Re: The ladder principle

Subject: Re: The ladder principle
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 09:48:14 -0500


While I am not familiar specifically with Construx, I have encountered the concept elsewhere. As I understand the general principle, a company that adopts this approach basically considers a total of two ladders. One corresponds to the traditional advancement scheme for managers: the more people and layers who report to you, the more you get paid. The other ladder is for people whose ambitions are not to manage more and more _people_ but rather to take on responsibility for more and more valuable _things_. This may entail managing complex projects and leading workgroups, but the focus is on accomplishing the work, not on manipulating, er, managing the people doing the work.

In a company that has only a single ladder, people who don't want to be managers get frustrated because they do not get recognized or compensated for their professional advancement. Their only choice if they want a promotion is to get Peter Principled into a job they don't want and probably can't do very well. That's why a system with two parallel ladders is such a compelling idea. The formal setup means that at each rung of the management ladder there is a corresponding rung on the professional/technical ladder, with a comparable compensation package.

I think that in most implementations, people climb the professional/technical ladder more on the basis of the value of the projects they take on than on the specifics of course hours or degrees, although the latter may affect the former, to be sure. (That is, the company is not going to hand over a multi-million-dollar laboratory to someone with an associate's degree from a community college and no experience; but they might hand it over to a PhD who has been working for a year or two.)

I suppose there may be some organizations where people are paid based on the degree they hold irrespective of the work they do, but I can't imagine that's a successful strategy in the long run.

As applied to tech writing, I think what you should propose is that the ladder be tied to size and complexity of projects the person handles rather than credentials as such.


Roger Shuttleworth wrote:

Hello All

I wonder if anyone can point me to resources that deal with technical
writer career/professional development. My company (a software company)
is investigating the "ladder" system advocated by Construx. In this
system an employee moves up the ladder to different levels of knowledge
and experience by achieving measurable goals (such as courses, books,
responsibilities, etc.). Each level carries its own compensation
package. This system is frequently applied to programmers, but does
anyone know of anything similar in the technical writing field? Or know
of lists of measurable goals or steps that would apply to technical

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The ladder principle: From: Roger Shuttleworth

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