People profiles are what make Intelligent Swarming intelligent. Being able to find the best person to handle a request as well as finding the best person to assist is what drives efficiency in responding to requests. Today, people play the role of connector; there is usually someone in the organization who is the go-to person to find out who knows what. This may work on a small team, but it becomes problematic when the team is large or distributed, or when an expert is situated outside the team. Additionally, the team may depend too much on one person as a resource, while there are other team members who could help. Having visibility to the capabilities of the whole team allows people to find the best person available to help solve an issue, and gives more than just the "expert" a chance to contribute. People Profiles are a new type of knowledge asset that has great value in facilitating collaboration. We now have two knowledge assets: articles that capture what we have learned by answering questions and solving problems, and people profiles that enable us to facilitate highly relevant connections between knowledge workers.
Elements of the People Profile
At a minimum, the People Profile contains:
- Identity information (name, contact information, location)
- Preferences (modes of interaction, role)
- Skills, area or topic and level of skill
- Deep skills (subject domain expertise)
- Broad skills (transferable skills: interpersonal skills, project management, problem-solving)
- Interests (areas of learning/development)
- Reputation (history of value created)
In addition, a People Profile might also list the projects in which the employee was involved, training attended, (external) awards, and/or feedback.
Competencies and Levels
We need a thorough and accurate view of peoples' competencies in order to optimize matching. As we discussed in the section Skill Development and Utilization we are looking to build T-shaped people. If we don't have T-shaped people we can create T-shaped capability through collaboration. T-shaped people have deep expertise in at least one discipline or domain as well as an understanding of the bigger picture and a number of broad or transferable skills.
Deep skills are knowledge and expertise related to a specific domain. These can be taught and measured. Deep skills are the specific functional skills needed to get the job done: deep understanding of a product, technology, process or policy.
Broad skills are the skills or talents people need in order to engage, collaborate and communicate. Empathy, project management, ability to communicate in multiple contexts and operate at different levels of abstraction. These are a combination of skills, personality traits, and attitude, which makes these broad, transferable skills less tangible and harder to measure.
For each of the skill areas, we want to know at what level the employee operates. If there are objective measures, like the Lean belts or certificates, we will use these. If there is no objective measure of expertise level, subjective measures (for example master, expert, novice) needs to be defined. It’s important everybody has the same understanding of what these levels mean in terms of experience and capability.
In the Interest part of the profile, a knowledge worker indicates those skill areas that he or she would like to develop. Interests may include new products, technologies, business processes or developing some of the broad, transferable skills.
Interests play an important role in the swarming framework as they enable visibility to work that will grow the knowledge workers' skills. If we don't balance exiting skills with interests in our matching capabilities, knowledge workers will get better at only the things they are already good at. Declaring interests in the profile helps people grow.
Preferences enable the knowledge worker to declare a number of things like preferred language or preferred mode of contact. It may also include the type of role the person has on the team.
Details around reputation and reputation models are discussed on the separate Reputation Model page, as this topic is essential for the success of Intelligent Swarming.
Detail of the Profiles
Determining how much detail to include in People Profiles is a challenge. Not enough detail in the skills element means we won't have the necessary level of detail to create relevant connections, but too much detail is hard to maintain unless we have automated ways to update the skills profile.
Designing People Profiles
When designing a People Profile, we should answer the following questions:
- What (organization / team) results are we after?
- What behaviors / activities are we trying to encourage?
- What skills / competencies are important, now and in the future?
- What do we need to know about others that would help us collaborate more effectively?
- How do we keep the history of the value people create?
People Profiles should be built in the context of the organization’s goals. What knowledge is necessary for the business, both today and in the future? One place to start is with a knowledge map: a tool that can help identify what knowledge is present in the support team and where gaps are for knowledge needed in the future.
For deep skills, most organizations start with mapping the technologies that the organization supports. We create an overview which represents who knows most about the supported technologies. Another option is to look at the organization’s requestors or clients. Who has worked with certain clients and is familiar with their specific needs and context?
Creating People Profiles can be done individually, by the employee him/herself with input from the manager, or done as a team effort. Teams often know very well on which knowledge area employees are experts or novices. Preferably, profiles would be created and updated automatically, based on the activities of the individual employee (cases solved, projects, training received).
More about expertise location can be found in this article by Stan Garfield: Expertise Locators and Ask the Expert.
Updating the People Profiles
If it’s not possible to update the profiles automatically, make a plan on how to keep the profiles up to date. Who will do this? How often will it be done? It is recommended to update the profile at least every quarter but that really depends on the dynamics of the work. The annual performance review can be a good moment to look at the profile and, if necessary, update the skill levels. It can also be done by others; for example, co-workers who rate the skill level after collaboration. This can be linked to a recognition system.