Growing People: A Thought Piece
Designers, like many other professionals, rely on career leveling or ladders to guide their growth within their organizations. These guidelines provide structure and a sense of direction for designers and design organizations to follow. However, when developing these guidelines, it’s essential to consider more than just industry standards. I am using “designers” as an example, as currently I am supporting the design org. These ideas should apply to any discipline. The core focus is how to grow people despite what discipline they are in.
In the past, i exclusively talked about how to focus on individuals and how to develop people based on personal strength. In this post, I am zooming out to look at what we need to understand that is outside our own space. The elements that are outside our own space have a profound impact on how we can develop the best self.
Two key elements to consider when creating career leveling for designers are organizational context and individual growth.
Organizational context refers to how organizations and other groups design their leveling and how they align with industry-standard leveling guides, job profile guidelines, and overall organizational capability requirements. By considering these factors, designers can ensure that their career growth aligns with their organization’s goals and capabilities.
Examples of organizational context
Think about the type of organization your org is. In Goffee and Jones’ culture model, they define the org by sociability and solidarity.
Sociability is a measure of friendliness and emotional relations between the individual members of a group, while solidarity is a measure of the group’s ability to effectively achieve common goals (Goffee & Jones, 1996).
Source: Goffee and Jones’ culture model. (Adapted from: Goffee and Jones, 1996)
For example, Networked org: A networked organization has high sociability but low solidarity. This highly social culture manifests in the shared experiences people have with each other, from birthdays to lunches. Cliques and friend groups form quickly, and nepotism flourishes. Low solidarity manifests in the low commitment to the organization’s objectives, and conflict can arise when determining priorities. If we intentionally design the leveling guide, we can consider to add requirement promote “Get your work to the finish line” collaboration and measurement to encourage aligning to org OKR such as “plays a key role in ensuring Product Development meets corporate milestones in the fastest and most effective way possible.”
Note here that an organization can and will change over time. For example, as a start-up company matures, it can move from a Networked company to a Fragmented company or even become a mercenary company.
It is knowing your org!
Individual growth needs
Individual growth is also essential to consider when creating career leveling for designers. Only some senior individual contributors want to move to a management track, and only some designers want to specialize in interactive design or research. By identifying fundamental necessary skills versus particular areas where individuals want to grow, designers can create a personalized career path that aligns with their interests and goals.
At the core of this approach is the idea of leaving room for individuals to identify and grow in their chosen areas. We can visualize this approach using a rose chart, with the center representing the fundamental necessary skills and the petals representing the areas individuals want to develop. Potentially, even carve out a specific area for the ICs to identify and develop. They are passionate about this skill and eventually will become the experts in this area on the team. I encourage this approach as it promotes diversity and will strengthen the overall skills of the team.
By creating a personalized career path that balances organizational context with individual growth, individual contributors can achieve their full potential and contribute to their organization’s success. I have worked with DesignShot to create a specific course that went in depth about how to develop individuals and, specifically, how to get into the DesignOps field. Following the same thought, I am giving a talk at DesignOps LA this month focusing on personal growth and development. You can also read a high-level description here.
In conclusion, growing people in a thoughtful and intentional way requires more than just following industry standards. By considering organizational context and individual growth, designers can create a personalized career path that aligns with their interests and goals. This approach provides room for individuals to identify and grow in their chosen areas, ultimately benefiting both the individual and the organization as a whole.
Definition of these four types:
- Fragmented: A fragmented organization has low sociability and low solidarity. People who are part of this culture do not feel any form of membership towards the organization. For example, doctors and surgeons may not feel tied to their organization; rather, their identity lies in the occupation itself. Leaders in these cultures may struggle to make changes because of the lack of sociability and solidarity within the organization.
- Networked: A networked organization has high sociability but low solidarity. This highly social culture manifests in the shared experiences people have with each other, from birthdays to lunches. Cliques and friend groups form quickly, and nepotism flourishes. Low solidarity manifests in the low commitment to the organization’s objectives, and conflict can arise when trying to determine priorities.
- Mercenary: A mercenary organization has low sociability but high solidarity. Communication in this type of culture is focused on the organization and how to achieve the organization’s objectives. There is a culture of high performance but low levels of loyalty to fellow employees.
- Communal: A communal organization has high sociability and high solidarity. People have a significant (and at times exaggerated) sense of organizational identity. An example of this would be a start-up, or a tech company such as Google, where employees refer to themselves as “Googlers” (Abadi, 2018). Social events are crucial to maintaining the highly sociable culture in the organization. Additionally, there is clear solidarity in the organisation’s goals and objectives, which all relate to the purpose of the organization.
Source: Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones Harvard Business School, © 1996
Copyright © 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Cover photo credit: unsplash