Starting a roadmap program in your organization

In the first article of this series, I discussed the new reality of hybrid remote and introduced two important concepts: agency & resilience. I believe that in order to promote agency and enhance resilience in an organization, we need to create a personal development process for our employees. At Tikal, we do this by planning out a personal roadmap plan for every employee. In this article, I will go into detail about starting a roadmap program in your organization.

Like any other program inside an organization, no matter how big or small, you need to set with a routine and monitor it:

Listen to Goals: The roadmap process starts with an annual meeting between the employee and the tech executive i.e. R&D leader or CTO. In the annual meeting the employees share their personal and professional aspirations. Afterwards the Group Leaders (GLs) break down the main goal into measurable and approachable KPIs. Every quarter the GL meets with the employee, and together they adjust the roadmap if needed.

Set Targets: Schedule a quarterly meeting with the employee. In this meeting you will set the goals which will help the employee reach their aspirations.

Transparency and documentation: All meetings are documented and openly shared with the employee.

The goal of the roadmap is to promote the employees in their development path towards achieving their goals and targets. The process consists of acquiring professional knowledge and interpersonal skills, which lead to creating an impact.

In addition, it is important to make sure that the employee roadmaps matches the company roadmap as well. In our case, we have the Tech Radar. It helps keep us on track in the company-wide perspective, and also helps us plan the employee roadmaps accordingly.

These are the parameters we want to monitor:

Tech development is based on knowledge level inside your domain expertise.

Personal development is based on improving the employees’ interpersonal skills

Making an Impact is the combination of professional and personal development processes.

Personal Roadmap — Stages of Learning

The roadmap is based on personal and professional development:

Stage 1: I don’t know that I don’t know

The employee has no knowledge on the subject, and it is critical that the lead takes the time to explain the rationale behind learning the new subject, technology or skill.

Stage 2: I know that I don’t know

The employee is aware of their knowledge debt and they seek to learn. The lead is there to give their support and guidance towards independence.

Stage 3: I know how to do it, but I have to concentrate to do it

The employee is independent but still needs to be very focused in order not to make mistakes. The lead must encourage them to invest more of their time in self-training.

Stage 4: I can do it with ease and habitually

The employee is an expert in their field, the lead must encourage them to share their knowledge with others.

Stage 5: I can explain how to do it

The employee shares their knowledge with others, and the lead needs to encourage them to explore new territories.

The Tech Radar

One of the most important tools that a lead at Tikal has for promoting the employee’s development is the Tech Radar, an opinionated mapping of the latest technologies in the market. The radar is reviewed and updated once a year and acts as a compass, revealing technical debts in the market.

The creation of the tech radar is an internal project that starts with domain group meetings and goes through tech lead circles. The role of the radar is to show us the bigger picture, and also group the changes in the market into Trends that we foresee as dominant in the near future.

The radar consists of 4 domains which represent our areas of expertise: Mobile, Frontend, DevOps and Backend (and lately, also machine learning).

The radar has 4 rings: try, start, keep and stop which represent our opinion about the current stage of this technology.

After creating the radar, we derive professional profiles of knowledge for each domain. The roadmaps are planned according to these profiles and assist in measuring knowledge acquisition.

Tech Profiles

Every domain has several Tech Profiles. For examples: React, Data developer, SRE engineer.

Each profile has 3 levels of expertise: basic, advanced and expert.

The personal development process is reflected in the transition between levels and between profiles in the same domain.

Soft Skills

Part of the employee’s personal growth occurs by acquiring soft skills. These are learned and practiced by engaging different audiences. For example, at Tikal this means:

the development team of the client, the domain group and our community.

Nurturing the employee’s interpersonal skills is often much more challenging than bestowing professional knowledge.

The soft skills profile has 4 levels:

Executor: Responsible, independent and team player.

Influencer: Builds trust, Self-manager and planning.

Leader: Influencer with authoritative, presentation skills.

Mentor: Role model, leads people, builds motivation.

Seniority Level

The industry doesn’t have a unified definition for seniority levels in development organizations, every company defines it differently. We define it as a combination of technological knowledge and interpersonal skills.

Engineer: executes team-level tasks

Senior: impacts on a team-level

Tech Lead: impacts on the product-level

Group Lead: leads the roadmap

The seniority level changes throughout time according to the changes happening in the industry.

Measuring the Outcomes

It’s important to set KPIs to help measure the outcomes at the end of the process, and learn from our mistakes. We collect feedback from both employees and leads.

We measure the percentage of execution whether the employee or the lead meet their process goals. We also measure the satisfaction rates of both the employee and the lead from the development process and from the assignment they are currently working on for our client.

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The personal roadmap is an annual plan, broken up into quarterly sets of goals that facilitates personal development on 2 axis — knowledge and skills, that give the employee a sense of purpose and impact in the organization.

To demonstrate the process, here is the form we use in order to document it. You are invited to make a copy of the form and use it in your organization (please don’t make changes on the original document).

As R&D leaders it is crucial to take a look at the reality from the perspective of the employees, and think how we can create an environment from them that empowers their resilience and encourages their agency.

Starting a roadmap program in your organization was originally published in Everything Full Stack on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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