Guiding Organizational Transformation Through Behavior Change

Companies that undertake transformation—have to inspire their people to think and act differently.

Organizational change programs often focus on designing new solutions through process and workflow—with little regard for the people enacting them. 

Humans are naturally change adverse. We don’t like being told how to do our job. It’s not that management doesn’t understand what needs to happen to improve the organization, it’s that the people who are executing on the change need to buy into it on a fundamental level.

For the organization to transform, people working within the organization need to grow beyond their current mindset. They need to understand the rationale for a change in the first place. 

As people learn to adopt new thinking, new behaviors form so they can achieve outcomes that in turn benefit the organization. For the organization to change, people within the organization have to change. It’s this symbiosis that builds and sustains transformation over the long term.

Ultimately, organizational performance success depends on persuading people to think differently about their job and what they do every day. 

To help our people to adopt new behaviors that can translate into an organization’s business goals, we need to first set an important cultural value within the organization— we must embrace a learning and growth culture.

A learning environment (re)introduces and supports the concepts of curiosity, self-direction, engaging the world from different perspectives, and helps to motivate & encourage learning something new as part of every day work life.

When the organization empowers learning as a key tenet, it enables individuals to feel comfortable that personal growth in themselves is possible. When a person is open to new growth and possibilities, the organization will in turn, have a better chance of creating a compelling case for change. 

Social Learning

“Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” — Albert Bandura

Social learning theory tells us that people learn through observation, it can be watching others demonstrating the behavior, verbal instruction, through story-telling or watching media or engaging in play.

Culture change begins when leaders model the behavior they want the organization to emulate. 

This is why it is important to incorporate leaders, who will model the kinds of behaviors that they want to see through the organization who will also provide recognition and reward those who model the positive behavior change. 

Reinforcement and our own mental state plays a big part in determining whether a behavior is learned or not. When a person changes their mindset, displays the changed behavior and is reinforced by their team, it not only furthers the group’s collective development but helps to connect what we learned with positive use.

Build learning programs that will support your transformation goals.

Successful transformation requires leadership to focus on getting inside the mind-sets of their organization and understanding how attitudes need to evolve to enable the sort of broad-scale, fundamental change that’s necessary to deliver real organizational growth.

When an organization values learning, it is already on a path to breaking down the sources of an individual’s aversion to change. Change in behavior is assisted by providing outside of typical work day experiences and situations. 

Ultimately, your organization has to think holistically about change and marry new processes and solutions to the new mindset to ensure transformation success. Build a learning program that addresses key change resistance factors.

Individuals resist change by;

  • Selectively Processing Information — How do I seek solutions beyond what I know and not focus on problems?

  • Habit Enforcement — How can break them and establish new ones?

  • Being Fearful of the Unknown— How do I get over that feeling of losing power or control?

  • Feeling Insecure— How do I feel comfortable that change will still keep me in a job?

  • Not Valuing the Change— How do I build understanding for the rationale of the change?

It is not enough to just empower learning if we want to break down resistance to change— we must empower people to act on what they learned. 

Empowering people leads to putting new behavioral learning into action

Empowering individuals means enabling people to not only participate in the planning of change but to be a source of it. When you enable people to learn and grow, the next step is to empower them to create change and adopt new behaviors, building on what they learned.

When you give employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making in their daily work, it empowers employees to step up, make their own decisions, be accountable and pave their path to success. To keep things on track, leadership has to continue to model new behaviors, reinforce concepts and reward positive change.

Focusing on process change alone limits organizational transformation.

It is more important for your employees to understand what to do in a situation and how they should act, rather than following a process blindly. When we make a change to one part of our process, it can often cause a crazy Rube Goldberg effect, causing all sorts of unintended and intended after effects down the line.

When we empower people, we permit them to engage with the process differently—to learn how inputs affect outputs in the system. When folks take time to learn about their work processes and potential new solutions, they can help optimize strategies for a wider set of situations. Deep process understanding leads to better solutions and a continual organizational improvement model. 

In a learning environment, there must be a willingness to have open and frank discussions about what separates great ideas from bad ones. If you want to be innovative, you also need to let people explore boundaries and sometimes fail along the way.

Empowerment and Learning should be part of your organization’s DNA.

To be successful, empowerment building needs to be baked into your organization’s cultural value set. Building new mind-sets with employees starts by incorporating them into your company’s culture as well as adopting it as a baseline corporate value and success measurement factor.

Empowering your people, incorporating behavioral change and building a learning environment can be major organizational shifts. These are shifts that are fundamental to transformational change. When they are boxed into a single program or are part of segmented initiatives they are susceptible to high failure rates.

If we want people to think and act differently in our organization, we need to incorporate the values into the company foundation, so they can be used by leadership to help guide the organization's strategy, to align and map out the key beliefs and new behaviors that will be modeled for transformational success.

Core cultural values act as the underpinnings of decision making and help people understand what’s expected of them. As a group these values/behavior sets let people know the right and wrong (accepted or frowned upon) way to behave in the organization. They identify not only what it means to be successful as an individual in the company, but guides what the organization considers successful as outcomes. 

Core Values & Social Systems: Shared Meaning Making

Organizations are social systems made up of people that share a set of written and unspoken rules as well as a set of loosely shared philosophies that form the organization's culture and sub-cultures. A company’s leaders and people exist as individuals, but together, they exist in a larger interactive social system, where people and different groups interact with each other.

