Individual Technical Contributors and Levels of Work

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Attended your workshop last week. I understand Levels of Work related to a manufacturing business model, but we are a financial services firm. How do we approach Levels of Work in our company. We simply don’t have Stratum I production workers. In fact, our producers have to help people make decisions that will impact their lives 10 years, 20 years down the road.

Financial services, attorneys, CPAs, architectural firms, engineering firms all share a similar approach to Levels of Work. Indeed, production work in professional services often rises to Stratum II, III, IV or higher. For a more specific discussion on Levels of Work in a CPA firm, you can visit this post.

But your question leads me to a more general discussion of Levels of Work from individual technical contributors. In the workshop you attended, we focused on Levels of Work in a manufacturing business model. That model illustrates the following managerial roles –

  • Stratum I – Production
  • Stratum II – Supervisor
  • Stratum III – Manager
  • Stratum IV – VP
  • Stratum V – Business Unit President

But, in professional service firms, there are individual technical contributors whose capability, Level of Work, may land in any of these Stratum, depending on the complexity of the problems to be solved and the decisions to be made. I find it interesting that you easily made the leap in your question, that you have individual technical contributors helping people make decisions that will impact their lives 10 years and 20 years down the road.

Time Span gives us critical insight into the capability required for these technical roles. Indeed, these technical roles may not manage other people, but, rather, manage the uncertainty of technical projects into the future.

So, yes, your production work in financial services, is most likely Stratum II, III, IV or above. And it likely depends on the age of your customer, your customer’s own Time Span capability, even the size of the estate.

Making simple decisions inside a young employees 401(k) plan is quite different than the complexity of the decisions to be made where trusts (revocable or irrevocable) and other large estate decisions must be made.

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