How individuals grow at Shimbi Labs, without becoming manager (because we don't have managers)

Posted on 13 Oct 2017 14:31 in Shimbi Insights
by Siddharth Deshmukh

We think people who can work without the title “Manager” are real heroes. They don’t need a title to do a great job, they carry out their work and beyond because they love what they do.

The concept of a career path at Shimbi Labs is very different than regular workplaces, and it has changed a lot over the past Twelve years. We’ve gone through various phases as an organization: beginning as an early startup stage where everyone did a bit of everything, to a lean level of management within a more traditional structure. And now to a period when we decided against having managers and leaned into a flat structure.


During all this time, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What does a career path look like for someone at Shimbi Labs?”


Because we decided not to have managers, so how does a teammate grow beyond his or her current role, when we said we don’t have managers? Or, more specifically, grow horizontally instead of vertically?


We think people who can work without the title “Manager” are real heroes. They don’t need a title to do a great job, they carry out their work and beyond because they love what they do. Just by having a title like “Project Leader,” “Project Manager” doesn’t make someone a great manager. What makes one a great manager is one's ability to lead and guide people. 


So how people can advance at Shimbi Labs?


Sometimes it gets confused to a new teammate or to our client and those who follow us.


So to answer this question, we have put together formal career frameworks, which include growth opportunities beyond the traditional management track. This is by no means a final draft. We will keep evolving and keep updating this blog.


Here’s what we’re trying and the frameworks that we’re using.


We believe one can grow without any title but by these two factors, Influence, and Ownership.


Influence and Ownership (Not Skills)


Career paths at Shimbi Labs aren’t skills based Or a number of years you are working at Shimbi Labs. This means if one has to advance at Shimbi Labs it isn’t only based on a checklist of skills or number of years you are working at Shimbi Labs before one move to the next level. One can advance any time depending on how influential one is and how much ownership one takes.


Our framework focus on two things:

  1. The influence that a person has on his work, his team, the company, and the industry at large.
  2. The ownership that person has or take and work beyond it.



We think a person can create his good or bad influence on work, surroundings, and the industry.


In respect to career advancement, the scope of influence for an individual is, how person's contribution to work, teammate’s work, the company work and beyond is impacting the growth.


Influence is measured by how much impact an individual contributor makes. 


Here is the breakdown of the scope of influence.

We divided this framework into five-level:

  • Level 1 - On their Tasks
  • Level 2 - On their Project
  • Level 3 - On Department 
  • Level 4 - On Whole Organisation
  • Level 5 - On Industry at large


Each level is easy as well as difficult to achieve, it completely depends on the individual and how hard he or she works, to achieve each sage. Level 4 and 5 usually are challenging to reach, and very few will reach.



At Shimbi Labs ownership of task is the most important aspect in individual growth.


We believe everyone is hired because they are smart and knows how to get work done. If someone needs to tell how to do, then we think we hired a wrong person. 


Smart people should only need to be told what to do, what is expected to achieve, and they will figure out how to do it.


Every individual must own the task and complete it within time. The amount of ownership is attributed to the level of responsibility that a person has within the team. For example, an entry-level engineer is just beginning and has only ownership is to perform the task given by his mentor on time; a mentor, coach, owns the project. A teammate at very high level exhibits ownership across the teams and is accountable for the impact of his area and strategy.


At Shimbi Labs we don’t believe in titles such as Sr. Developer, Leads Developer, Project Leader, Project Manager, etc.


These can be interchanged depending on the team we form for each project.


But what we believe is everyone should make progress based on two factors Influence and Ownership. And try to make the journey from one level to another level. To make it simple for understanding we divided it into 5 levels. We expect people should follow this journey and be ready to play any role within the organization.


This is how these 5 levels look like:


Level 1 — Learning
Timeframe to Level 2: 3 to 6 months


Learning new things every day and expected to drive results with some support.


These people are new in the organization and are at the learning stage, they just joined the organization and now navigating around with support.


These people are not necessarily fresh graduates, some of them may be experienced in their skill sets, but they are new to Shimbi Labs culture and work style.


Least expected thing from Level 1 is to learn things as fast as possible and start taking some ownership of their task and complete it in time.


Level 2 — Complete Ownership of The Assigned Task. 
Timeframe to Level 3: 12-18 months


These people are expected to progress beyond Level 1 and take complete ownership of the assigned task. They are also accountable for deliverables that task in time.


Least exception from Level 2 is ownership of task and Accountability. 


Level 3 — Ownership of Project.
Timeframe to Level 4: 24-30 months


At Level 3 we expect people to take ownership of their as well as others task. It means they are the owner of the project within the department and are accountable for results of teams. They are expected to drive results with little or no supervision. These folks know how to do the job and get it done from others too. At Level 3 people are also expected to play roles of Mentors and Couch.


Least expectation from Level 3 people is to own the project and be accountable for the result of the team.


Level 4  — Ownership of Department.
Timeframe to Level 4: 36-42 months 


This level is only for those who choose to increase influence & Ownership.


They are expected to exhibit ownership across the teams, create influence across the teams. Accountable for executing strategies and achieving results. Be responsible for the department they own and deliver results. They can make a department’s tactical plans. They work across the organization to get the things done necessary for their department and organization.


Least expectation from Level 4 people is own and run a department.


Level 5 — Ownership of Multiple Departments
CxO level but not yet CEO


Level 5 people own and are entirely responsible for multiple departments or functions. This person is rare. 
He/She is expected to make the plan for his area of function. This person must understand the company’s business situation, understand the vision and goals, make a plan to achieve it, build consensus across the organization and execute it. The effect of the plan is likely to affect the whole organization and to extend industry. These people are rare.


This framework is choice based; this means that we don’t expect that everyone will reach the highest level in the framework. Instead, we’re want to keep the focus on the entire career journey and allow individual to make his choices to grow in the direction that each person would like.


Our career paths are focused on individual contributors, as this is who makes up most of Shimbi Labs.


With this framework we wish to make sure that Shimbi Labs is a fair and equal place to work for all teammates, and that everyone understands how to move ahead and grow in their career. We also ensure that this framework remains relevant and updated as we grow and become matured company.


Any framework must grow, and change as the company grow.


Like this framework, we have a separate structure, with the help of it people can decide there own salaries too. But that I will discuss in a different blog on some other occasion.

We’d love to hear about -

Do you have a similar or different career framework at your company?
Did the Shimbi Labs frameworks feel-good solutions to you?
What do you like most or what might you do differently?


About the author

Siddharth Deshmukh     
Founder and CEO of ShimBi Labs. Working with Small Businesses and creatively solving their real business problems using technology is my passion. Love #Startups.

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