Each member of a social group processes thoughts and interprets the world in a completely private manner, people develop a sense for the meaning of things in the world entirely on their terms. 

Socialization helps us to organize and unify our thoughts to create shared meanings. When we can state a value, define it and point to it, we can help socialize the shared meaning to the larger group. A shared norm helps people to expect what the decision making of another person within the group will be.

Organizations change through new learning at this social system level — where we share insights, knowledge and our mental models (how we think about the world and our behavior choice) with each other. We push the organization to change by introducing new learning to model the behavior of others to ensure that people understand what’s expected of them in the common environment. We then use reinforcing measures to communicate shared meaning to sustain new behaviors. 

The quality of organizational learning can be affected by a wide matrix of variables (systems within systems) the number of sub-groups and how they interact with each other to differences in management styles between them to the diversity of its people to the value they place on activities to different existing cultural norms in subgroups to the quality of individual interactions. 

Incorporating Shared Meaning in Change Adoption

Change adoption means alignment between social groups within an organization. 

From an organizational perspective;

We design the change solution,

We identify what new behaviors will get us there,

We align the solution with role-modeling,

We ensure we have the skills to enact the change, 

We design ways of activating new behaviors,

We design ways of sustaining behaviors,

We learn from our change.

In addressing this path, the organization may need to address communication gaps or evolve cultural norms into its organizational value system. 

If we want people to modify their behavior, then an organization’s cultural values must be aligned. For example, if a company states that they place value in “a work-life balance,” but does not create a social environment where this is true, they are less likely to see individuals modeling behavior that matches this value. 

Organizations need to follow through on building activities and processes based on their stated cultural values to enable true behavioral change. If the organization falls short in embodying a cultural value, people are less likely to adapt their behavior holistically to the social norms of the organization. If the organization states that they believe in a work-life balance as a value, then they need to support that value with activities that enable it.

Core Organizational Value Making 

Core value statements shape how everyone in the organization is expected to behave, what the organization as a whole place's value in, build shared meaning and act as a check to determine if the organization is on the right path. Processes and systems in the organization can then build around these principles to create a shared pattern of expected behavior.

Core values help define what matters and elicit specific behaviors in the organization. These values can encompass specifics on integrity, ethics, commitments, relationships, understandings, teamwork, respect, and accountability. They can be internal values, that may relate to your agency's mission statement or they can incorporate tenets that you want others to know about you externally.

When building core value statements they work best when they are specific, humanistic and compatible. Limit your organization’s value set to around five in total. When you have too many stated corporate values, you risk an individuals ability to remember each criterion.

Core values are not just part of a static mission statement. A core value is only true if it has an active influence and if the people and company manage to live by it, at least most of the time. They are part of how you would hire, who you hire and how you evaluate employees.

It is very important to remember that individuals have core values too. They can be aligned with the organization or only partially aligned. What one person deems important, another may not.

Behavioral Change Success

Successfully implementation of behavioral change requires properly preparing for change, managing the process and institutionalizing new processes. During these stages, facilitating change requires a strategic vision, clear consistent communication, open-mindedness and a commitment to defined goals on the individual level. 

While individuals and teams are ultimately the transformation factor, we can help our people engage in the change by facilitating the process. 

Set processes tell us how we act in specific instances. Process creates a framework for how we manage projects and teams. Behavior change addresses the way we work. 

Changing process can look easy on a flow chart, but asking folks to enact them and behave differently—is not.

When we make changes to the way we work, we must be sensitive to the individual. We adopt change by being empathetic to others and addressing a person’s will to change. “Will,” refers to the motivational and emotional aspects of behavior change. We must be patient, encouraging and recognize and reward progress. 

People may have a will to change but may not know how to change. We address this by examining if the individual has the knowledge, skill or capacity to change. Then we create a plan to break down this barrier for the individual. 

We also make sure everyone in the organization has come to terms with the “new shared norms," and has an understanding of their roles and a true willingness to accept personal responsibility for maintaining the shift.

Behavioral change is hard work, but the pay-off is transformational to the organization.


Setting a business change strategy means setting a people change strategy. To help enact big change there are two key components; creating an environment for learning to build openness to change, and creating an environment where people feel empowered to organically follow through on delivering organizational change goal.

Corporate values when developed into activities can help shape shared meaning and understanding between the people that work within the larger system. They also help develop what the meaning of success looks like in the organization and the criteria in which it is based. If people believe in a company's overall purpose, they will be more open to changing their behavior to serve that purpose.

Leadership can play a huge part in being role models for change, to inspire their people to think and act differently. Change requires a mindset shift to go from one way of working to another to achieve new goals. Behavioral shifts require observation learning and modeling. Leadership can help build reinforcement systems to promote the building of innovative cultures.

Lastly, process change and behavioral change go hand-in-hand. To change the way people work, we not only need to make sure there is a will to change but we may need to give people the skills, learning and space required to change. 

Learning and development is vital to achieving your business goals.

People development isn’t just important to a company, it is also one of the more neglected aspects of management and business planning. Helping your staff shape the direction of their careers is tied directly to your growth as a company and achieving your business goals. Training should never be an afterthought or baked into a one-time on-boarding exercise.

No training program can mean a loss of top young talent and high IP (intellectual property) talent.

