How to read a progression framework
progression.fyi is a really useful collection of public ‘progression frameworks’ (AKA ‘competency matrix’ or good old-fashioned ‘career ladder’).
Progression frameworks are all about helping staff to understand the expectations of their roles. I had the (mis-)fortune of being involved in early efforts to define a progression framework in my last full-time leadership role. At that time, a few companies had published their frameworks publicly, but we found it really difficult to answer some of the questions we had.
So, if you find yourself in the position of helping to define roles in your organisation, or if you’re considering changing jobs, it can be helpful to inspect the progression frameworks of other companies.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you read a framework:
- Do they have an introduction with a rationale that links back to company values and culture?
- Do they have separate engineering and management tracks? Do they explain why / why not? What are these called?
- Is there explicit scope for lateral movement across different tracks?
- Do they focus on expected behaviours, personal characteristics, or a mix?
- Is it clear how progress is assessed? How often does it happen? Who is involved? How formal is it?
- Is it clear what’s needed to progress through the framework? Have they made a clear effort to minimise bias in this process?
- What categories or themes do they identify for expectations? What do these tell you about the company? Do these clearly link back to company values?
- Do they consider ‘tech lead’ a separate job title, or is it a role that can be taken on by anyone?
- Does it show signs of iteration and improvement (some companies have their progression framework on GitHub so that history can be tracked).
- Is there a commitment to further iteration and improvement?
- Does it include a set of core expectations across all roles (e.g. mentoring, communication).
- Bonus points: are they transparent about salary ranges for each level? This is still a rarity.
Does your company have any kind of official progression framework? If you do, does it help staff to understand what’s expected of them? If you don’t, what mechanisms are there instead? What difference would it make?
All the best,