Building a Team of Craftsmen Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Shared Knowledge

By Mario Guertin,
President – PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President – Painting in Partnership, Inc. 

In the November issue of PDCA’s e-newsletter, I wrote the first of a 3-part series on Building a Team of Craftsmen. The first article addressed the issue of hiring/selecting people who share the values embodied in the Promise you make to your customers, people who will work together as a team to deliver on that Promise. This second article will deal with the following issue: how do you harness the body of knowledge already present on your team and create a culture where that knowledge is freely shared? Next month, the final article will deal with the issue of training and developing that wonderful team of craftsmen described in the previous 2 articles.

I will now describe the key ingredients to creating a strong Culture of Shared Knowledge:

A Company Promise to the Team

The cornerstone of a Culture of Shared Knowledge is a Promise that you make to your employees. In last month’s article, I referred to a Company Promise to your Clients and the benefits that flow from it, like in the hiring/selection process. In this month’s article, I will emphasize another critical Promise; this one is made to your Craftsmen. These 2 promises, when combined, set a context for the culture of your company: every player knows their mission and is clear about the support they can expect to achieve these results.

In developing your Company Promise to your Craftsmen, you need to ask yourself the following question: What kind of support do our people need in order to be successful at delivering on the Company Promise to its Clients? At Painting in Partnership, the Company Promise to its Craftsmen is as follows: For every project you work on, you are guaranteed:

  • On-time Setup
  • Timely Supplies and Tools
  • Clarity of Expectations
  • Adequacy of Budget
  • Pride in the Finished Work
  • Respect and Appreciation
  • New Learning
  • Delight

To be effective, a promise must be accompanied with systems that ensure its fulfillment. For example, at Painting in Partnership, Clarity of Expectations and Adequacy of Budget are delivered through an integrated system that tie Estimating, Field Budgets and the recording of Actual Time, for each task performed and each room worked in. This system will be featured in much more detail in an upcoming article in the Craftsman’s Corner. A promise must also be accompanied with a system that helps you track its effective delivery. In my company, we use a Team Feedback Form (can be downloaded by going to the Tool section of the Craftsmanship Forum at Every project carries a maximum score of 24 for all the elements of our promise. When a score is less than perfect, the reason is given. The new learning is also identified and recorded. One of our Company’s Key Indicators is the Average Score for all projects worked on during the year. Such a tracking system is vital to the fulfillment of the promise, but also to the continual improvement of the delivery systems.

A Shared Value 

For a strong Culture of Shared Knowledge to exist, the players must all share a desire to grow and learn, and become the best they can be. In last month’s article, I indicated that those are some of the basic characteristics of a craftsman and that you can design a hiring/selection process to recruit such people. In many companies, this value is quite anemic, because many people on the team passively or aggressively undermine that spirit. If you, as a business owner, want to commit yourself to excellence, you must address these negative attitudes. It may even involve doing some house cleaning! The result will be a team that is aligned on learning and growing, a Team Committed to Excellence in the fulfillment of your Client Promise.

Mutual Respect

Mutual respect is another key ingredient to creating a Culture of Shared Knowledge. Everybody on the team must respect each other. I will go as far as saying that they have to like each other as well. You might say: This is a tall order! In a way it is, especially compared to the common standard. However, your hiring/selection process can be designed to attract such people. Having a team where everyone respects and likes each other is a challenging task, but very doable. Again, it comes back to you, the business owner. How committed are you to Excellence and building such a team in your company? You may again have to do some house cleaning to accomplish this result. You will surely have to rethink your hiring process.


The main lubricant to a Culture of Shared Knowledge is communication. You must have Companywide meetings at least once a month; they are vital! In my company, our monthly meetings last about 2 hours and are on the clock, including travel. They cover topics such as:

  • Projects worked on
  • Customer Feedback
  • Future Projects
  • Key Frustrations
  • Gems of the Week (discussed in next section)
  • New tools, products and methods
  • Company systems and Policies
  • Team Add-ons and Team Referrals reports
  • Safety

These meetings enable everyone to develop ownership in the mission and be an integral part of getting that mission accomplished.

A Recognition and Affirmation Program

Because of the varied backgrounds and experiences, there is a vast reservoir of painting knowledge on a team. How do you make these individual stores of knowledge available to everyone on the team?

This question lies at the heart of building a Culture of Shared Knowledge. There are 2 aspects to this question:


    People who are very good at something or do something exceptional have a tendency “to just do what they do” without making a big deal of it. They kind of take it for granted. It takes the eyes of someone else to notice and point out the outstanding features.


      There has to be a mechanism to recognize and affirm what I call the “Craftsmanship Gems” of all team members. Gems can be found in any aspect of the work of a painter. For example:


    • Creative way of dealing with a situation or problem.
    • Using a tool in a different way.
    • Found a more efficient method.
    • Successfully met a challenging situation
    • Demonstrated high skill or creativity in performing any aspect of the work.

These Gems have to be documented and communicated to the entire team. The person being acknowledged gets a boost and each person on the team grows in respect for each other and grows from this shared knowledge as well.

In early 2003, my company developed a Recognition and Affirmation System we call the “Gem of the Week Program” (forms can be downloaded by going to the Tool section of the Forum’s web site at ). It has been extremely successful in our company. Each gem is written up on a simple form and faxed at the end of the week with the time cards. Each person written up for a gem gets to tell everyone about it at the next staff meeting. Over that 2-year period, we have collected in excess of 150 different gems. This past September, we grouped all the gems under the different aspects of painting they pertained to. Each gems had a date and the name of the person involved. We called the list the Gem Collection. It is 15 pages long and everyone got a copy. The byproducts of this Program are: self-respect, mutual respect, an expanded knowledge base, as well as greater ownership and higher morale.

The dissemination of Craftsmanship knowledge, Craftsmanship Tips and Tricks is one of the primary missions of the PDCA Craftsmanship Forum, along with the development of SOPs and Skill Standards. I invite you to join the Craftsmanship Forum by going to the Forum’s web site listed above and sending us a completed membership application. I will make the following offer to you: Join the Craftsmanship Forum now and I will send you a copy of Painting in Partnership’s “Gem Collection”, September of 2005 edition. All you need to do is in indicate “Gem Collection in bold print on your membership application.