “can team others to perform”.
    Here is a skill matrix template you may find useful.

  20. Basia

    August 22, 2007 - 12:29 am

    This matrix shows the flexibility in visual way only, in my opinion it will be more useful, manageable and possible to compare to see both – boxes and the level of knowledge in percentage

  21. Trinda

    October 16, 2007 - 5:00 am

    I still haven’t figured out how to fill in sections of the little pies in the skills matrix that indicate a persons level of knowledge. Can someone help me with this issue?

  22. Jon Miller

    October 21, 2007 - 9:41 pm

    Hi Trinda.
    You can find more information on how to use the Skill Matrix if you search in the “search” field on the top right of the page, above the advertising images.

  23. G.Rajesh

    February 15, 2008 - 10:04 pm

    Has any body have skill matrix template for fabric sewing….(sewing garments)

  24. Ana Ionescu

    March 14, 2008 - 2:10 am

    Thanks for sharing all this information.
    I have though one question:
    In all the examples, the skills matrix involved 2 dimensions: skill/person.
    Do you think that something like a job or role/level of desired skill matrix could be developed to? My idea would be that, by having it like this, you can further add the person and this way to obtain a 3D matrix.
    Basically, it would be person x has this skill at this level, and for his job the ideal would be this other level, so …. from here you can make decisions regarding recruitment, development needs… so on.
    What do you think?

  25. Adam

    April 2, 2008 - 1:26 am

    Hi, Thanks for making this template downloadable, has helped me with a college project.
    Kind Regards

  26. Philip Knowles

    April 23, 2008 - 4:18 am

    For those still confused about filling in the pie pieces, just post up the matrix and use a marker. If you have to use an electronic copy, just delete the old pie, and copy and paste the new one in its place. At least that’s what we do here.
    If I’m wrong, forgive me, I’m trying to learn and accept lean after being beaten to death by EOQ from the #1 isye school Georgia Tech.

  27. S H KHAN

    August 1, 2008 - 6:49 am

    Please advice whether in Skill matrix preparation , the shape can be square in place of oval shaped quadrant

  28. Jon Miller

    August 5, 2008 - 8:59 pm

    Hello S H Khan,
    The shape does not matter. Circle, square, any simple shape to visualize the level of cross training will suit.

  29. David

    November 3, 2008 - 8:43 am

    If you are using spreadsheets to construct this type of matrix then you should use numeric scales and not pictures to represent competency levels.
    By using numeric scales (e.g. 1-5 or 0%-100%) you get the ability to sort and filter. Excel has no image-sorting capability!

  30. Ken Gill

    June 18, 2009 - 10:40 pm

    I have been trying to redesign the skills matrix that we already have here, which as the term indicates, is skills specific, and grade / wage related. I am wanting to incorporate the attitude / attribute component too, as flexibility / resilience / obedience / punctuality / team spirit / eye for detail / meet deadlines / and try to quantify them so those doing the same work on the same machine with different attitudes are recognised as such and awarded accordingly. Can someone help please

  31. Jon Miller

    June 18, 2009 - 11:09 pm

    Hi Ken,
    I would recommend using the skill matrix for a single purpose. An attendance chart can be posted on the same team board or primary visual display area. Some of the traits you described can be quantified, others aren’t so easy, and are not necessarily trainable. If the skill matrix is seen as a discipline enforcement tool it may lose its effectiveness as a cross training and people development tool.
    Others may have a different experience but that’s my 2 cents.

  32. joetee

    July 15, 2009 - 4:41 am

    Does anyone have an idea of the procedure that i can take to review or update a skill matrix. As in the steps, and if possible a case study of how it can be done in a power plant for the operations and say maintenance guys. Thanks

  33. Tricia

    February 8, 2010 - 9:30 am

    My comment is directed toward Ana Ionescu, hopefully she’s still on this forum. I am in the process of creating a skills matrix for recruitment and I find your idea very interesting. I will love to discuss and exchange ideas with you. Maybe I can help. Please email me.

  34. Pradeep

    May 31, 2010 - 1:05 am

    I want to know based on skill matrix how to assess the flexibility index

  35. shakir

    June 26, 2010 - 2:48 am

    Hi, Thanks for making this template downloadable, has helped me with a college project and i want a fully example of cell leader skill matrix
    Shakir from pakistan

  36. lynnee

    July 10, 2010 - 4:11 am

    Is there anyway I can remove the circles in this matrix and replace them with simple checks. I’m a teacher and want to match the activities that we do with the skill that we are trying to build.

  37. Robin

    October 11, 2010 - 6:59 am

    To answer the question on how to shade in the circle. The circles are simply “pictures” so if you right click on the “picture/shaded circe” that you want and copy then click on the field you want to shaded and paste it there. Hope this was helpful.

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