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How do you know what you need to know?

Now we are nearing the end of this mini-series, with six key questions to have answered to ensure the success of any business. They are general, so whether you work in the public or private sector, the questions are relevant.

The six questions are

  1. Why and for whom do you exist?
  2. What does this “who” need and want?
  3. What do you need to do to meet these needs and desires?
  4. How will you do this work?
  5. What tools do we need to do this work?
  6. What skills are needed to do this work?

To work our way through the series leading up to today’s question, you now have answers to why you exist and for whom. You further know WHAT it is you need to do to satisfy the one you exist for and their needs and desires. As well as HOW you do it by supporting those who will deliver the value, and finally you know what tools you need to create the value according to the HOW you have identified.

The question then arises as to what skills are needed.


Unfortunately, too many people deal with this issue of competence too broadly and generally. Sure, few people say that employee skills are not very important to them. However, it is rarely understood how important it is to link the need for competence in WHAT and HOW to do, to what the person who will do the work is actually capable of.

It is not uncommon for me to meet people who have basic training in a field, but lack the specific skills actually required for certain tasks.

Do you know Excel?

Just to take one example of many, I think of how many times I have come across businesses using the MS Excel tool as part of their value creation.

They have Excel as a form to do calculations or they have Excel as a container of a large matrix containing customers, projects, properties, or other things. Regardless, it’s an important tool in the toolbox.

But when we talk about it and get into how they use the tool, a surprisingly large number of people are not able to use the tool to any great extent. They sit and cut and paste, manually mark with colour codes and so on.

When I say “you don’t have to do that manually because there are functions for that” they just look at me and say “well, I’m not very good at Excel. We’ve never had any training on the tool”.

I’m a bit of a tool whiz myself, so I go in and optimize their templates so they don’t have to do manual work and eliminate the risk of errors.

– Wow, you can do that, they say. And I haven’t done anything particularly advanced, but if you haven’t had any training in Excel then that’s enough for you not to be able to fix it yourself.

Worse it can be

This is just one example, among many. I notice that there are employees “out there” who are not clear on the legal framework they are supposed to follow.

They don’t know how others, such as authorities, deal with issues that come from them. They don’t know what their own procedures and rules are. However, they have been assigned the task of managing tasks. They simply don’t know how to do their jobs well.

It is also not uncommon for only one person in the entire business to have self-proclaimed expertise in an area.

– No, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Christer, he knows.

Change the name and it might work in different places for your business. It is unclear what you need to know and there is a great dependence on the “expert” in the field, i.e. the one who has worked with it the most and/or the longest.

The Grounds

You need to go back to basics: it is the activities of the process that demand the skills needed to do what the process is for. That’s why you need to have the answers to the five questions asked earlier. Without these answers, you also don’t know exactly what skills are needed.

And then, as in my example above, the staff do not feel they have the right skills to do their jobs. This in turn results in you:

  1. Perform non-value-added work.
  2. Spends too much time doing the work.
  3. Introduce errors in the handling, which will of course require more work and correction later in the flow.

Process activities require skills to be implemented. These competencies are packaged into one or more roles. A role is not the same as a position. One role can be played by several people and one person can act in several roles.

Thus, to be successful in one’s work, a person needs to have the skills that the role he/she is to act in needs to perform the activities. If you don’t have enough skills, there is a gap between the requirements of the process and what the employees can do.

The result is poorly executed activities. For example, poor means that it takes too long, is of low quality or is inefficient.

Of course

– Of course it is, you may think, it’s common sense. But why does it work so badly in many places?

I think it has to do with not seeing your value stream. There may be drawings, but they are not followed and/or are too roughly drawn. It does not support detailed requirements for competence.

As I educate; you can’t control what you don’t measure, and you can’t measure what you don’t see. Thus, if you don’t see your value creation flow, you can’t control it either. Of course, this also applies to the skills that the processes require.

If you do not see the activities of the processes and cannot identify the requirements for competence, then you cannot manage your competence development in the business. It will be more of conjecture and ad-hoc.


So, to end this mini-series with a bit of a summary; we can say that it is very important that you understand WHY you exist and for whom, and what their needs and desires are. Because without knowing that, it is difficult to know WHAT to do, and then of course HOW to do it. So be clear in describing these WHY, WHAT and HOW.

Once you have that in mind, it’s time to identify the tools and skills needed to do the job of creating the value that the customer, whatever you call them, needs and wants.


Now I want to hear how it looks at your place? Are you and you clearly aware of the answers to all six questions?

  1. Why and for whom do you exist?
  2. What does this “who” need and want?
  3. What do you need to do to meet these needs and desires?
  4. How will you do this work?
  5. What tools do we need to do this work?
  6. What skills are needed to do this work?

Do you have shortcomings and if so, which issues are you not fully clear on?

Email me again and I’ll let you know how things are going. You are also welcome to give feedback on this mini-series and whether it has helped you. I am not writing for myself, but to give you value in your improvement efforts.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Then, do you need any help in sorting out the answers to the questions? Me and the rest of Team Clean Stream would be happy to help you with that. Every day we help businesses evolve to deliver greater value, with greater employee happiness, while strengthening their finances.

Want to know how you can take this step too? Contact me