When you don’t know what to do, you do what you know

With back to school around the corner, continuous improvement and upgrading skills is often top of mind for many professionals heading into September. With the summer to recharge, fall lends itself to focusing on the road ahead and making the adjustments required to get there. Having read our earlier articles, you’ve established a solid foundation with a vision and values to attract high-performing employees. You’re now ready for the next step: putting it all together.

What’s involved and how do you do that?

You develop a passion for competencies and become world class in mastering those that resonate with your customers and your employees.

We think the above image appropriately outlines our model. In it you see five gears, one of which is bigger than the others. Consider that big gear as the driver for all the others. We would label that “competence” and say the other four gears are its essential elements.

The other gears are different sizes because some are required more than others and getting the right mix is what makes this fun and bottom-line relevant. There is no static formula for the other four gears but here’s how we set up the initial gearbox:

  • The left gear we label, “networks.”
  • To its right is “competence,” followed by “experience,” then “skills,” and on the far right, “knowledge.”

To summarize, competence has four interrelated elements: knowledge, skill, experience, and networks. Your challenge is to determine the most important competencies and ensure your organization develops the appropriate mix of its four components.


Team of employees sitting at a table taking notes.


Not an easy job! Because we don’t know what we don’t know.

Fortunately, our friends in the academic world have made it easier for us to begin the journey, a journey that continues forever because our industry is not static, and change is ever present or just around the corner. And hopefully we continue to learn and grow throughout our lives, personally and professionally.

We have found this academic treasure to be a gold mine of information and it comes in two dimensions, one for individuals, the other for teams. The short and sweet title for both is very easy to remember: FYI®For Your Improvement.

We described the individual and team versions of FYI® in previous articles so we won’t go over them again, other than to assert, if you haven’t got at least one copy of each, we say, with all due respect, you don’t know the key competencies you must to become a high-performance organization.

The FYI® authors, Lombardo and Eichinger, published their first editions in 1996 and have continued to refine and develop them ever since. The fact that they’ve sold over a million copies must tell you something.

Sadly, it’s our observation that few companies in graphics arts related fields have acquired copies of either of these books in any of their editions. Maybe it’s because the technical side of our business dominates our perspective, who knows?


Printing photo banner on large format colour plotter


So let’s say a few words about each element of competence:

  • Network has nothing to do with computers or servers or Wi-Fi. It’s all about the relationships and contacts you and your employees have with other people. Ideally you and your people are the ones others call when they have problems and issues they’re wrestling with. What a sweet spot that is to be in! Being recognized as the go-to person or company is wonderful. On the other hand, you can’t solve all the world’s problems or afford to have the experts on everything on your payroll, so you need to know who to call on those occasions where you need their services.
  • We chose experience as the largest competence gear because it’s what gives all of us the opportunity to perfect our skills. It’s one thing to know how to ride a bike. A whole different thing to compete in the Tour de France! Practice, practice, practice!
  • Skill is what improves with practice, feedback from mentors, and increasing your knowledge. Think of skill as a balloon that continues to expand and take you to greater heights as you fill it from these sources.
  • You may take issue seeing knowledge as the smallest gear in our model but that’s okay. Remember our quote: When you don’t know what to do, you do what you know. We strongly suggest you continue to push the boundaries of what you know, so your skills continue to grow and your experience allows you to do things more efficiently.

We’re quite proud of our CFR team and its members. Want to check out our competencies? Read more about our team here, or get in touch with me at g.forget@connectingforresults.com.

By Gary Forget