Tag Archives: level of work

What’s the Level of Work?

“Where do we start?” Eduardo asked.

“Where do you think we should start?” I replied.

“We are trying to measure Hector’s capability. Is he big enough for the role. That’s the goal of this session,” Eduardo established.

“So, what unit of measure have we talked about when it comes to defining the tasks involved in his job?”

“We talked about time span,” he said.

“And, what was the measure of the longest task in Hector’s job?”

“We said, one month. Hector is in charge of shipping, but it’s more than just getting freight out the door. He is responsible for proper crating, working with vendors to select the proper crating materials, collecting information about product damage in transit. It is really a big job. Some of the problems that have to be solved involve testing in-house, you know, crash testing and then field testing.

“So, I don’t think one month is accurate. I think, to be successful, the longest task is three months. It takes that long to solve some of the material damage issues in that department,” Eduardo concluded.

“Okay, three months is the longest task required. To be successful running the shipping area requires the ability to work three months into the future, without direction, using his own discretionary judgment?”

Eduardo nodded, “Yes, I need Hector to carry the ball the whole way. I may check up on him more frequently to see if he still has the ball, but I need him to supervise the resolution to some of these issues without me. If I really have to get involved, then Hector is not doing the necessary work.”

“So, success in the job requires a time span of three months?” I asked.


“That is step one. Firmly establishing the time span of the longest task, establishing the required time span for the role.

“Are you ready for step two? The next part is to measure Hector.”

Level of Work of a Team Lead?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I run a private industrial disaster recovery business. We respond to natural disasters and clean up the mess. We are very hierarchical, but I am having difficulty understanding the level of work in the teams that we dispatch.

Is it possible to have a supervisor in stratum level one? For example, we deploy teams of three people consisting of two technicians and a team captain. The two technicians are obviously working at S-I, one or two day time span, while the team captain works on a day to week at the most. The team captain directs the activities of the two technicians, but is he their manager?

We have several three person teams supervised by a single Project Manager. The Project Manager role, for us, includes team member selection, coordination of support resources, equipment, machinery, consumables as well as training for technicians and team captains. Our Project Manager clearly works at S-II, 3-12 month time span.

My question is, what is the level of work for the Team Leader?


You describe a classic case of a First Line Manager Assistant (FLMA). Elliott was very specific about this role. You are correct that the role is an S-I role and illustrates that within a single stratum level of work, we have different levels of work, illustrated below –

S-II – Project Manager, supervision and coordination, manager of the entire S-I team.
S-I-Hi – Team Captain, directs on-site, assigns tasks, but is not the manager of the team.
S-I-Med – Technician, works under the on-site direction of the Team Leader
S-I-Lo – Technician trainee

This works for project teams, deployed field units, multi-shift operations where the S-II Project Manager or Supervisor is not physically present at all times. The First Line Manager Assistant (FLMA) has limited authority to direct activity and assign tasks within the larger authority of the S-II Supervisor. The FLMA has recommending authority for advancement and compensation, but those decisions remain with the S-II Supervisor.

Level of Work Required in a Sales Role

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

We need to hire someone in a sales role. You said in your workshop that we need to identify the level of work. What’s the level of work in a sales role?

The consultant’s answer is always, it depends.

But, it depends on something very specific. The level of work will depend of the length of your sales cycle.

Level I – Time-span (1 day – 3 months)
Short sales cycles can be effectively maintained by trained order takers. Level I sales roles can be found in catalogue call centers, counter sales and sales oriented customer service centers.

Level II – Time-span (3 – 12 months)
Sales work at Level II is found in longer sales cycle projects, where building relationships is important. This sales work consists of prospecting for new customers, qualifying prospective customers, gathering customer needs according to a checklist, matching products to customer needs, making presentations, negotiating and closing the sale. On the customer side, the counterpart to Level II sales work would be the purchasing agent.

Level III – Time-span (1 – 2 years)
Decisions in business to business purchases often require additional input. While the buying criteria for most purchasing agents is price, the Level III buyer, sometimes a specifying engineer, is more concerned about function. Interacting with a Level III buyer may require the capability of a Level III sales person, a product engineer. Sales work at this level is more concerned with needs analysis, product match and application. Sales functions like prospecting may be delegated to sales team members at Level II.

