Flat organizations can be great. (Read more about flattening here.) They put more people against the actual work of the company, and prevent unnecessary bureaucracy from forming around the products of the organization. But they don’t solve for progression.
Undercurrent’s work is VERY flat. Our people are not differentiated much by output: at the end of the day the things we’re paid for are all findings, insights, and recommended actions, just delivered at varying levels of fidelity. When differentiation does occur, it’s usually along nuanced lines. A senior team member may have only two more years of experience than a junior team member, but they’ve seen more patterns, have a richer capacity for convincing a client, and probably a more finely tuned ability to integrate disparate ideas.
Around two years ago (in 2011), we realized that we needed to provide clarity around progression at UC and in the broader context of individual careers. For a variety of factors — one being that we hire entrepreneurial, inquisitive, ambitious types — we were getting a lot of questions about what comes next at UC. What’s required to make Senior Strategist? When should I expect a raise? What do I need to do to get better? How do the skills I’m building here contribute to my story as an individual?
👆 One of the first versions of the SMM. We created four levels of “Skills” that corresponded roughly to levels of achievement at UC, and then built out (really rough) maturity levels for each skill. Page 1 of three.
As strategists, we figured the best way to solve these questions was with a framework. What follows is a description of the Undercurrent Skills Maturity Matrix (SMM). And while it’s not perfect by any means — we’re still working on it — it’s proven helpful for a number of user types, from Strategists to Managers to Clients.