What is skill matrix and before starting skill matrix what should be known?
Nice two-part question. The first part is relatively easy and has little to do with chickens. The skill matrix is a document that displays the names of people down the left side or Y axis and the skills of people typically across the top X axis. Each cell within the matrix contains a circle divided into 4 parts indicating differing levels of mastery of the skill or task. The skill matrix is used to visualize the level of cross training and workforce flexibility that has been achieved, as well as any gaps. This is useful because it allows people to develop their own skills, fill in for each other, and shift people to where there is a higher workload at any given time.
The image below is a simplified example. There are a few more articles in the archives which reference the skill matrix and may be useful.
What should be known before getting started with the skill matrix? This is not a simple question, and is somewhat context-dependent. In general we can say the following are true:
1. A basic level of 5S discipline is required. At the very least the organization must have the ability to maintain and use visuals that are posted.
2. Fundamental front-line supervision skills (and supervisors or team leaders who possess them) must be in place to support cross training. The TWI (Training Within Industry) model is preferred, and failing that at least the JI or job instruction module is needed, with the ability to perform job breakdown prior to designing training.
3. Standard work for repetitive operations or at least work instructions with credible standard times are needed to conduct cross-training objectively and effectively.
4. A compensation plan that is linked with employee development is needed. At the very least there should be a de-coupling of pay with direct output such as piece work, which too often does not lend itself to teamwork or promote the need for flow and cross training.
5. A clear purpose for using the skill matrix, linked to business objectives and the implementation of operational excellence systems. Like any tool, the skill matrix does not exist or provide much benefit when deployed in isolation or without consideration of the total organizational ecosystem.
It must be known whether these things are in place before safely starting to use the skill matrix. Of course we cannot always wait until conditions are perfect to start improving, so what must be known is ultimately the level of readiness and the level of risk associated any gaps in readiness.
But how can a lean implementation be like a chicken? I hear you ask. We could say that chickens are skittish, and easily scared away, as the expression “chicken!” implies. Or we can say that roosters are territorial and prone to peck at the heads of other chickens in certain conditions. But we are not going there today. To answer how lean implementations are like chickens, we need to understand how chickens sustain themselves. There are three key elements to understanding chicken sustenance:
1. Chickens have no teeth. Consequently, they cannot chew their food and break it down into easily digestible pieces. Is your lean implementation lacking teeth, or the ability to break big goals down into small, meaningful actions?
2. They stuff food down their throats. The chicken gizzard is a tube of muscle that moves the food to their stomachs, unchewed by teeth. Is your lean implementation being stuffed down your figurative throats?
3. Grit. Lacking teeth, chickens must eat small bits of rocks and sand, a.k.a grit, to break up their food. Does your lean implementation have grit? I don’t mean the rocky kind, but the kind that keeps you from giving up.
When embarking on any journey on a journey the answer we must know is to the most important question, “Do we have the organizational fortitude to persist in the face of failure?” So when asking, “Are we ready to get started with…” any improvement tool or program, consider how much like a chicken your organization may be. And put some grit in your organizational gizzard. Otherwise you may just lay an egg.