Want Business Agility? Rethink Your Easy Career Ladders, Part 4

You want business agility. The teams have worked hard to change how they work. And you realize your current career ladder isn't working for you—or the people you serve. The people and teams continue to experiment with agile behaviors. You would like more lateral, not just vertical options to support any person's growth.

What can you do for your career ladder?

I normally say, “Start with yourself.” However, unless you have the total power to change the career ladder, that won't work. Instead, since the career ladder affects everyone, start with a small team who can solve this problem together—your peer management team.

Enlist Your Peer Management Team

Every team's agile journey is unique. So is each manager's agile journey. Consider having a conversation like this:

  1. Gain agreement on the problem: “I've noticed that we don't have enough options for people to experiment with the careers, especially now that we're asking people to stretch all their skills. Anyone else notice that?”
  2. Who agrees with you? If everyone agrees this is a problem to solve,  jump to 3.
    1. Who disagrees with you? Listen very carefully to why they disagree. They might have valuable information.
    2. If some people aren't sure, they might not be as far along in their agile journey.
  3. Ask this question: “Who wants to work with me on defining a strawman career ladder for discussion? I think it will take a couple of hours of work total before we return to discuss it.” See who wants to work with you. (I recommend a working group of 3-5 people. More people might be hard to wrangle in terms of meeting time and agreement.

Now, feel free to take the suggestions I offered in Part 3 and go forth and conquer.

At some point, you'll have to enlist HR and your senior leadership.

Enlist HR

Feedback LoopsIf you're lucky, your HR department is already thinking in ways I described in the Agile HR series. And unless you work with an HR person consistently, they don't know how to create the various ladders.

That's because the HR people don't know which behaviors you want to amplify and which behaviors to damp.

You or your peer management team will need to educate HR.

The HR people I've met are not stupid. However, too few of them understand the (agile) behaviors we need to reinforce.

Talk with your HR person or people. Educate them. Then, enlist them in changing the career ladder.

HR might be able to manage the senior management interactions. More likely, you'll have to make the case to senior management, too.

Make the Case to Senior Management

While every senior management team differs, here are ways I've found to influence them, with quantitative and qualitative data:

  • Explain the economic impact of any change. These folks have to manage the organization's cash flow. They worry about fixed and variable expenses. Make sure you know how the career ladder does or does not change that.
  • Make sure they understand that a lateral move might not affect salaries at all.
  • Clarify how people might be more engaged if they can create their own careers.
  • Explain how business agility can benefit from people with broader skills.

ReinforcingloopoflearnandworkThose broader skills allow the team to learn and deliver more often.

Sometimes, the team delivers experiments, and sometimes they deliver finished product. However, the more the team can learn together, the better off everyone is.

Even though you can see how a more agile career ladder can help everyone, you might not be able to do this fast. You might need patience.

Manage Your Patience

I'm not very patient. With any luck, you are more patient than I am.

Even if you can't move from the simple and easy career ladder to a more agile career ladder fast, you can work with the people you serve to progress.

Ask people where they want to increase their skills. Find opportunities for them to practice. You don't need an agile career ladder already in place to serve people.

Start where you are and continue.

The more you want business agility, the more you'll examine all your processes and procedures. The career ladder is just one.

If you use these ideas, please let me know what you changed. Thanks.

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