Have you ever been part of a work team in which decisions were made quickly, everyone worked for the same goal, products got to market fast, and no one cared about their own ego -- just what was important, what was big?
I've also experienced the opposite: a place where every initiative was bogged down in red tape while the team waited for decisions to be made elsewhere. To say the least, it was frustrating and time-consuming.
Ultimately, the organization spent most of its energy focused internally and innovation ground to a halt. Sound familiar? I thought so.
When we started Tapad, we decided to take a different tack -- one that eliminated the silos and stifling hierarchy of different departments. We call it the "pod" approach.
Here is how it works:
We organize pods -- otherwise known as work teams -- into 25 people or fewer. Each pod is self-sufficient, capable of solving a challenge. It contains, at minimum, a product development person, an engineer, a marketing person and a sales person. Collectively, they set their own goals and performance metrics and work to bring their specific product to market.
There is nowhere to hide, no one to blame and no one to wait for. Each pod's goals are visible and measurable, and everyone can see the direct impact of their work on the results.
Some of the pods remain long-term with a fixed focus. Others emerge to create more fluid innovation. Sometimes the innovation pods graduate to longer-term pods.
In all cases, though, each pod can theoretically be lifted out of the larger organization and function as a stand-alone company -- minus the back-end services.
This way of organizing doesn't come without challenges. I'd say it fixes 70 percent of the problems and introduces 30 percent new ones. But the problems it introduces are manageable.
And the problems it fixes are the most important.
Is it time to restructure your company?
If you can check off five points below, you're in the kind of dysfunctional organization from which I fled and it might be time to try the "pod" approach.
- Young talent doesn't stay for very long.
- New ideas only come from the top or a select group of people. No one else is allowed to innovate.
- There are dozens of mid-level managers responsible for small turf-based decisions.
- The product development team hates technology. Technology hates sales. And sales hates everyone.
- Owners of cross-functional projects don't actually have direct control of the resources they need. Employees work on a small piece but don't see where it fits.
- Existing products and problems take priority over anything new.
- Someone higher up the ladder has to approve every decision.
- The teams are more focused on not screwing up than innovating.