The dangers of continuous re-orgs and strategy switching

Two hands shuffling cups as in a pea hunt game

In a conversation about navigation, my old friend and boss Matthew Postgate once said to me, that a corporation’s website navigation should never simply be a reflection of the internal business structure and its teams. This was many, many years ago and still resonates with me today.

The problem at the time was that divisions and departments were given funds and the responsibility to manage their parts of the wider website. That’s “parts” as in section areas, not content. This was a particular problem where the organisation was being restructured on a regular basis, and would reflectively affect the navigation.

Re-structures also seemed to adhere to the following pattern; A new leader would arrive as the new head of whatever… preferably from a large American company like Microsoft or Google. They would see that nothing had been delivered in the past six months and so would declare that “Changes had to be made!”

The changes would be an unstoppable tidal wave (of improvement), knocking everyone to the floor in it’s wake, to such a degree that it would take the rejuvenated and newly motivated team members months to find their feet, the people they would now work with and the new departments they’d report to. New patterns of working would have to be formulated and practised… and would usually take around six months.

By which time of course, the new rambunctious management would start to feel a little uncomfortable, having failed to deliver anything for six or so months… and so they would bolt.

But that’s okay! an energised new leader awaits in the side-lines… and boy is this one’s gonna make some changes.

And so it went on. No one seemed to just turn up and watch for a while.

Which nicely leads onto Strategic changes. Because as a lowly grunt on the front lines, my first question to a new strategy was always why?

A change of strategy because the market has changed or the industry has moved forward is perfectly fine (more of that please). A change of strategy because the old one didn’t work; fine. Another change because that didn’t work either and now I’m asking who’s driving this car.

However, I’m optimistic and cheerful and always on-side when given informed reasoning and a good insight. If I’m shown data on why the previous assertion didn’t work then I give credit for the learning and happy to move on.

All too often though, in the digital agency space I find that presentations of the new “Business Strategy” rapidly slip into “marketing and positioning”.

Again this is fine, so long as market positioning was proven to be of fault previously.

Digital agencies are full of creatives with vision and insight. We can sit in a circle and brainstorm analogous aspirations; we are going to be the Bentley of quality delivery or the Canon of service support… Which in itself may be pointing at success through recognition and emulation, but until you’ve run the numbers on how many potential customers in your industry even want that, then you’re just guessing.

Eventually the constant changes will expose the guesswork and credibility is lost.

The digital industry today is inherently smarter than industries of the past. Our very existence runs on informed designs and numerical motives. The services we create are saturated in analytical hooks, with multiple dimensions for A-B testing.

So, if you’re a director leading these people and want them on board with your “strategic” endeavours, you’re going to need more than just your hunch.

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