Level IV – Time-span (2-5 years)
Occasionally the buying decision involves product functionality that integrates with other systems that exist in the customer organization. The Level II purchasing agent is concerned about price. The Level III specifying engineer is concerned about function. The Level IV buyer is concerned about how the product or service will integrate with other systems in the company. Sales cycles greater than two years may require Level IV capability to understand the complexities of how the product or service integrates into customer systems. A primary accountability for this level of work in the selling company will be feedback loops into research and product or service development. Examples of Level IV sales roles exist in pharmaceuticals, automobile components, electronic components, large scale construction projects, international logistics, financial instruments and insurance products. -Tom

Transition from S-II Supervisor to S-III Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I read, with interest, your description of the transition from a lead technician (S-I) to a supervisor (S-II). I find myself in the same situation. I was in a supervisory role (S-II) for the past six years, and now find myself in a managerial role (S-III), as a manager to a team of five supervisors, each with their own team. As a supervisor, when I struggled, I went to my manager. Now, I am the manager.

Not only are you, now, no longer doing the production work, you are no longer directly implementing the day to day, week to week or month to month production schedules, you are now a manager (S-III) of first-line managers (S-II).

You are still committed to two central questions, pace and quality, but your time orientation is, now, much longer. Yours is a system focus.

Take the concerns at S-II and change the outlook from 3-12 months to 12-24 months.

S-II – Right technician assigned to the right project (3-12 months).
S-III – Build a team of technicians, accounting for the lead time from entry level to working competence, so, when a technician is needed, there is a competent team member ready to step in. Workforce planning (12-24 months).

S-II – Safe working environment, proper safety equipment (3-12 months)
S-III – Create systems of safety, begin with a prevailing mindset of safety. Create a safety curriculum, including policies, procedures, initial and recurrent training programs. Track those training programs to ensure that all personnel receive effective and appropriate training. Review safety metrics to adjust the safety program (system) to be continuously more effective. Review, recommend, approve and implement safety budgets for equipment, to ensure organizational competence to safety related matters (12-24 months).

S-II – Right training for the right skill required by the project (3-12 months).
S-III – Identify necessary skills training, select appropriate training programs, both internal and outsourced. Assess the effectiveness (metrics) of those programs and adjust the training system (12-24 months).

S-II – Right tools used by the technicians required for the project (3-12 months).
S-III – Review, recommend and approve budgets and acquisition of appropriate (state of the art) tools, including capital budgets for equipment investments (12-24 months).

S-II – Right materials, in sufficient quantity, to be used for the project (3-12 months).
S-III – Material contracts with suppliers, negotiate favorable discounts and terms. Identifying critical order quantities, lead times and stock to meet production volume based on sales forecasts (12-24 months).

S-II – Right equipment, in working order, properly maintained, to be used for the project (3-12 months).
S-III – Review, recommend and implement annual and capital budgets for equipment. Anticipate end-of-life for existing equipment, improvements in technology and capacity to meet production volume based on sales forecasts (12-24 months).

Work Environment
S-II – Conducive environment, proper lighting, working height (3-12 months).
S-III – Work flow layout, time and motion studies, sequence of production, system constraints and strategic constraint (12-24 months).

S-II – Corrective feedback for mistakes and positive reinforment for performance (3-12months).
S-III – Conduct effective coaching 1-1s with supervisory team, model coaching sessions, set context. Ensure that supervisory team conducts effective coaching sessions with production team. Act as manager-once-removed to production team, review training, assess capability for advancement, set context.

All of these issues have long term impact on pace and quality. Your tools are no longer simple schedules and checklists, but work flow diagrams, schematics, time and motion studies, sequencing and planning.

As a supervisor (S-II), you relied on best-practice solutions to identified problems. As a manager (S-III) you will be asked to solve problems that have not been solved before. You will employ root cause or comparative analysis to examine difficult problems, to generate solutions based on cause and effect.

