There is a trend going on in business land. This trend is so powerful that many organisations, large and small have jumped on the bandwagon. The potential benefits of this trend are so promising that it would be silly to ignore it. The trend I am talking about is multi disciplinary teams with a high level of autonomy.
This trend comes in different shapes and sizes. I will discuss three:
- Multinational company
- Multi brand company
- Spotify model
In the case of multinationals, autonomous teams means that every local office in every country where the company operates has its own team of specialists. So the local digital marketing team has its own SEO guru, SEM specialist, email marketeer, CXO expert etcetera. All specialists enjoy a high level of autonomy. This setup can have various benefits, like higher speed of implementation and a better sense of customer preferences in local markets.
For the CXO expert this means she can investigate, prioritise and run her own experiments. This all sounds great. However it comes with some serious challenges as well: how do you know what your peers in other markets are doing? How do you make sure that you’re not reinventing the wheel over and over again? How do you make sure that the overall impact of your CXO program increases and and how do you share your knowledge and insights with your colleagues abroad?
Multi brand company
We all know examples of multi brand companies ike Volkswagen owning different brands like Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen off course. Inditex managing many brands like Zara, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius and many others. A multi brand company can be a multinational as well but there are many multi brand companies operating in a single country. There can be various reasons for operating a multi brand company like, economies of scale, increased market share or targeting different market segments.
Whatever the company philosophy is, autonomy for every brand means that all brands have their own team of experts. So every brand will have its own team of digital marketing gurus. Pro’s and con’s of this setup are quite similar to the multinational situation. Assuming all every brand is equally relevant, a high level of autonomy can lead to better products and faster innovation.
This can only be true if every brand team knows what other brand teams are doing. When they understand each others challenges and solutions, all teams will have a better insight on what their priorities should be. So alignment between different brands and knowledge sharing between teams in order to have the highest possible contribution to overall business strategy is very important.
Back in 2014 Spotify published 2 videos on its blog with the title: The Spotify engineering culture. I highly recommend watching both, as they give an interesting insight into how Spotify’s culture and structure have evolved and the struggles and challenges they encountered along the way.
The basic principle of the Spotify model is to decentralise work and responsibilities in self organising autonomous teams. The goal is to speed up innovation and create better products. In the Spotify model work is organised in squads. This is a multidisciplinary team of maximum 10 people. Work between squads is aligned in tribes. So a tribe consists of various squads. Specialist from squads but within the same tribe organise themselves in chapters. Cross tribe this is called a guild.
Although some knowledge sharing takes place horizontally between specialists of the same expertise (in chapters and guilds), the frequency they meet is very limited. So as for CXO the same challenges arise: how do you orchestrate your test program and how do you make sure you are not testing the same things twice (or more) and how do you make sure that learnings and insights come together in order to really understand customer behaviour?
The pixel to picture
The long term goal for any CXO program is to offer the best possible customer experience as a good customer experience is the best driver for profit and future growth. If you decentralise responsibilities and organise work in bite size chunks you only see the pixel and not the picture. You will be very good in iterating on the pixel but nobody knows how the picture eventually will look like.
Customers pay for pictures not for pixels so it is vital that organisations make sure that specialists can learn from each other and that knowledge is centralised and available for anyone. This is especially important for CXO experts as their job is centred around users. So CXO experts might be located in different squads, countries or brand teams but they have to centralise their CXO learnings about customer behaviour. Not understanding user behaviour will ultimately lead to declining business.
You can decentralise responsibilities
You can reorganise teams
But you have to centralise knowledge