Want to Improve Team Performance? Focus Around Your Clients

How do you structure your teams to get the most out of each employee and deliver the best results for your customers?

Suppose you are an ad agency delivering a wide variety of marketing services. You have digital advertising specialists, web designers, social media experts, graphic designers, copywriters, and account managers. Do you organize yourself into vertical teams by putting each specialty into its own team, graphic designers with graphic designers, copywriters with copywriters, and so on? Or do you create horizontal teams around each client – one designer, one copywriter, one account manager, one web designer, etc. in each team.

There are benefits and disadvantages to both approaches.

With vertical teams, your employees will dive deeper into their specialty and learn more about their respective skillset. Senior web designers work closely with junior designers and help improve their abilities. They may also have similar personalities which will improve company morale since everyone gets to work with likeminded peers.

However, how does each vertical team communicate with each other? Do specialty silos like this put the needs of the client first?

One of the most important factors in functional team development is keeping everyone focused on a single goal. With horizontal teams, team members with different specialties are able to collaborate around a client’s objective. If your employees work in vertical teams, the account manager will need to break down all individual tasks for each team and schedule a half dozen people across silos to produce the deliverables. All individuals working on this project may meet together from time to time but there is not continuous dialog between them.

Rather than everyone working as a team to accomplish the client’s goals, they work individually on their own tasks to meet the deadlines, and the account manager has to consolidate and align all the finished work. There is no synergy between the team.

With a horizontal team, all team members work on the same projects simultaneously. There is focus on a common goal that binds the team together. You’ll also witness knowledge sharing across specialties that helps your employees grow professionally. This is exactly what our friends at Booyah Advertising are doing and they are one of the top advertising agencies in Denver. They have true functional teams that combine people from the creative team with their SEO team and so on. The team members work with the same people on each project and that consistency improves efficiency and effectiveness. (Read more about Booyah Advertising’s functional account service teams.)

By doing this, your company may lose some vertical knowledge sharing but that is replaced by horizontal professional development. Each team member grows by expanding their knowledge of best practices in other areas of the company.

There are options though to maintain vertical knowledge sharing. You can conduct professional development sessions for each specialty or have lunch & learns where an individual is selected from within a silo to share what they’ve been working on in their project teams. Of course, you can always contact us for more ideas!

But create functional teams around your clients’ needs and see what happens!