The value-add at this level of work is consistency and predictability. As a supervisor (S-II), it was your role to make sure that production was accurate, complete and on-time. As a manager (S-III), it is your role to ensure that the product or service is effectively delivered, AND that delivery was completed efficiently, yielding a reasonable (consistent and predictable) profit for the time, effort and resources required.

Welcome to the world at Stratum III. -Tom

How to Interview for Passion for Work at S-III

Before we can interview for interest and passion, we have to define the work. It’s always about the work.

Most S-III roles are system roles, building systems that don’t solve problems, but prevent them. The tools at S-III are work flow diagrams, time and motion studies, schematics, sequencing and planning. The role is typically the manager of a functional team (marketing, sales, business development, estimating, operations, QA/QC, warranty, research and development, HR, legal). Longest time span goals and objectives would be 12 months – 16 months – 20 months – 24 months. Learning would include analytic. Highest level problem solving would include root cause and comparative analysis. Value-add to the organization is consistency and predictability. It is the role at S-III to create the system, monitor the system, constantly improve the system. One of the most important systems at S-III is the people system inside the function.

Managerial roles at S-III are accountable for the output of the team at S-II.

Given a large customer problem, the central question for the S-III manager is, why didn’t our system prevent that problem, or at least, mitigate the damage from that problem.

Interview questions –

  • The purpose of these next questions is to look at some of the systems you built and how you built them. Tell me about a project you were accountable for, containing several steps, that was similar to other projects you completed in the past?
  • What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • Using this project as an example, tell me about a system you created to solve its problems and make its decisions?
  • What were the circumstances in the project that lead you to create a system?
  • Step me through the system that you created?
  • How did you communicate the steps in the system to the team?
  • How did you test the steps in the system to make sure they were in the best sequence?
  • During the project, did any of the steps in the system change?
  • When steps in the system changed, how did you track the changes and modify the system?
  • When the project was totally complete, what parts of the system could be applied to other projects?
  • Think about the next project where that system was useful?
  • What was the project, why was that project a candidate to use the same system?
  • What modifications did you have to make to the system, so it had a positive impact of this next project?
  • How did you document the modification to the system?
  • How was this system important to the effectiveness of your functional team?
  • Tell me about another system you created related to a project in your company?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

How to Interview for Passion at S-I Level of Work
How to Interview for Passion at S-II Level of Work

Level of Work and Promotions

“So, Phillip can handle tasks with a one month time span, but falls short on tasks with a longer time span,” Joyce confirmed.

“So, what does that tell you about his role? You told me that you promoted him to Warehouse Manager. Based on the level of work in the role, is that appropriate for Phillip?” I asked.

Joyce knew the answer, so her hesitation was from reluctance. “No. Now it begins to make sense. What we expect from a Manager, even the Warehouse Manager requires a Time Span of twelve months. Phillip is not even close.”

“So, if you had determined the level of work before the promotion, you might have done something differently?” I prompted.

“Absolutely. When I look at Time Span, it becomes so obvious that his promotion was a bone-headed decision.”

“And who was responsible for that bone-headed decision?”

“That would be me,” Joyce replied.
Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

How Big is Your Story?

Sitting across the table, I could tell Brett was thinking.

“Brett, let me ask you, how big is your story?”

“What?” he replied.

“How big is your story?” I repeated. “You are building a department inside this company. How big is your story?”

“Well, the company has been pretty successful, so far. We are holding our own against competitors. Lots of market opportunity.”

“So, how big is your story? You see, Brett, the bigger your story, the higher the level of work. The higher the level of work, the more you will depend on finding competent people. The most important decision you will make, as a manager, is who to hire. The people you hire will make you successful or will be the crucible of your downfall. The bigger your story, the more critical this decision.”

Brett continued to stare.

“As a manager in this organization, you are writing a story of the future. The people you cast into the roles of your story will determine its ending, intentional, or otherwise.”

Decoding the Level of Work in the Role

—We do most of our web testing in the background where you can’t see it, and, some of you received an errant message on Sat called Test Post Number Three. It was a mistake, a dangling participle in a test queue. We apologize for additional traffic in your INBOX, though we got some very creative responses.—

I am working with a company struggling with role descriptions related to defining the Level of Work in the role. The group is working with one of my templates (ask, and I will send it to you). Level of Work is calibrated by defining the Time Span of the work. Defining the Time Span of a project is pretty easy, just follow the timeline WHAT, by WHEN and you will have the Time Span.

