Tag Archives: stratum

Pay Banding

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Yesterday, you talked about compensation and referred to pay bands. I think I know about pay banding, so how does that relate to Levels of Work?

Levels of Work, as described by Elliott Jaques in Requisite Organization, provides a logical framework for pay banding. Here’s the framework.

Stratum V roles (Longest Time Span tasks ranging from 5 years to 10 years)
Stratum IV roles (Longest Time Span tasks ranging from 2 years to 5 years)
Stratum III roles (Longest Time Span tasks ranging from 1 year to 2 years)
Stratum II roles (Longest Time Span tasks ranging from 3 months to 1 year)
Stratum I roles (Longest Time Span tasks ranging from 1 day to 3 months)

Pay Banding, as a concept, slices each Stratum range into six segments (or eight segments, or four segments, but I like six). Entry level pay in each Stratum role would define starting pay for that Level of Work. Six segments up the Time Span range in that Stratum would define the highest pay for that Level of Work.

Pay banding provides a structure to design predictable Fair Compensation inside each Stratum, leaving the Team Member’s Manager and Manager-Once-Removed (MOR) discretionary latitude to make compensation decisions inside defined guidelines.

Can’t Put a Schedule Together

Morgan was complaining. “You have been talking about checklists and schedules as the core tools for Project Managers and Supervisors. It just doesn’t seem that hard. Why doesn’t my lead technician get it? I have showed him how to create a schedule a dozen times.”

“Morgan, it’s not just a matter of training. Supervising and Project Management are clearly Strata II roles. A lead technician role is more likely Stratum I.” I could see Morgan was struggling with this.

“But, if I take my lead technician, why can’t he seem to put a schedule together?” Morgan was pushing back.

“Morgan, a lead technician likely has experience, best machine operator you have, yet may only be capable of running his machine in an expert way. You are asking him to think about coordinating other people.

“The time span required for a supervisor is longer. And the story doesn’t end with just scheduling. Scheduling responsibilities may only require a two or three week time span, but there’s more. Supervisors must also think about building bench strength, recruiting technicians, training technicians, testing technical competence, cross-training. For a supervisor to be successful, I usually look for a minimum three month time span. The supervisor needs to be able to work into the future, without direction, using their own discretionary judgment, on tasks that may take three months or more to complete.”

Collins and Jaques

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I have to set this up, because the source of this discussion began in January of this year. On this site, under Organizational Models, I listed a specific reference to Jim Collins and his take on organizational layers.

  • Level 5 – Level 5 Executive
  • Level 4 – Effective Leader
  • Level 3 – Competent Manager
  • Level 2 – Contributing Team Member
  • Level 1 – Highly Capable Individual

What makes this question special is that it was posed by Herb Koplowitz. Herb is a contributing editor to the Global Organization Design Society, a deep, international resource on organizational design, based in large part on the research of Elliott Jaques.

This is Part 1 of 5 in a series.

I didn’t read Collins’ levels as layers, but as personality fit to being a good manager. (He actually describes behaviors and then ascribes them to the manager as though ones manager has nothing to do with ones behavior.) Please explain how you see Collins’ levels as relating to Jaques’ strata. What is Stratum I about being a capable individual, what is Stratum II about being a contributing team member?

Since 2003, I have conducted more than 300 workshops for more than 3,500 CEOs, sharing the research of Elliott Jaques. By a show of hands, I always ask, who has any exposure to this research. Over the years, less than 100 have raised their hands.

“Next question,” I ask, “Who has read Good to Great, by Jim Collins?” Almost 100 percent have read, own a copy of the book and memorized that most famous bus analogy, right people, right seats.

I look at Collins, not because he is the best place to start, but because his book is a familiar touchstone in the room.

I didn’t piece some of this together until I was working with an independent school district in Detroit. Their organization, mildly different from manufacturing, held roles like superintendents, principals and teachers. There was interest to look at Requisite Organization to see how it might help in understanding the accountability and authority tied to each role.

And everyone in the room was familiar with Good to Great.

