Determining the right organizational structure for your agency is intimidating. Your decision dictates how the entire organization will operate -- how your team interacts, how your services are delivered, and how your clients are served. When it’s difficult to determine what makes the most sense, it’s easy to default to isolated departments specializing in different areas.
The problem with this approach is that it’s incredibly inefficient for servicing clients, and the reality is that small teams, or pods, can work much better.
Let me use my company as an example: At Influence & Co., we’ve divided our team members into pods of three people who work together on client accounts. Pod members work collaboratively among themselves and independently of other pods, and each pod’s members have different skill sets and responsibilities.
Each pod includes three key players: an account strategist, a content strategist, and an editor. Account strategists are our clients’ main points of contact throughout the content marketing process. Our content strategists research and develop clients’ content strategies, and editors perform stylistic and structural edits to ensure the written content is clean and in alignment with the content strategy.
These roles make sense for a content marketing agency, but not every agency’s pods should look like this. It doesn’t matter what positions you include as long as you have the right people in those positions and give them the tools they need to reach your clients’ goals.
Why the Pod Prevails
Since our switch from a traditional structure to the pod system three months ago, we’ve encountered benefits and challenges. We’ve found the pod structure to be most effective for our team for two major reasons:
1) It facilitates a greater sense of ownership and accountability.
When employees work in these smaller teams, they’re better able to see how their work directly affects others (internally and externally) and why their jobs are meaningful. Pod members have specific responsibilities. Because they can see exactly how they impact the bigger picture, they’re better able to perform their duties more effectively. United by this, pod members learn to rely on their strengths and the strengths of their teammates to achieve goals together.
2) It makes company functions more transparent and encourages team members to work toward the same goals.
In isolated departments, employees from one department often don’t fully understand the workings of another. When individual pods include members from a variety of “departments,” people can see how everything comes together.
For example, before we made the switch to pods, our account strategy and editorial teams didn’t have an ideal relationship. Because our editors didn’t have the opportunity to build relationships with clients, they often didn’t know whether the written content they were editing reached clients’ goals, and they didn’t know enough about the strategy to give the most actionable feedback moving forward. And because our account strategists weren’t familiar with various writing and editing styles, they didn’t always know whether the content was ready for publication or needed further revisions.
Our clients are now serviced much more efficiently because members of each of these former departments work collaboratively toward the same goal: ensuring their shared clients are receiving effective, high-quality content that achieves their business objectives.
Give Yourself Time to Test
Before you announce a complete restructuring, you’ll want to get feedback. By design, a change like this will affect many people and processes. Consider how it will specifically affect critical processes, your clients, and each employee, and encourage your team to be part of the planning process.
When you get the green light to move forward, create a plan to ease the transition and troubleshoot unforeseen complications. When we made the switch, we started by pairing our account strategists with content strategists for two months. Seeing how the team was affected by this smaller change enabled us to fix some problems before we added editors to the pods.
Ultimately, you’ll find that no organizational structure is without its flaws. As the leader of your agency, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and determine which style will be most helpful to your company and employees. If you’re struggling with siloed departments or ineffective client service, however, a pod structure may be just the right fit for your agency.
Originally published Nov 24, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017