People development programs present a prime opportunity to expand the knowledge base of employees, but also helps to stem early employee exits. When you satisfy a person’s need for on-the-job development, they value these opportunities. When we feel valued we feel wanted.

Understandably management often views training as expensive, time-consuming and taking folks away from billable projects. However, despite these potential drawbacks, training and development provides both the individual and organization as a whole with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment. 

The return on investment from training and development of employees should be considered a no brainer. So many organizations are constantly in a state of upheaval, reorganizing and trying to do more with less. In this environment, we tend to focus on the day-to-day operations. We use the excuse that there is no time for training.

However, here’s the bottom line. 

Training and development programs improve employee performance — the employee who receives the necessary training is more able to perform in their job, thus increasing efficiency and productivity.

Training has to come from the heart, it can’t be mandatory, it has to be focused on the individual. This is why training goes hand-in-hand with mentoring and the development of an on-going development program for the individual. When people see you take a real interest in their future, it creates a genuine connection. This connection helps to build employee loyalty. Development planning should be something you take a real personal interest in, you need to understand what learning is need and unique to each individual employee.

Thus, training builds loyalty and accountability, which means increased productivity. Taking an honest interest in a person’s growth builds loyalty and engagement. Engaged folks are more productive. 

Training also gives folks a greater understanding of their responsibilities within their role, and in turn can build their confidence in doing their job. This confidence will enhance their overall performance. Employees who are competent not only helps them to complete work but will add value to the work being done.

Capable, ambitious employees want training, mentoring and coaching. They want to feel valued and be valued. Development programs improve employee satisfaction and morale and creates a learning environment that solves problems.

It also addresses an employee’s weaknesses. Most employees will have some weaknesses in their workplace skills. Training allows you to strengthen the competencies that each employee needs to improve on. This brings your folks up to a higher competency level which helps reduce any weak links within the organization who may rely heavily on others to complete basic work tasks. 

Providing training creates a more knowledgeable staff with employees who can help one another as needed, work in teams or independently without constant supervision.

Training programs are vital to increasing innovation and building new strategies and products. When we up-skill our people, we encourage creativity and practicing new learning. New ideas, thinking and behaviors can be formed in the organization as a direct result of training and development.

To maintain your company’s health, development of competencies are essential to reach your future organizational goals. This can mean building up current employees for succession and future leadership roles or developing people to fill vital educational and changing role needs so that your company can remain competitive.

People development programs do not have to be elaborate, but they do have to be guided. You need to understand your employees, recognize their skills and (personal)needs and guide them to fill in their competency gaps. When it is done properly, the payoff can be substantial. It means reducing employee turnover. Your people are more likely to feel valued if they are invested in and therefore, less likely to move-on. Training and development directly reduce recruitment costs that go along with employee retention. 

Training also enhances your company culture and reputation. It helps make your brand more attractive than others for potential hires. Training can be used to help meet potential new employee needs and can be a key differentiator and deciding factor. It keeps people engaged from day one.

To learn more about how organizational development can assist you in developing training programs that are aligned with your corporate goals, reach out to Ed today.

Trust & Authentic Feedback

In the book, “The Invisible Element: A Practical Guide for the Human Dynamics of Innovation,” Rosenfeld and Wilhelmi stipulate something that should make common sense to all of us that, “organizations don’t innovate, people do.” 

And it’s true, to be creative and produce something innovate means allowing people in your organization to be free to do so. Creating and sustaining innovation is a very complex undertaking, and only happens when organizations provide the environment, resources and focus that will allow it to flourish (Rosenfeld & Wilhelmi 2011).

To allow people to use their talent, you have to give them a bit of free range to do so in an environment built on honest to goodness trust. If we could name one factor that can kill a team, project or agency, I think it would be the loss of trust. If people don’t trust you, then you can forget about getting the truth, real communication, and honest work reciprocated. 


Organic team development only begins to develop when people trust each other, and only grows when people share values and beliefs that drive positive team behavior. However, sharing values doesn’t mean that we lose our individual differences. 

When I trust some one, then I feel comfortable in sharing something with them, and when they trust me, they will share something back, then we are able to work together in a collaborative manner. Building trust at different levels is a common theme though out this book. From building an organization that has transparency at all levels to building organizational and individual values, to using our communication and listening skills to ensure understanding to building flexibility in what we do to working with our teams at the proper level. 

We all know the old saying, “Trust is hard to earn, but easily lost.” I know it sounds cliché, but authentic reciprocal trust requires an individual to take a personal risk and that’s not easy for some people to give. Once people lose trust in you, it can spread very quickly to other members of the team and the organization. So be yourself, be honest, communicate and be resilient. Have compassion for others but don’t be a push over either, push back when you need to. Minimize the unnecessary crap that your team doesn’t need to be involved with, but keep them informed through solid communication. Remember what you told people, and keep your word. Get to know people and how you can best motivate them, and look at for them.


Working in a collaborative team environment, means that not only are people sharing ideas, but they are providing feedback.  I know it can be hard to give honest feedback (that’s not always job related)sometimes, but their are some rules that you should follow when giving feedback. 

As a manager and leader you are there as a servant for betterment. It is very important that when you give feedback, it with energy that is giving. Before you set out to give feedback, do your homework, prepare for what you are going to say and make sure its clean of negative energy and done with intention and presence.

