Structure follows strategy. It’s a commonly used quote, but it still hits the nail on the head. A chosen structure must always aim to help realize the overlying strategy. Just like the planned deployment of resources, our ‘approach to overcoming the obstacles’, the structure must also be aligned with the ultimate goal. We cannot rely on gut feeling when building a structure. This has to be done methodologically and GOALS is a very useful tool for this.
A good example is the introduction of the so-called flexible workplaces, many years ago.
It was very understandable that a management consultancy, whose consultants were out of the office more than 80% of the time, introduced flexible workspaces. If the consultants were in the office, it was only for consultation or presentations. The office was therefore set up in a way that best supported this working method. More meeting rooms or presentation rooms and only fixed workplaces for the support services.
Good example, however, follows and so you saw that many organizations introduced the example of flexible workplaces, but with a different goal. While the management consultancy set up its office on the basis of the work for which the consultants came to the office, many companies did so based on the idea that flexible workplaces would by definition be more efficient. Organizations whose people just came to the office to go about their daily business were suddenly scattered throughout the building, depending on the time of entry. As a result, all additional meeting rooms created were occupied by colleagues who would otherwise not see or speak to each other. Sometimes the cafeteria was packed all day with teams that couldn’t sit together.
In this case, no meters were ultimately gained with the flexible workplaces, but valuable meters were lost because these people now took up both a workplace and a meeting room. However, if they had looked closely at the management consultancy example, they would have seen that the people who had to come to the office every day well had a permanent place. Ultimately, the structure only works if it aligns with the parent strategy.
Does the structure fit your strategy?
So you have to look carefully at which structure best suits the chosen strategy. For example, I advised a client to put the sales and marketing department together on 1 floor to create more mutual understanding.
With every client I encounter the traditional opposition between marketing and sales and that is often the result of misunderstanding. By letting people experience what the other encounters, you create more understanding and stimulate cooperation.
The same applies to the choice for an agile organization. This has many advantages, but on the other hand it can have enormous negative consequences for a brand. If you want to build a strong brand, consistency is crucial. Then if you have 10 different tribes If you make them responsible for their own projects and at the same time give them the freedom to work with the brand themselves, it often happens that the brand communicates different messages. The result is a weak, schizophrenic brand instead of a strong, unambiguous brand. So you must have very clearly formulated your goal before you can determine whether a certain structure is effective. Otherwise it can have the opposite effect and the chosen structure will eventually cause your strategy to fail.
When applying our GOALS methodology, I always notice that the first three steps are the most interesting. 1) What is my goal? 2) What are the obstacles? 3) How am I going to overcome these obstacles and thus achieve my goal? After that, the attention and enthusiasm often weakens. Evaluation, optimization and implementation usually take place during the introduction period or, for example, during a pre-test that has been specially developed for this purpose, but once we get into the operational sphere it is difficult to continue to think strategically. It turns out to be even more difficult to think carefully about the structure that is necessary to successfully implement the chosen strategy.
The reason that enthusiasm decreases is often because people have the feeling that a structure is already fixed or that they have no control over it. The opposite is often the case.
Most directors or board members have little or no understanding of marketing and often do not understand the role of marketing.
This makes it impossible for them to determine which structure best suits the chosen marketing strategy. Obviously there are structures that need to be followed organization-wide, such as legal structures or financial reporting structures, but that does not mean that there is no room for optimization.
Dare to ask critical questions
How do you best organize your department? Which teams do you need? Which processes need to be set up? What technology do you need? These are a few examples of questions that are necessary to successfully implement the chosen marketing strategy. That sounds completely logical and very obvious, but the opposite often turns out to be true. Earlier I used the example of the agile working method and flexible workplaces, but the urge of marketers for the new also plays a role here. When choosing new technological applications, carefully consider whether they contribute to your ultimate goal. Do you need creative, innovative people when the organization itself is still extremely traditional? When should you or should you not seek collaboration with other departments and how will you apply this structurally?