Operational work is a bit more difficult, where the work continues and repeats. What is the Level of Work in operational work? The central question is – What is the time span of discretion on the part of the team member. In my book Hiring Talent, I compiled a list of ten questions to help answer that question. Each question reveals a clue. The source for these questions is Elliott Jaques’ Time Span Handbook, which Elliott wrote to answer this question.

Before you get to the questions, remember the answers are only clues to Time Span of discretion. The actual Time Span of discretion is left to the judgment of the manager. This means, the manager decides the Time Span in the role. The manager decides the Level of Work in the role.

  1. What is the role title?
  2. What are the general responsibilities in the role?
  3. How is work assigned to the team member?
  4. How often is work assigned to the team member?
  5. When a work assignment is completed, how does the manager know?
  6. When a work assignment is completed, how does the team member know what to work on next? (Time Span of discretion)
  7. Who reviews or inspects the work completed?
  8. How often is the work reviewed or inspected?
  9. Does the team member have the authority to do additional work, before the current completed work is inspected?
  10. Does the team member work on multiple work assignments at the same time?

In Hiring Talent, I prepared four interviews (S-I, S-II, S-III, S-IV) to illustrate responses which you might hear from each Level of Work.

Your thoughts?

Why Is Nancy So Slow?

“I knew this would happen,” Javier smiled from his chair in the conference room. “Not a big deal. Roger, when you came to me and said you needed five hours per week of accounting support, I knew you had no idea how much work it really was. You said, five hours, so I assigned Nancy, one of our staff accountants, to your project. She has a lot of other work to do in our accounting department, but I knew she would get a handle on things and report back to me on your project.”

“Yes, but, now, I need Nancy for ten hours,” Roger complained. “And, she said she couldn’t give me ten hours.”

“I know,” Javier calmly replied. “Nancy came back to me with a breakdown of the work. You need a couple of hours to code all your paperwork to the right expense accounts on your project, then some time to put that data into our computer accounting system, then about twenty minutes to proof and reconcile the output for the week. And, you are right, if Nancy was going to do all the work, it would likely take ten hours.”

“But, she said she couldn’t give me ten hours. If my project is getting a service from the accounting department, how is this going to work?”

“I talked to Nancy. She is going to do the up-front coding and she is going to proof the output, so she is only going to spend three hours on your project. And, we have a data entry clerk who can bang all those transactions into the computer system in another three hours. This data entry specialist is like lightening on a keyboard. We will still get all your work done, but it will probably only take six hours instead of ten.”

“Why is Nancy so slow on the data entry part?” Roger wanted to know.

“Nancy doesn’t practice on data entry. Her level of work requires judgment to connect the right expenses to the right account codes in our accounting system. It’s a different level of work than data entry. If your project was smaller, I would have Nancy do all the work including the data entry, but your project is bigger than you thought, so we are going to bring in a data entry clerk. That clerk just has to accurately get the data into the computer, there is very little judgment required.”

________S-II – Coding, proofing, reconciling. (Nancy)
____S-I – Data entry. (Data entry clerk)

It Doesn’t Matter What Department

From Outbound Air

“It doesn’t matter what department,” Frank added. “The level of work is that same whether it’s clerical, baggage handling or customer service work. They have different skills but the time span of their tasks is in the same range.”

“Wait, you are telling me that a baggage handler is the same level of work as customer service?” Catherine challenged.

“Within the range,” Johnny replied. “We talked all night about this one. At first blush, you might think that a baggage handler isn’t very high up on the food chain. But think about the discretionary judgment that team has to use. They have problems to solve and decisions to make as they maneuver portable conveyors in and around multi-million dollar aircraft. What happens if they misjudge and push a machine one inch into the skin of an airplane? Or if they fail to fasten a baggage door? Or if they are careless about the way cargo and equipment is secured inside the belly? Remember ValuJet?”

The somber reference to the 1996 airline disaster that killed 110 aboard fell over the group.