Don’t be shy about giving feedback, it scares people when you are giving off odd body language or verbal hesitations. Giving feedback can sometimes be pretty hard to do, people can feel vulnerable. You aren’t looking to break trust, you are looking to build it. 

Watch what you say, when you say it. Don’t be an ass an make anything personal or bring up stuff the person did months ago. Make sure the feedback is timely and something the person can use to help them grow.

Try and give feedback in private, where it’s just you and the other person. No one wants to be given negative feedback in front of the group and the team. Help the person out by providing specifics, on ways that are what I call “strategies for working.” This way together you can both explore ways of improving together, and the person has gained new thinking in ways of tackling problems.

Be conscious of the way you are giving feedback, if you are an ass, then the person is not going to listen to you, the only thing they will remember is you being an ass to them, not that there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Providing feedback is not an easy task, but a place where trust can be easily lost. This is why you need to really think hard about the right way of providing feedback to the individual. Different personalities, requires you to frame your feedback in ways that are proper to them. Understand that not everyone will be open to what you have to say. 

Integrated Producers as Project Managers

Integrated production in creative land started out as merging the production of digital, broadcast, print and almost all other production into production department in the agency. This happened because many agencies shifted their creative philosophies, talent and structure to better orient themselves to create ideas unencumbered by specific media; agencies shifted their core principles to being media agnostic.

As agencies began to tear down silos, the transition to having one hub for managing production and project management made sense. Creative firms rarely find themselves working on one type of project anymore, and having one producer manage the content helped to coordinate the larger creative campaigns. 

Addressing an ever widening landscape of creative work

As we have moved to having multi-disciplined projects, the producer model allows a central project manager like person who has an understanding of everything that goes on. In the integrated producer model, you are more than likely going to have a team of producers who have the critical thinking experience needed to work across different disciplines, but may be an expert with a deep understanding of one or more unique disciplines. Having a team of producers allows you a group of key people who can handle not only a large diversity of work, but they can also collaborate and work off of each other’s specialities to get the best work produced as possible. 

The mentality of the producer is one that searches to solve problems, building teams in-house as well as outside the agency to do the impossible, to help wrangle complex scheduling and budgeting and negotiating and orchestrating a complex set of inter-related projects. 

The producer model can also be found in a production services company as well as on the digital agency side. Integrated production shifts the emphasis to looking at the big picture, with the thinking that producers will look to the best way of accomplishing a project. This was similar to how broadcast production companies used producers, as well as digital agencies who found themselves working directly with agencies.

The emphasis on who makes up the best integrated producer in agency has also changed. Many single silo’ed producers had a hard time making the switch to handle multiple platforms. However, integrated production is less interactive central now, as the diversity of platforms and creative, technology and content needs has changed.

Protecting Creativity

It’s okay not to have all the answers, but having a producer mentality focuses the energy into finding the answer. Now, the expectation is not that the producer knows every answer themselves, but can call on their peers, their team or help to bring in outside partners or artists that they can call on at any time to see the project through.

Improved Budgeting / Profitability

In this model, budgeting comes into line with the producer. The concept is basically to allow the team to focus on strategy and creative, with the producers sitting alongside. Together, with other agencies specialists (like a creative technologist) they will build out the budget and advise on what platform or ways that a client is going to get the most out of their budget.

When Integrated Production Makes Sense — Content, Content, Content

We no longer create on one platform anymore. How people consume content is changing, we are drifting away from the broadcast commercial model to content living simultaneously on second screens and smart devices. High quality creative content is still in demand, even as the way we are watching it has changed to on-demand culture.

How we are reaching audiences has changed, as well as the media mix. We may still communicate using traditional media, but we are now dealing with communicating with smaller audiences, in more unique ways, building content that is social and sharable friendly.

The “user journey” in the digital world has merged. The journey of the consumer can include, traditional media, digital, email, direct marketing, the retail space, social, experiential, event, loyalty & CRM programs. The integrated producer model helps to support an agency process that starts with a larger discovery period before getting to the conceptual stage.

Agencies have implemented the integrated model in a few different ways. However, more than likely, integrated agencies are going to be creating content that is story-driven and perhaps heavier on the immersive side.

Integrated advertising has changed in meaning through the years. But the intent is the same, to weave similar experiences through multiple channels, platforms, technology and touchpoints.

Integrated production and project management workflow is also driven by agency culture. Technology doesn’t drive decisions, creative decisions drive the technology.

Integrated driven agencies are also shifting where they look to build content. In both large and small agencies alike, you are seeing more agencies build internal production capabilities; from development, motion graphics, to shooting video, photography, editing and animation. Agencies are looking to respond to their client’s audience faster, and with more original content then ever before.

Depending on the agency, the team structure of integrated production can vary;

Integrated Producer (from SOW, content to end-to-end producing and project management)

Integrated Producer (SOW & Content Development) & Project Manager (managing day-to-day work and resource allocation)

Integrated Producer (SOW & Content Development) & Project Manger (managing day-to-day work and resource allocation) & Technical Lead or Scrum Master (overseeing development)

One of the reasons why integrated production came into being was because agencies and marketers are challenged with costs and efficiency. How do you create, commercials, print, digital, and social media content in a cost effective, but engaging way? 

However, the old model of “create once and reuse often” is being seen as somewhat limited. Content in today’s communications world, can get stale very quickly.  So even in the integrated producer model you are seeing new practices being applied.

