Bruce Webster has some interesting thoughts on modifying the Cravath model for the technical field. The ‘Cravath model’ is the standard big-company practise of having partners, directors, senior managers, managers, senior associates & associates who are rated annually, with the lowest performers being asked to leave and the highest performers being promoted. In many ways the model is good, but one problem is that it doesn’t really work for technology because technologists generally don’t wish to manage and generally don’t do well in management; Webster proposes a parallel track of associate engineer, engineer, senior engineer, technical officer, senior technical officer, executive technical officer and chief technical officer.
It’s a pretty good idea, I think. I’m not certain how a technical officer would keep his skills current, but it’s probably very doable. And it certainly makes more sense than putting engineers into management.