Collins provides a chart depicting his framework of Level Five Leadership. His focus in the book was on Level V, leaving us with only brief descriptions of the levels of work below. Rather than pick them apart, I looked for intersection, to see where Jaques could be instructive and helpful in understanding each level described by Collins.

Level V – Level V Leadership
Level IV – Effective Leader
Level III – Competent Manager
Level II – Contributing Team Member
Level I – Individual Contributor

Level 1Collins – Individual Contributor. When I think about the decisions at Stratum I (Requisite Organization), most of those decisions fall to pace and quality.

  • In my role, given my work instructions, am I working fast enough to complete the task within the time span allotted?
  • At that pace, is the output of my work within the quality standards set by my manager?

That is my accountability.

My authority is to adjust my work-pace and attention-to-quality to meet the task assignment. My authority is to judge whether I can meet the pace and quality set by my manager, and if not, then it is my accountability to tell my manager. It is all about me and my work, with the longest Time Span task assignments landing between one day and three months.

Tomorrow, we will look at Collins-Contributing Team Member and Jaques-Stratum II.

Evidence, Not Hope

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

How do you un-do some internal promotions that probably shouldn’t have happened? The person is just not effective in their new Stratum III role?

Troubleshooting effectiveness in a role can be traced to one of these four factors –

  • Capability
  • Skill
  • Interest (Value for the work)
  • Reasonable Behavior

I rely on the manager’s judgment to determine which of the factors may be in play. In my Time Span workshop, I describe a team member with the following characteristics –

  • Worked for the company – 8 years
  • Always shows up early, stays late
  • Wears a snappy company uniform (belt around waist, cap on straight)
  • Knows the company Fight Song
  • Makes the best potato salad at the company picnic

And yet, is under performing in his role. Put that list against the four factors and I arrive at capability mis-matched for the role. To do a thorough inspection, I would examine each of the Key Result Areas in the role to see where the underperformance occurs. It is likely there are parts of the role that are done well, and parts where we observe underperformance. The mis-match is likely to occur on those longest Time Span task assignments.

In your question, you describe a Stratum III role. I would examine each of the KRAs and task assignments to see which is the culprit and modify that specific task assignment. The modification might be to break the longer task into a series of shorter tasks with more oversight, or to shift an analytic step to another resource.

All of this can be avoided by assigning project work to team members BEFORE they receive promotions. Successful completion, evidence is what I look for, not hopes and promises.


“So, what you are saying to me,” Ellen clarified, “is that I should focus on the work, more clearly define the level of work and then interview the candidate related to the work?”

“Yes. When you embark on this witch hunt to assess the Stratum capability of the candidate, it is too easy to go astray. Your assessment might be right, might be wrong, but in any case, it’s a number, a floating number unrelated to the decision you are trying to make as the hiring manager. The decision is to determine if this candidate will be effective in completing the tasks in the role. That’s it. Everything else becomes mumbo-jumbo.” (Mumbo-jumbo is a scientific term used to describe irrelevant data).

“So, what’s really important is to define the level of work?” she concluded. “How do I do that?”

Assessing Capability

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

How can I tell? You talked about the four states of mental processing. When I look at a person, meet a person, talk to a person, how can I tell? How can I tell if they have Stratum I, II, III or IV capability?

The short answer is, you can’t tell. The longer answer is, it’s not your place to determine capability. Leave that to a higher authority.

Look, you are a manager. You are not an amateur psychologist.

Can you spot positive behavior from your team members? Can you spot negative behavior? Why does it only take nanoseconds for you to tell the difference? Because you are a manager, that’s what managers do. Play to your strengths as a manager.

  • Is it within your authority as a manager to determine what tasks need to be completed?
  • Is it within your authority as a manager to determine a reasonable amount of time for each task?
  • Is it within your authority as a manager to evaluate the effectiveness of the person you have assigned to each task?

That is your playing field. It is within your authority to evaluate the effectiveness of your team members related to the task. There are a handful of factors that contribute to or detract from effectiveness – skills, circumstances, interest, habits. Stay on this playing field, that’s what you are good at.

The question of a person’s maximum capability is not your issue. Your issue, as a manager, is ONLY what is capability related to the task. It’s all about the work.