Central to the integrated model is working within in teams, that cover a number of different channels. These team members are brought into the mix as the larger umbrella thinking progresses from strategy into discover and creative phases. Many agencies embrace the team structure in a semi-agile like manner, where teams work on the clients business and can react quickly to take advantage of cultural, technical or media opportunities. 

Agencies are also building internal teams that will work with the larger team model that have autonomy to quickly work on a client’s business to take advantage of timeliness.

Integrated production models can follow through on either type of advertising model, taking advantage of near-time as well as working in “big idea” environments.

What makes for a great integrated producer?

  • Being an integrated producer is very similar to being a creative project manager. In many agencies, the integrated producer is the project manager. 
  • You have to have a deep set of skills in one or more area, digital, broadcast, product, etc.
  • You have to be a good critical thinker who can realign teams on a heart beat.
  • You have to live and breath, creativity, design and innovation.
  • As a big agency hub, you have to fit into the culture seamlessly across all levels.
  • Client-facing skills
  • Find the best way to produce any given idea.

Integrated producers mean different things at different agencies and when they hire, they might be looking for different types of integrated producers to round out or fill in. Integrated Producers can live within an agency that has other internal processes as well, where interactive work is run with project management or with product / scrum methodologies.

Integrated Project Management Breakdown - Large Agency

Integrated Producer    Head of Technology    Project Manager

Client Kick-Off    Client Kick-Off    Client Kick-Off

Production Kick-Off    Production Kick-Off    Production Kick-Off

SOW Creation    SOW & Estimate Review    Estimate Creation

Production Methodologies    Technical Audit    Resource Allocation

Source Production Partners    Manage Development    Manage Schedule

Manage Partners    Manage Tech Partners    Project Execution

Production Review QA    Production Review QA    Production Review QA


Integrated Project Management Breakdown - Digital Agency

Integrated Producer    Tech & Creative Leads    Scrum Master

Client Kick-Off    Client Kick-Off    

Production Kick-Off    Production Kick-Off    Production Kick-Off

SOW / Estimate Creation    Story Points / SOW    Story Points / SOW

Production Methodologies    Technical Audit    Backlog

Source Production Partners    Manage Development    Manage Scrums

Manage Partners    Manage Tech Partners    Project Execution

Production Review QA    Production Review QA    Production Review QA


Integrated Project Management Breakdown - Team Based

Integrated Producer     Team

Client Kick-Off    Client Kick-Off

Production Kick-Off    Production Kick-Off

SOW / Estimate Creation    Story Points / SOW

Production Execution    Audits    

Manage Partners    Execution

Production Review & QA    Production Review & QA

Integrated Managers are tuned to managing cross-functional teams

Integrated producers act as project leaders of small groups of individuals that can cross both formal and informal functional departmental boundaries and levels of hierarchy. The teams are created by the integrated producer (who acts inconjunction with other producers to handle staffing resources) to commit to a common goal — typically formed for a project, program or by client for a finite amount of time; the team acts and works as one unit. They communicate frequently, cooperating and providing mutual support, coordinating activities, drawing upon and exploiting the skills and capabilities of each other, while considering the needs of individual members to meet the larger project goals.

Small cross-functional teams can have an advantage over other structures in an organization to accomplish a project than individuals acting alone or in a large, permanently structured hierarchy setting. The belief is that cross-functional teams, improve the quality of the outcome (by diversity of discipline) and become committed to see the project through to the end.

Cross-functional teams can be formed by producers in a number of ways.

  • They can stretch across all project phases and include, strategy, business analysis, project management, designers, creatives, developers or technologists to name a few.
  • They can work together as a unit full-time, meet once, or meet on a regular basis.
  • Cross-functional teams can network together in smaller groups.
  • Individuals in the team can bring in additional experts or network with the other specialists to bring back new learnings.
  • They can be directed by a project (or team) manager, be self-organized or have facilitated delegation of tasks.

When teams work in groups that are multi-disciplined, they can bring together a wide range of knowledge, experience and problem solving skills to the table that enable projects to be tackled with multiple perspectives and thinking. The value of cross-functional teams is that there is a greater depth and understanding of a wider range of perspectives to look at a problem.

To build cross-functional teams, firms need to support them not only on the organization level, but support them through the stages of team formation so 

Integrated Managers are tuned to managing cross-functional teams

Integrated producers act as project leaders of small groups of individuals that can cross both formal and informal functional departmental boundaries and levels of hierarchy. The teams are created by the integrated producer (who acts inconjunction with other producers to handle staffing resources) to commit to a common goal — typically formed for a project, program or by client for a finite amount of time; the team acts and works as one unit. They communicate frequently, cooperating and providing mutual support, coordinating activities, drawing upon and exploiting the skills and capabilities of each other, while considering the needs of individual members to meet the larger project goals.

    Small cross-functional teams can have an advantage over other structures in an organization to accomplish a project than individuals acting alone or in a large, permanently structured hierarchy setting. The belief is that cross-functional teams, improve the quality of the outcome (by diversity of discipline) and become committed to see the project through to the end.

Cross-functional teams can be formed by producers in a number of ways.

They can stretch across all project phases and include, strategy, business analysis, project management, designers, creatives, developers or technologists to name a few.

They can work together as a unit full-time, meet once, or meet on a regular basis.

Cross-functional teams can network together in smaller groups.

Individuals in the team can bring in additional experts or network with the other specialists to bring back new learnings.

