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Stacked Ranking and Karate

Posted by Amy Wilson on February 3, 2010


I bristled momentarily when the Sensai told my son and the other 4-6 year old girls and boys to line up in ranked order.  Flashbacks of painful ranking exercises clouded my mind.  Recent customer meetings in which talent leaders voiced their distaste for such practices echoed.   I was temporarily outraged and indignant: “why are you oppressing my son in such a manner?”  “and at such a young age?”

However, my fury dissipated immediately as the children easily lined up.  No feelings were hurt.  No one quit or threatened quitting.  I realized some noticeable differences:

1) It was transparent. Everyone knew where they stood.  There were no nuances or subjectivity.

2) Expectations were obvious. The children knew exactly what they needed to do to earn another stripe and move up in rank.

3) It was about work – hard work. Being a born karate-er was not going to cut it.  If they worked hard and focused, they would earn another stripe.

4) And it was about time and patience.  It was not possible to earn all of the stripes at once and leap to the front of the stack.  It was clear that experience and value take time.

    Well!  Those are good lessons for a kid to learn.  Maybe there’s something to this ranking and stripes and belts thing!

    Of course there are actually belt certifications in the Six Sigma method of quality management.  As Wikipedia suggests, Six Sigma is “not without controversy.”  But isn’t it nice to have a methodology to controverse over? What if we put a stake in the ground and created stripes and belts for leadership?  What if we focused rank and potential more on hard work & practice and a willingness to learn?  What if we laid out the expectations in such a transparent way, that everyone knew just what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go?

    I’d appreciate it if we could get this methodology figured out pretty soon.  After I’m done deciding where to send my son to kindergarten, I’ll be looking at employers for his first job.  And I warn you, I’m picky!

    3 Responses to “Stacked Ranking and Karate”

    1. Ah, yes, I remember the thrill of achievement the week I got to be first chair in band… I clutched my little flute proudly to my chest and smiled graciously at Andrea and Mandy as I evicted them from their chairs. Mandy and I went back and forth over second chair but beating Andrea was something to write in your diary about. I miss ranking. . .

    2. DC Jobs said

      I like the notion which you’ve suggested about the “transparency” involved in martial arts progression. Knowing what is required to get to the next rung on the ladder is not always so clear cut in the corporate world.

    3. There is definitely something to be said for clear objectives as well as an understanding that it’s not all natural somethings take time, effort and guidance to achieve.

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