Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

May 2022

Maturity Beyond Management

Recent conversations about change and technology with those who are directly implementing and interacting with what’s changing often flip past any purview of those who are looking for analytics because they drive more on outcomes, rather than outputs. Yet, these conversations also promote a kind of accountability in which certain outputs are a given and measurable.

For example, chatting w/a UX designer (friend) recently who is looking at professional/career paths which don’t include management and came to a damning thought - one can probably judge the maturity (or growing maturity) of an org for their ability to have and cultivate non-managerial paths which improve lines of business.

In that conversation, their attempts to get answers as to why things weren’t working based on the input and expectations they had needed something more than what they were intending to produce. There was a “ok, but what does this mean” aspect to their actions which was not getting answered.

For that conversation, we looked at longer-range goals which should happen as a result of their wants - what kind of life is shaped by being an experienced professional, and how would it turn into a wanted revenue or business generation unit for companies. Landing on the ladder steps of mentoring, investment, philanthropy, and more, a few types of roles began to make themselves evident.

Now, this conversation was focused towards a design professional, but the shape of the ladder may look similar across several knowledge-based industries:

  • Junior
  • Mid-Level
  • Senior/Lead
  • Director/Principal
  • VP/Fractional Executive
  • Trainer is a wildcard (they are more outside than inside in this ladder model)

In all of these cases, there are levels of inputs and outputs which should lead to approachable outcomes. For example, a mid-level researcher should not be counted on to interface with stakeholders often, but should be taking a curiosity/assignment level approach to learn how to do so. The senior/lead should be interacting with stakeholders much more often, hence the price of practice at the level before. This is what can be measured or reached for.

A mature organization should have a macro-level ladder similar to this accessible to all. This doesn’t mean the path is the same - for example, principals might be a lot less focused on one specific project or team, with intense engagements across several streams; not so for the director who’d be focused on few, with more balanced engagement across fewer streams.

This is just a piece of what’s been sitting in the mind regarding maturity which goes beyond making everyone a manager. There’s likely more to this. Much more.