They can be directed by a project (or team) manager, be self-organized or have facilitated delegation of tasks.

When teams work in groups that are multi-disciplined, they can bring together a wide range of knowledge, experience and problem solving skills to the table that enable projects to be tackled with multiple perspectives and thinking. The value of cross-functional teams is that there is a greater depth and understanding of a wider range of perspectives to look at a problem.

    To build cross-functional teams, firms need to support them not only on the organization level, but support them through the stages of team formation so that they can become effective groups.

We build Cross-functional teams so,

They share a common vision, and are committed to achieving a common purpose.

They share leadership roles as well as responsibility for processes, project progress and outcomes.

They are both individually and mutually accountable to each other and to their collective performance.

They agree on a common way of working, establishing rules of engagement with each other in how they will contribute to the team’s efforts.

Every member displays respect, trust and openness to each other, and encourage open communication, exploring each others ideas and have an active problem-solving approach that is transparent between all team members.

They are dedicated to doing the best job they can at all levels.

They can assess their own collective progress and work and will help each other to complete the final outcome.

The firm supports them with systems, structures and frameworks that allow them to work in this fashion.

The idea of establishing cross-functional teams is simple, it is to create a flat-structured way of working that ignores hierarchical structures and constraints. 

As the firm grows, you look to build additional dedicated and ad-hoc teams to scale your organization, without having the baggage of creating lots of unnecessary levels of hierarchy. 

Working in cross-functional teams creates a peer environment, where members can share their knowledge to improve the overall level of decision-making. Teams are meant to increase efficiency, as they can come together quickly, work and complete projects, they are not limited to a particular set of skills or roles and can be redeployed as projects come to completion.

Because the team has shared goals, the team shares in working towards achieving those goals. 

Integrated project managers play an important role in cross-functional team structures as well. They can help establish goals and help the team set priorities, a backlog of tasks and manage project constraints. They act as the main provider of information and can help the team seek out unanswered questions, or unclear information. They can help the team through the formation process, and analyze, measure and report on individual abilities, training or skill issues. They can also participate in creative team problem solving or conflict resolution and contribute their own technical or functional experience with the team.

The Power of Teams

How do we accomplish the impossible?

How do we make a big idea come alive? How do we make something that never existed before real? Everyone, will be asked at least once (although as project managers it seems like everyday), to make the seemingly undoable, doable. Under impossible conditions and overwhelming odds, we will be challenged to make crazy asks, happen.

In 1990, at the age of twenty-one, I was lucky enough to land my first job with a small creative marketing firm, where I was equally lucky enough to encounter my first mentor, Curt. Through the years, Curt would impart many, valuable lessons. He believed in creating a culture that support self-organized teams, where everyone was valued, contributed, played a role and helped each other to problem solve.

It was a collective of people that were united, passionate and full of energy. They loved to make stuff, whether for a client or themselves. It was that passion and constant activity that seemed to provide a never ending boost for everyone.

How Do We Adapt to Change?

How do we adapt to change?

Change is happening in every organization, across every department and in every geography. Change is not limited to self-defined creative organizations or innovative companies. During the past seven years, I have traveling across the USA and have spoken to organizations far and wide. Change is a topic that organizations all over the world are thinking about. 

Building Cross-functional Teams

A cross-functional team in a creative firm can take on many forms.

These teams are small groups of individuals that cross formal or informal functional departmental boundaries and levels of hierarchy. The groups are created to commit to a common purpose or goal, typically formed for a project, program or by client for a finite amount of time; the team acts and works as one unit. They communicate frequently, cooperating and providing mutual support, coordinating activities, drawing upon and exploiting the skills and capabilities of each other, while considering the needs of individual members.

Cross-functional teams are formed on the assumption that a small group is better able to accomplish a creative project than individuals acting alone or in a large, permanently structured setting. The belief is that cross-functional teams, improve the quality of the outcome and become committed to see the project through to the end.

It’s Easier to Demotivate than Motivate Creative People

In almost every discussion of how to motivate individuals, it’s inevitable that the discussion will turn to some form of reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is a reference to a pattern that human motivations generally go through. For example, if someone’s basic needs aren’t being met, like their rent, we don’t motivate them by recognizing them with a fifty dollar gift card to Applebee’s.

Unless you know the person really well, it can be hard to determine where they are sit on the hierarchy and how to effectively motivate them. You have to get to know someone a bit to understand what’s the best way of motivating them. As their lives change, so does what will potentially motivate them. You might have a great worker one day, who seems to get motivated purely for doing challenging work, then one day they kind of shut down. We might think that they are getting bored, or don’t feel challenged any more. We may worry that they are now looking for a job.

The Ever Changing State of Creative Project Management

The Ever Changing State of Creative Project Management

Over fifteen years ago I started writing about creative agency operations. It started out as a necessity, to teach the people in the agency’s I worked for how to get work done. As a creative producer, I knew that if I taught people how to work together and get their act together, then I would gain time. Time to craft, time to get ideas made, time to do more with less.

It started out as a survival tactic. If I could teach everyone in the agency what was expected of them, then when it came to working outside the normal way of doing things, then people made rational decisions.

Together, we will figure it out and get it done. 

Agency Culture

Culture in an ad agency is unique to the place and the personalities of the people running the shop. There is the outward agency persona, and then there is the inward true cultural persona of the agency that we all work within.


