Remember Tetris, the sixth best-selling Nintendo Entertainment System video game of all time? The objective of the game is to quickly fit different shapes together so that all the pieces line up perfectly.
Developing a highly skilled team is just like Tetris. As a manager, my objective is to create a solid set of interlocking pieces (people and skills) into a greater whole. Accomplishing that requires the evaluation of existing skill levels — across individuals, capabilities, and technologies — and filling in any gaps.
About a year ago, I decided to learn more about the art and science of skills development so that I could better grow and balance my team’s collective capabilities. During my research, I came across two helpful models that I apply today — and that help Tetris my team into a well-oiled machine.
Model #1: The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition
First, I was interested in understanding the academic approach to skill acquisition. After all, the earliest introduction most of us have to skill acquisition is in school. That’s how I came across the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition, a five-stage model starting with Novice and progressing all the way through Mastery:
The five developmental stages of skill acquisition. (Source: richrtesting.com)
As individuals becomes more versed in a particular area, they move across each of these five developmental stages. A novice, for example, can execute on something if they follow clear instructions, whereas a master of a particular skill can respond and act instinctually to a given situation based on their years of knowledge and expertise.
You can use the Dreyfus model to measure individual skill level or your entire team’s collective skill level in a particular area of focus or technology:
Measuring Individual Skill Level for a Single Technology Platform
In the example above, you can quickly visualize the varying skill levels of four Eloqua solution architects. You can then use this visualization to demonstrate both why and where you need to invest in training to improve your team’s capabilities.
You can even take it a step or two deeper and measure each individual’s strength managing specific capabilities within Eloqua, such as campaign development, process automation, reporting, integration capabilities, and so on.
Measuring Your Team’s Collective Skill Level across Multiple Technology Platforms
The x-axis represents different MarTech platforms; the y-axis
assesses the average skill level across an entire team.
The example above measures a team’s collective skill across four Marketing Automation platforms, but you can change the x-axis to represent any skill you want to measure for a high-level view of how strong your team is in a particular area.
You can quickly see that you don’t have the same level of internal expertise with HubSpot and Pardot as you do with Eloqua and Marketo. In order to grow your skill sets in those technology platforms, you need to devote time, effort, and resources — and the Dreyfus model helps to justify an investment in professional development.
By visually demonstrating strengths and weaknesses across each technology platform, you can then meaningfully prioritize your efforts to fill in those gaps.
Model #2: Dash-shaped, I-shaped, or T-shaped person
The second model I discovered identifies the overarching depth and breadth of knowledge or skill an individual brings to a role using shapes (which continues the Tetris analogy really well):
Can’t you just imagine these shapes falling from the top of screen while you’re playing Tetris?
A dash-shaped person is more of a generalist, an I-shaped person generally has deep expertise in a single area, and a T-shaped Person tends to be a combination of the two.
It’s beneficial — and also very common — to have a mix of these type of people on your team.
Marketing specialists, who often have less work experience and learn as they go, tend to be dash-shaped. Certain MarTech certifications, for example, require a great deal of training, which creates an I-shaped person. Years of experience across different marketing disciplines along with a deep dive into one or more areas of focus combine to create a T-shaped person.
You can apply these shapes to assess any skill you want to develop, whether professionally or just for fun. Want to learn a new language, take up rock climbing, or become a better cook? Create a strategy to develop those skills so you can transform from a dash-shaped person to an I-shaped person.
Start developing your highly skilled team
While measuring individual skill levels can be somewhat subjective, both of these models work extremely well in terms of providing a high-level view of where your team falls. If you identify any gaps within your team’s skill set, you can come up with a strategy fill in those gaps to create one interlocking block of skills.
Your first priority when it comes to skill development? Eliminate any single points of failure. Having only one person on your team with a specific skill introduces a high degree of risk. If that individual doesn’t have the bandwidth when you need them, or worse, they leave the company, you have to start all over again.
As a manager, I’m always on the lookout for better ways to support my team. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!
Tom Svec, Director of Marketing Technology Services, develops world-class marketing automation solutions such as lead scoring and nurturing, analytical systems and processes, and more for DemandGen clients. With deep experience in marketing analytics, campaign execution, sales and marketing alignment, demand generation and lead management tactics, honed over 15 years of B2B and B2C marketing operations experience, Tom is able to bring the perspectives of both the marketer and the salesperson to the table. Tom is certified as an Eloqua Master and an Eloqua Revenue Lifecycle Master, and is a Marketo Certified Technical Consultant.