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How to Create a Career Ladder for Real People: Vertical & Lateral Movement

How to Create a Career Ladder for Real People: Vertical & Lateral Movement

Many career ladders assume that people have linear careers. They move “up” to a new role. However, many people don’t have linear careers. They bounce between a technical role and management—often several times. Even after they bounce, they might not make a permanent career decision. Worse, most career ladders nudge technical people into management. Instead of pushing people “up” into management, why not support people as they experiment in their career, such as “over” to a different role?

Johanna Rothman

May 13, 2021

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  1. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Current Career Ladder Problems •

    Only go in one direction: Up • But many people have non-linear careers • Few organizations have effective parallel tracks • Many senior people become “managers” because they get more money • Based on personal “deliverables” (achievements) instead of team-based deliverables 2
  2. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman “Personal” Deliverables Drive Rewards •

    How many principal or consulting engineer slots does your organization have? • Many fewer than the manager roles • The only real way to move up/more money is to take a management role. 3
  3. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Lewin’s Equation: B= f (P,E)

    • Each person’s Behavior is a function of the Person and their Environment • Most performance “problems” arise from the environment • Environment is all of: • How the team works, separately or together • How safe the people on the team feel to discuss their concerns and challenges. • The physical location and how the person and team use that location. • How much trust the team members offer each other. • How organization policies and procedures help the team perform their work. 4
  4. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Problems with a “Dual” Track

    • Two losses: • Team loses a great technical contributor • Person might not want management, so might not want to be a manager • Too few people realize management is a career change 5
  5. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Personal Deliverables: Anti-Agility • Bold

    statement: No one works alone on any product • Especially not on an agile team 6
  6. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Solo Achievements Ignore Agile System

    • Agility: • Short feedback loops • Learn together • Team works together in flow efficiency 7
  7. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Flow Efficiency Shortens Feedback Loops

    • Resource efficiency slows work • You wait for the next piece of work. • Work queues behind experts. • When we optimize for individual busy-ness, we slow the team • When teams work in flow efficiency, they finish as fast as possible. 8
  8. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Consider: How Does Your Team

    Work Now? • As individuals (resource efficiency) • As sub-teams inside the team (flow efficiency?) • As an entire team (flow efficiency) • We need people from outside the team (resource efficiency) 9
  9. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman How your team works now

    reflects the culture of your organization 10
  10. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Culture • Team culture •

    Department culture • Organizational culture • HR creates the organizational culture with the reward system 11
  11. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Change Our Language • From

    “Individual Contributor” to “Team Member” • From “Resources” to “People • Humans are resourceful people • Move the culture of the organization to a team-oriented approach • Including management cohorts 14
  12. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Career Ladders Serve Several Purposes

    • Where to hire a person into the organization? • When to promote someone • Criteria for the behaviors you want to reinforce and reduce 16
  13. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman (Agile) Behaviors to Reinforce •

    Collaboration to learn and deliver together • Feedback and coaching (to create psychological safety) • Ability to ask for help • Experimentation (to increase learning speed and feedback loops) • Adaptability • Influence (not coercion) 17
  14. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Consider Which +/- Behaviors 18

    More of Less of Any “More of?” Any “Less of?” Collaboration Heroics Listening Rescue people Receive & Offer feedback and coaching Know-it-all Big design up front Ask for help Work solo Blaming Experimentation Inflict help Unwanted advice Adaptability Unending meetings Influence
  15. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Three Key Areas for Collaboration

    & Influence • Technical Ladder: • Code and product across team, extending to the organization • Solution-space domain expertise • Product-Focused Ladder: • Facilitate the team(s), either directly or through the product • Problem-space domain expertise • People Leadership • Focus on the culture • Industry, customer expertise • When we clarify the areas of leadership, we can create a jungle gym for a ladder 20
  16. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman What About “Technical Leaders?” •

    IME, technical leaders focus on code-based leadership, often through influence 22
  17. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Influence • When we show:

    • Competence • Which expertise expressed as outcomes? • Trustworthiness • Build small wins every day • And we build rapport • Base influence on: • Mutually agreeable outcomes • Short- and Long-term objectives 23
  18. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Code- and Product-Focused Influence •

    We can always control our actions • When we collaborate with others, we expand our influence • How much do we work inside the team, across teams, and across the organization? 24
  19. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman What Technical Influence Might Look

    Like • Primarily code- and product-based leadership • Collaboration inside the team and across teams (pair, mob, …) • Model asking for help & experimentation • Inside the team (technical lead) to entire organization (architect) • Architects participate with the team(s) • Technical facilitation (coaching and feedback) • Solution-space domain expertise • What did I miss for influence? 25
  20. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman What Product Influence Might Look

    Like • Team, product, and organizational process issues • How to support team’s collaboration (cycle time, item aging) • How teams work (not specifics, but the facilitation) • Influence the way team, product and organization uses agile approach • Problem-space domain expertise • What did I miss for influence? 26
  21. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman What People-Based Influence Might Look

    Like • Create and reinforce the culture: • What people can discuss • How people treat each other • What the org rewards • Guidelines and constraints for actions • Industry expertise (why, who, to set the overarching goal for the org) • What did I miss for influence? 27
  22. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Leadership Influence Circles • The

    more you exert your leadership, the more influence you have • The circles “collapse”— you have more total influence • Leadership defines and refines the culture • What people can discuss • How they treat each other • What the org rewards 28
  23. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Why Influence Can Work •

    You can influence if you: • Build rapport with other people • Show your competence • Work together • Achieve shared goals and achievements 29
  24. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Encourage People to Move Across

    • When we encourage people to move across, they can experiment • When people experiment, they tend to have more empathy with others • More we encourage people to experiment, the more well-rounded people might be 30
  25. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Consider These Possibilities • Create

    at least three tracks in your current ladders • Move from “up” thinking to “over” thinking • Rethink achievements via influence: • How the person helps/supports/ facilitates others: the team, product, organization • Who would you need to talk with first? 31
  26. © 2021 Johanna Rothman @johannarothman Let’s Stay in Touch •

    The books: • https://www.jrothman.com/mmme • https://www.jrothman.com/hiring • Blog series: https:// www.jrothman.com/careerladder • Pragmatic Manager newsletter: www.jrothman.com/pragmaticmanager • Please link with me on LinkedIn 32