Agencies are a business and the established distinctive culture of the place is there on purpose. For one thing, as a brand seeks a potential agency partner, they look for agencies that would be a good working relationship fit. An agency's culture is part of what the shop is selling to a client. It is part of the promise to the client, on what type of work they are going to get and how they are going to work together to get there. If the agency is all about ROI and analytics, think about the types of people and processes that would be in place as opposed to an agency that is known for design or an agency that is known for very out-of-the-box thinking...

When an Organization's Culture Goes Toxic

When an Organization's Culture Goes Toxic

Creative land can be stressful. 

We have deadlines, demanding clients, and people that we work with that can drive us mad. The terms "creative shop" and “sweatshop" are too often used interchangeably when it comes to describing certain work environments. Working late nights, on the weekends, or on vacation is considered normal. A creative career with a positive work-life balance is often very hard to come by.

Truth be told, many organizations value “the work” above all else. The work pays the bills and keep the clients coming. Too often, we forget that it's the people behind the work that make it happen.

As employees, I think we are pretty savvy when it comes to deciding where we work. We know ahead of time what we are getting ourselves into. You can bet we’ve googled the company and its leadership, and checked out the dirt on industry blogs. Our friends have told us about the environment, the recruiter used certain words to clue us in, and quite frankly, the company’s values are pretty much out in the open.

Being as S.M.A.R.T. A.S...

Being as S.M.A.R.T. A.S...

How do we get project managers to think beyond basic project goals? By remembering that creative assignments are a set of accomplishments beyond being on-time and on-budget.

One of the reasons why I hesitate on the "traffic manager" approach to managing creativity, is that if you ask any traffic manager (and albeit many project managers) what determines a project's success, you are going to hear the single repetitive mantra of "being on-time and on-budget." Traffic managers are good at getting things from point A to point B, fast, but that's because there is a set path. Deviations from that single path, however, can be hard on traffic managers, since they have high accountability for providing regular outcomes on just those two work activities. They don't always think beyond what is provided to them as project objectives.

Traffic managers are rarely given the responsibility or held accountable for a project's holistic goals. Since just like a production manager, they are only held responsible for only part of the bigger project. This is best shown, by the adaptive mantra of, "Pick two: Do you want it on-time, on-budget or good? You can't have all three." As far as measurable metrics go, these three variables are pretty poor. Who and what determines if a project is good or great? Good is a pretty subjective criteria to measure...

What Makes a Great Creative Project Manager?

What Makes a Great Creative Project Manager?

Recently, I attended a panel on project management as an audience member. One of the topics that kept coming up was, “What makes a great project manager?” I don’t think the panel ever fully got around to fully answering the heart of the question. 

Over the years, my project management style has certainly changed. But when I look back to when and where I was very successful, I can see certain patterns emerge. 

Beyond the Mechanics and Taskmaster

If you have ever taken a project management course, or worked on your PMP, you tend to focus on the mechanics of how to manage a project. How to create a scope, a project plan, identifying tasks, navigating process, risk, milestones and deadlines are all things that are taught and learned. Certainly these are skills are important to know, a strong foundation in the basics means you can apply these concepts.

Indeed, knowledge of the mechanics is often one of the key things people look for in a project manager. However, if all you did as a project manager was to apply these concepts religiously, you may find yourself in the role and style of a taskmaster. I think this is where a lot of company’s get it wrong. If you are all business, and driven by tasks, productivity and outcomes, you might find yourself driving people on your team away from working as a team.

I’ll give you an example. I remember when I started at a very well known creative shop. First day on the job, I had a very senior project manager come up to me and announce, “Hi, my name is ______, and I’m a bitch. Get use to it.” 

I raised an eyebrow, like I tend to do, and I thought to myself, wow — great first impression, I bet everyone just loves to work with you.

From the outside, upper management thought she was one of the most productive people in the company. And yes, this person got stuff done. This person valued outcomes and this is what management saw, and by providing positive feedback she felt empowered.

So yes, this person got stuff done, but bullied everyone along the way. Did anyone want to work with this individual? No, this empowered person, lacked empathy. While this style may push work through, it wreaked havoc on the creative teams. While this individual may have completed things on time, if you compared this person’s projects with other project managers, you would see some significant differences...

Producers vs Project Managers in Today's Agency - Revisited

Producers vs Project Managers in Today's Agency - Revisited

When it comes to managing how work gets done organization wide, advertising agencies are anything but typical when it comes to workflow & process. Part of what makes an agency special (besides the people that work there) is the agency's approach to how they create work. It’s also driven in part, by how the agency tries to carve out a unique place for itself among the hundreds of agencies in at the marketplace.

In the past, we often identified agencies by either being account or creative driven. Now, however, we identify agencies in dozens of different ways from being creative, account, digital, data-driven, interactive with varying 360° experience, a general agency with varying degrees of interactive experience, to name just a few. This fragmentation of focus and company values has lead to a greater variety in workflow paths among agencies.

As experienced managers we know the dangers and pitfalls of having a workflow process that leans toward one of these extremes. It's no wonder that many agencies are re-examining project management and redefining traditional roles within the agency. In the quest to better manage our agencies, we are tearing down traditional silos to create cross-functional teams, but on the opposite end we are also creating new digital silos with technical teams that seem to have a narrower creative function...

