Building a Team of Craftsmen Part 3- Designing a Craftsmanship Development Program

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

The focus of this series of articles has been to equip the reader with basic distinctions to enable you to build an extraordinary group of individuals, dedicated to their craft and committed to deliver on the promises you make to your clients. The first article described how to select people who share the values you represent as a business. The second article focused on the developing a corporate culture where the knowledge present on your team of craftsmen is freely shared for the benefit of all. The third piece of the puzzle has to do with designing a system that creates a path for the development of that team of craftsmen.

Why Does Development Matter?

In order to answer the ?why? question, it is important to remember that, if you applied the principles embodied in this series of articles, the motivation of the people working for you goes far beyond the salary and benefits you offer. in reality, their motivation may include the following:

– Welfare of their families
– Personal sense of accomplishment
– Personal work standards
– Personal sense of business ethics
– Desire to grow and learn
– Respect and appreciation
– Achievement of Mastery of their craft

Growing, learning and achieving Mastery are high values for the team you have assembled under those principles. Not meeting those needs, in the long run, has the following consequences: morale suffers, apathy grows, the vitality of the team decreases and some people are needlessly lost. So it is paramount that a Craftsmanship Development Program be instituted, so that people can develop their competencies and eventually achieve mastery in their craft.

Making Skills Assessments:

The first step in the establishment of a Craftsmanship Development Program is to make an honest Skills Assessment for each member of the team. First, you establish a Competency Scale. A competency scale sets observable levels of competency, that are then used to make the skills assessments. This is the scale we use at Painting in Partnership:

      1 = Beginner


      2 = Developing Competency – Requires supervision to meet standard


      3 = Competent – performs without supervision to meet the standard


      4 = High Competency – Can teach others


    5 = Master Level – Can innovate freely

Second, you list all the relevant skills you wish to measure, that are important for your particular brand of Craftsmanship. In the summer of 2005, I developed a Skills Assessment Tool to help in that process. You can download a copy of the tool by going to the “tool” section of the Forum’s web site at In this tool, you see a list of 84 skills, grouped in 11 different categories. The first 5 skills groups can be viewed, in a way, as ?personal characteristics?, as opposed to Technical Skills. Personally, I view them all as skills that can be developed over time. Which skills would be important for you to measure on your team?

Third, you use the competency scale and the skills list to make skills assessments. I believe that it is equally important that the assessments be made both by the craftsman and the company. Why both? Because an ingredient in developing mastery is the ability to make grounded assessments about one’s competency and the competency of others. The sooner one can gain a footing on making assessments, the better it is. So, each craftsman on the team will assess their competency level for each of the skills listed on your Skills Assessment Tool. Similar assessments will be made by the company and discrepancies are highlighted. The scores can be summarized using the sheet provided in the tool.

Employee Development Meetings – A Joint Understanding

After the assessments have been completed, an Employee Development Meeting can then be scheduled. The first objective is to gain a joint understanding of both the strengths and the areas in need of development. It is important to realize that understanding one’s strengths is as important as understanding one’s weaknesses. Most people who are outstanding at something have a tendency to take it for granted and do not take stock in their strong points. So, make sure you spend adequate time on their strong areas. It is also important to address the discrepancies between their assessments and your assessments. Take time to ask why they rated themselves in this way (high or low) before offering your own assessment. This way, a mutual understanding is gained. The importance of having a clear picture of competency levels cannot be overstated. It is from this picture that solid actions can be taken to develop competencies further. It is important to mention that Employee Development Meetings are great opportunities to get to know your employees better and develop an understanding you might not get any other way.

Another important aspect of this meeting is to identify 2 to 4 areas that seem readily at hand to act on and develop further. You may find that, coming into the meeting, your employee walked in with a pretty good feel for the areas he or she wants to target for improvement. In some cases, they may already have most of an action plan drawn up. Remember that they are people who are motivated and eager to grow and learn.

Employee Development Meetings- A Plan of Action

Once a few areas have been targeted for development, a formal plan of action is developed for each areas selected. This plan will identify action steps, set time tables, commit resources and create a follow-up schedule. This plan will identify specialized courses, hands-on training opportunities, coaching, reading materials, etc. Developing one’s competencies is the result of a partnership between your employee and the company. This is a fundamental principle behind this approach to employee development.

A Field Training Tool

Another important tool we use at Painting in Partnership, in the development of our craftsmen, grew out of a frustration shared by the owners of most paint companies. We implemented it in 2002 with much success. It deals with the following issue: On any team, you have people who are very proficient at doing a given task and others who are not as proficient. Commonly, the person most proficient will end up doing the task, while the person less proficient gets to do something else. The reasoning behind this practice is that “I would rather do it myself than take the time to explain how to do it right” – “If I take the time to explain, it is going to hurt my production numbers and make me look bad”. How many of you can relate to this scenario?

How can you remove these obstacles to Field Training? In my company, we developed the Field Training Log (can be downloaded from the Tool section of the Forum’s web site). The approach is simple: Go Off the Clock and record the date, time, who was involved, what the training was and how much time was spent. The beauty of this approach is that the time spent on Field Training does not hurt the production numbers, while allowing the company to monitor its Training expenditures.