- Small teams/ units of upto 15 people each;
- Leaders that are obligated to spend at least 30 minutes (one-on-one) with each of their team mates;
- Leaders that are invested in growing their people - having a fair idea of each team mate's career plan is advisable;
- Shared leadership for large teams -- if you aren't able to spend time 1-o-1 with all your team mates, then find a group of people that can provide leadership and divide the responsibility amongst them. Ensure that you spend time 1-o-1 with these "first-tier" leaders so that you can coach them through their experiences.
- Open channels of communication - people should have the opportunity to approach and talk to just about anyone in the organization, to make their work easier;
- A culture of two-way delegation;
- where team members can ask their leaders can do something;
- where the leader is happy to spend double the time in coaching someone on a task when they could have done it themselves -- this is growing and empowering people.
Challenges with Flatness
An interesting challenge with flatness however is creating career development framework that people can use as a map to grow themselves. The complication in retaining flatness comes when you develop a career development programme that is based on concepts of promotion and career bands. In the consulting industry this is pretty common as well, given that firms need to bill clients on basis of the people that actually deliver the service. For example, a popular consulting firm on their careers page define their five grades as:
- Senior Consultant;
- Managing Consultant;
- Principal and
- Vice President.
- A model such as this doesn't explictly count for ways to grow that are exclusive of promotions. Growth in its purest form includes picking up new skills, building expertise in a functional area and/or trying out various roles. A model as simplistic as this reduces growth to a movement between labels.
- A career banding model spurs employees to think comparatively. Questions you'll often hear are, "Why am a Y, when she is an X?" Usually there's never a convincing answer to this question, but HR fends it off in a manner they find appropriate.
- Not surprisingly, grades and career bands are the source of major heartburn in many companies and since compensation tends to get linked to such things, there's little surprise with the number of people that are dissatisfied with such a thing.
- Lastly a model such as this, though simplistic takes an effort to maintain and maintain fairly. As a result HR is overburdened with administrative processes over more processes and a huge amount of their time goes into ensuring that non-value-adding paper work gets filled out. As a consequence, the practice of annual performance appraisals over continuous feedback. Development centers over continuous learning. Performance Improvement Plans over mentorship and months of compliance audits over actually spending time with people and helping them really grow.
- Behavioural Competencies;
- Technical Competencies.
Goodbye Career Bands. Hello growth!
When I started working about a decade back, some wise professional explained Career Development to be of two types (which need not be exclusive of each other):
- Vertical Growth, wherein you gain expertise in a certain functional area.
- Horizontal Growth, wherein you get the opportunity to try out various roles.
- Execution Roles: Individual contributors with an execution focus. Don't undermine the importance of this roles. Top scientists, fighter pilots, brilliant developers, journalists and newsreaders, lawyers, doctors -- they all fall into this category.
- Team Leadership Roles: These individuals have the skill to facilitate small groups of people on a specific mission. They have a strong people focus and have the ability to coach them and grow them over a period of time.
- Management Roles:Managers have a strong results focus and have the ability to deal with and mitigate risks and to assure delivery. These individuals are skilled at growing revenue and/ or reducing costs and can keep an engine running for time immemorial!
- Strategist Roles:These roles are geared to look at the strategic growth of a company, account or portfolio. They are forward looking, they can see the forest beyond the trees and have a keen eye to recognise the need for change. These individuals are great at ideating, but not necessarily at executing.
- This model focusses on growth as a function of learning as against a function of the label you carry.
- This model allows you to think of the various career paths an individual can take through her time in an organisation, without the fear of having to start from scratch.
- This model values a top notch strategist just as much as an expert executor.
- Since it assumes growth as a function of learning, this model encourages flatness.
- Last, but not the least -- this model is an easy way to rate an individual's real value in an organisation and as a consequence, their compensation as well.