The need for a carefully chosen structure is even more apparent in this era of working from home. Although more and more companies indicate that they want more flexibility in the future and thus continue to encourage working from home, you see that control mechanisms are still being introduced at many companies. People regularly sit in Teams meetings all day because they still find it difficult to give complete freedom. Some companies even determine what time people have their lunch break when working from home, while people sometimes have to make different choices at home because they also have to take others into account at home. Determine your ultimate goal and then determine which structure suits it best.
If you are a very customer-oriented organization, make sure that your people come into contact with customers a lot. Give them space to visit customers. Ensure that there are regular reports or presentations on customer needs and customer behavior. I spoke to a CEO who stated that he had large screens in all common areas, ranging from the coffee corner to the conference rooms, continuously sharing customer reviews, comments and references. So that they could see with their own eyes what the customer really thought and not what was whispered to them via-via.
How will you ensure that your marketing strategy can be implemented as effectively as possible? Here too you can use the steps of GOALS, that is the beauty of this method. Below again the 5 steps in a row.
The 5 steps of GOALS
- Goal: What is the motivational goal?
- Obstacle: What is the present obstacle?
- approach: What is the preferred approach?
- learning: What is the acquired knowledge?
- structure: What is the necessary structure?
When we advise clients on how to optimize their structure, we use the same 5 steps. We determine the goal, the obstacles, the approach and look at what knowledge we have gained in the process to arrive at the optimal implementation of the structure. So let’s do that together at the end of this blog series.
The parent motivational target of every marketing strategy is to create added value for the customer in a way that adds value for the organization. This by definition means that we have to create a structure that ensures that we know exactly what is of value to the customer and how we can create value for our own organization. We must therefore ensure that, on the one hand, we acquire insights from the market and, on the other hand, we must have insight into the relationship between our returns and investments.
Marketers who do not know exactly what their target group really wants or who do not know exactly what the actual result is, are by definition incapable of being successful.
They create insufficient added value for the customer, because they do not know what the customer really wants. Or they create insufficient added value for the organization because they make too high investments in relation to the ultimate returns. In short, both insights are crucial and every marketing organization must create structures to guarantee this.
The same goes for the obstacles. Once we have clearly identified the main obstacles that stand in the way of our success, we must also organize structures for this. An organization that brings new introductions to the market too late should look at how it can drastically shorten its time-to-market and set up the corresponding structure for this. I myself often see a lack of knowledge about the customer as an obstacle, which once again emphasizes that there must be room within the marketing department to gain crucial marketing insights. I recently spoke with a marketer who was responsible for the marketing insights for the European market, but because of his position he was not allowed to travel within Europe and was therefore unable to see with his own eyes what the retail landscape in other countries looked like, for example. As a result, all advice was colored by the Dutch situation, which was very different from the rest of Europe.
If you then look at the approach that is chosen, then it is only logical that you should have the structure in order during this step. If you decide to take a very action-oriented approach to a brand and continuously optimize it, you have to make sure you have the right dashboards. You can optionally choose to outsource this, but then you have to set up a reporting structure that ensures that you quickly make the right choices and also quickly get the results of your choice reported. Time in this case is quite literally money, so the structure should result in as little valuable time as possible being lost.
Finally, we look at the learning, In other words, knowledge that we gain in the execution phase, then the reporting structure is again essential. How do we ensure that we collect the right information at the right time and in the right way? How do we ensure that we check and possibly test the optimized activities before we implement them? And how do we report the results of these activities? There are many questions, but the process often involves major investments and major interests.
Once you know what your goal is, what your obstacles are and what the best approach is, you can organize your department to perfection.
Then you can determine exactly which people you need, which resources you need or, for example, what information you need. Then you know when you need it and how you need it. Then you know what to do and what not to do. Then you are engaged in real strategic thinking. And then you see very clearly the structure that is needed to successfully put this into practice. And thus not only now, but also in the distant future to realize your GOALS!