Three Brilliant Lattice Strategies from People Who Move Stuff

Great minds sure think alike.

While I was toiling way on The Career Lattice, Hector Jaramillo was arriving at some of the exact same points, from a completely different route.

I met Jaramillo, who’s a manager with NACCO Materials Handling Group, in October 2014. I was part of a panel about new career paths at the annual conference of the Materials Handling Institute. (That’s the industry that gets the stuff you need to the right place at the right time, in one piece.)

Hector’s an engineer: left brain. I’m a writer: right brain. His challenge was to redefine career paths at NACCO so the company could better attract and retain employees, especially professionals.

He did it by applying Six Sigma principles to the problem of straightjacket career ladders. (Six Sigma is a rigorous process of analysis that quants love, love, love. I’d link to a Six Sigma resource but I have no idea which one is the best. Just search on “six sigma” and choose the info graphics for a digestible outline of what it’s all about.)

Jaramillo realized that it wasn’t just a matter of telling people to do different jobs. He had to clear the path by showing the lateral moves that made sense in engineering language.

Jeff Redmon, a high-ranking human resources executive at Caterpillar, had a similar lightbulb moment. He advocates for cross-functional assignments and career paths that better align with industry cycles and long term growth trends.

Here’s what Jaramillo and Redmon are doing right:

  • Framing classic lattice principles in terms and processes typically used by their industries to solve problems (i.e., Six Sigma). They are using familiar tools to introduce an unfamiliar concept.
  • Showing both the medium and long term implications of lattices for continual growth. A lattice doesn’t stand on its own. It leans on its industry.
  • Infusing the process and conversation about lateral moves with transparency. Lattices offer many directions. Many directions means that people have to make decisions. They need information about the skills they need for a move, and the likely implications of making that move. The more information they have, the more powerful the lattice.

It was a tad humbling to wait my turn – third in line – as Jaramillo and Redmon outlined the lattice strategies they got in motion before they met me. Or heard of me. Or read my book.   But then I remembered: this movement is bigger than me and bigger than them. When a journalist and two engineers arrive at the same conclusion taking different roads from different starting points, it’s hard to deny that they haven’t all figured out something important to everybody.