Skill Matrix Tutorial, Part 1

We receive a lot of questions on this blog about something called the Skill Matrix and how to use it. It seems to be an area of high interest so I will write about it more regularly.
The Skill Matrix is a very useful visual management tool. It shows at a glance how much cross-training you have in your organization between different people and different tasks.
This blog entry from 2005 talks about how the Skill Matrix enables the suggestion system, but in truth the Skill Matrix enables a lot more than the suggestion system. Since Lean manufacturing a.k.a. the Toyota Production System is all about kaizen and respect for people, and as they say in Japanese “monozukuri wa hitozukuri” or making things starts with developing people, visualizing skills development through the Skill Matrix becomes essential for Lean efforts to succeed.
Whether you are implementing one-piece flow cells that require multi-process handling capability from workers, starting up a TPM or autonomous maintenance program that requires some basic equipment upkeep knowledge from workers, or simply educating everyone in the fundamentals of the Thinking People System, you can use the Skill Matrix to show gaps in skills development (abnormalities) so that you can correct them.
The first step is to establish standards. The basic questions you will need to answer are these:
1. How many levels of competence will we have?
2. What is the description or definition of each level?
3. What are the general criteria for these levels?
4. Who is capable of teaching at instructor level?
5. What is the specific skill or task where the Skill Matrix will be applied?
Creating a simple table like this as a first step, prior to actually filling out a skill matrix, is very handy for clarifying your thinking. The example below shows five levels from zero to four:

I have seen Skill Matrices as simple as two levels (empty circle, full circle) and as complex as having seven sections to the pie. How many sections you will use for the circle is your decision, based on the type of work your are training and how many discreet check points you think you need to get from “cannot do” to “can teach”. As with most things, keeping it simple and following one standard across your organization is highly recommended.
So, according to the standard above if I am to maintain my “can teach Skill Matrix” Level 4 instructor status, I will need to post something here on the Skill Matrix or teach it on the gemba at least every 90 days.
Added July 26, 2007: Download free skill matrix template here.

9 Comments

  1. Massimo

    April 4, 2007 - 12:02 am

    I use skill matrix tool as follow:
    1. divide each personnel working on the same task / process;
    2. prepare a double entry table for each task / process;
    3. enlist personnel on one axis; required competences on the other axis;
    4. for each person create a pie crossing each “competence title”;
    5. for each person fill pie’s section in “red” to define and visualize his/her actual level of knowledge;
    6. If his/her actual level of competence is the level organization need don’t do anything;
    7. for each person fill pie’s section in “blue” to define and visualize a gap of knowledge he/she has to fill;
    8. as soon as he/she completes training with successful results his/her “blue” section must be changed in a “red” section.
    On this way, in addition to all known plus, you can even:
     visualize and act only on defined ability gaps;
     visualize for each competence gap between actual and required knowledge level;
     visualize for each person gap between actual and required knowledge level.
    Not so easy to explain in words as to use as a tool…
    Massimo.

  2. Allison

    May 30, 2007 - 11:24 am

    Our company has created cross training skills matrices for both our production and office/administrative groups. The biggest problems that have arised from this is that we now need a way to show the ‘soft side’ of the jobs, or the competencies. The skills matrix will show the technical side. Can you post an example of the #3-8 in your comments? I think your suggestions may be what we are looking for.
    Thank you,
    Allison

  3. prem Anand.H

    October 11, 2007 - 7:19 am

    how can one become a good trainer? Kindly send the available skill matrix formats to my ID

  4. Fifi Francarita

    October 23, 2007 - 3:18 am

    Hi, I’m working in automotive manufacturing company. Seeing the template seems so easy. But when we wanted to fill it, then the problem comes. Even we have already set the criteria, but, points that reach the criteria… How grading the matrix? Thank you.

  5. Jon Miller

    October 23, 2007 - 11:54 am

    Hi Fifi. It sounds like you need work standards and instructors who can teach and verify that workers are meeting these standards.

  6. Gokila

    November 15, 2009 - 1:11 am

    To Prepare the Skill matrix for Workers in our factory

  7. premanath

    April 17, 2010 - 10:43 pm

    what is skill matrix and before starting skill matrix what should be known..?

  8. shital patil

    December 19, 2011 - 8:59 pm

    How we implement this format only for skill requirement of that perticular station on the shop floor? please suggect me. i m giving one example for that.
    S.N./ Work Station/ skill requirement of that station
    Is it OK or Not?

  9. Mary Davis

    May 17, 2014 - 3:27 am

    Anyone tried Skills Base? It’s free and seems to be pretty good for this purpose.