What Happened to the "Ladder"?

Generations have grown up thinking in terms of "climbing the corporate ladder." This new organizational model throws the obsolete ladder away. And it takes awhile for some people to understand how advancement works in this new dynamic of self-directed teams.

It's sometimes scary to realize there's no "mommy or daddy" (department heads) to approve the work. (Father doesn’t know best. The team does!)

It takes time for associates to realize that this model rewards their successes by giving them more direct client contact, more interesting projects, more internal recognition and increased compensation. Plus, it doesn’t move them 'up a ladder" into a position they may not be suited for.

Here's how it's worked in the advertising business for decades: A talented art director is rewarded for creating distinctive designs by being promoted to Creative Director. A creative director must manage people. Most art directors I know are not people leaders or managers. They are craftspeople. They are now miserable because they're doing too much of what they don't do well, and they're doing less of what they do well. That's a promotion?!

In the same spirit, great architects, lawyers and doctors may be better off focusing on their craft, rather than being "promoted" to manage other craftsmen. Promotions to management, as a result of being a good craftsman is often an excellent example of The Peter Principle: the effect of being promoted one level above your capabilities or interests.

Self-directed teams (operating in a full-feedback environment) eliminate this problem.