Building Your Agency's Integrated Engine

Building Your Agency's Integrated Engine

Your agency's engine has a dual purpose. First, it needs to be able to drive your agency to develop creative solutions and innovations for you and your clients. Second, your engine is the heart of how you get your team to those solutions. Without out a reliable, and strong engine that can keep up with the evolution of advertising, you may find yourself running out of gas and stuck on the curb.

One of the main reasons why I started this site was to not only share the basics of process and workflow — to provide a starting point in defining what goes on during the creative process — but to make the case that the way an agency operates is a vital, strategic part of the business model.

Throughout the site, you are going to find a variety of ways of doing things, most of it centered around the basics, to help you evaluate what parts you may need to build your own unique agency model. This definition process, I think is vital to help you define and develop your own practices for your own specific agency...

Building Presence on the Creative Playing Field

Building Presence on the Creative Playing Field

On any given weekend, you may find yourself watching a game. In my house, the sport of choice, both watched and played on the weekends is soccer. As with any team sport, each member of the team needs to work together in order to score a goal. Every member of the team has a particular role but plays with an intricate underlying knowledge of who's on the field and where they are. Some play offense, some defense, but they have enough knowledge and ability to fill a gap if a player needs help. They work together passing the ball forward, backwards and sideways to keep possession of the ball and ultimately to score a goal.

Creativity is also a team sport. The art of solving creative problems requires thinkers, makers and builder to come together to solve business strategies by executing ideas that resonate emotionally and designed for you and me. Project managers along with strategists, creatives, and technologists all play different roles on the field, but the best teams are made up of individuals who not only play well together, but complement and support each other in developing ideas.

If you ever watched a soccer game, every now and then you'll see a player seemingly come out of nowhere and make a play, taking away the ball, acting as interference, blocking or shooting for a goal. It can seem like the reaction was almost instantaneous, and can have the direct effect of changing the tempo of the game. All of a sudden the ball is on the other side of the field, just one more kick a way from making a goal.

In order to be that individual, who can see all the players on the field, the hundreds of variations on where the ball can be kicked or passed to, and be the player to arrive at the exact instance in time where you are needed most is called having field presence. It is the ability to see through all the extraneous distractions, analyze what needs to be done and then act. 

While this is especially true of team leaders, anyone on the team can have field presence. However, as a team leader or project manager or producer, it can be an invaluable skill. As someone who may have played sports, or have been on a creative team, I bet you already know what I'm talking about, or at least you've seen someone utilize this skill in the real world. While this can be a natural ability, everyone can improve their own field presence skills. To give you some idea on how you can gain field presence, I'm going to walk through some project management framing questions that can not only help you in managing projects, but help to develop your own project management presence...

The Integrated Team Model

The Integrated Team Model

The integrated model for agencies is focused on building collaborative teams to strategize, come up with ideas, make, execute, and evolve creative projects together. It is a more dramatic way of tearing down silos in an agency. While all agencies have their own core business model, these diagrams show how a small team can be built to work together in a design thinking "like" environment. Successive slides show how the team can work with the larger agency group.

The idea is, as you move out of the core, you either bring in new players to the team, or the team members themselves use their "T" shaped knowledge of their core function. This also means that the entire team can share and exhibit strategic multi-discipline views on a creative problem.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts. In the upcoming weeks, I will be adding to the diagrams.

The Creative Brief - An Exercise in Soft Values Between Client & Agency.

The Creative Brief - An Exercise in Soft Values Between Client & Agency.

If you do a quick google search on creative briefs, you’ll find hundreds of articles online. I think this is a testament to how hard it is to write a good brief, since the development of the brief, is as much a part of the creative process as thinking of ideas to answer the brief itself. The creative brief is meant to be the culmination of all the research and strategy completed, an understand of the client’s business, an understanding of the audience and a framing of the goal of the communication – in addition to uncovering the truths and insights about the emotions and behaviors surrounding the brand, consumer and cultural relevance. It's a lot to think about. However, a good creative brief is also meant to spark inspiration while guiding your team through the constraints of objectives, how and where you may engage, and hypothetically how much time and budget is suppose to be spent. 

It’s a tall order to create a good brief (and one that is brief). It is no wonder that many briefs, to put it mildly — suck.

We expect clients really do want to engage agencies for their creativity and innovation, as well as the tactical application of strategy. However, sometimes clients get more caught up in a tactical approach to defining projects (writing a 12 page essay chock full of business objectives and must haves) than actually engaging agencies to do what they do best – think...

Managing the Creative Process & Integrated Project Management

Managing the creative process is more than just setting and following the rules of typical project management procedures. As a creative industry, you would think that agency's would be better at identifying that the reason for tension and conflict is often created by the formality and rigidness of processes that we put in place to help us be more efficient.

I often look back at my time working at both small agencies and startups with great nostalgia. For those of us who have spent time in similar small organizations, we know what it's like to have that small company, "we can get done," team spirit. Or at least what's it like to work with your slightly awkward extended family.

In small agencies, you often get the impression that very little formal project management is in place. While that's most likely true, what you do feel is that people often feel invested in common goals and that they really believe in the philosophies that founded the agency. In a way, small agencies do act as one very large cohesive team, even though they seem dysfunctional at times. At a small shop, everyone usually knows what's expected of them, what the goals are, how to get the work done, where they want the agency to go, and what they want from the experience. If you had a problem, people talked and communicated. If something was outside of your job, you still felt you could contribute and be appreciated...