Did You Ever Try to Climb a Lattice?

For at least 40 years we have had the idea of “lattice” organization as an alternative design to the traditional hierarchy which assumes employees all want to climb up the ladder. In lattice organizations (and, beyond W.L. Gore & Associates, there weren’t many of them out there back then), you could go in any direction–up, sideways, and even down–to keep your learning, development, and capacity growing.


Well, the lattice concept is back with a vengeance. Deloitte includes the shift from ladder to lattice as one of twelve trends featured in its 2011 Human Capital Trends report. Organizations today are flatter, with a much more diverse, gender-balanced workforce that is motivated by things like work-life balance, opportunities to work remotely, professional learning, work variety, collaborative,  team-based work approaches…and not necessarily by promotions to the C suite.

This trend has implications for you, the manager. Here are a few that come to mind for me:

  • A given employee may be, at different times, your direct report, peer, internal client, boss, and perhaps your employee again.
  • You will be called upon to coach and develop not just job specific skills and knowledge but also general competencies that will transfer well to other roles and functions the employee may perform in his/her career journey across the corporate lattice.
  • With more career options and employees who, collectively, are motivated by such a wide range of outcomes, be careful not to assume that you know what your employees want. Actually asking them becomes even more critical.
  • And especially don’t assume that your employees are all waiting patiently for you to quit, retire, or get transferred so they can move up into your position.
  • You will be expected to develop your people for the greater good of the organization, not just for your own operation.

Talent development, especially in larger companies, is becoming more complex but it will make the work experience much richer, for everyone…including you, the manager.

© 2011 – 2016, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.

Ian Cook About Ian Cook

Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: ian@888fulcrum.com. For more articles and book reviews of interest to managers please go to: www.888fulcrum.com.