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As we evolve our tactics to keep up with shifting algorithms and user trends, many marketing teams find themselves ill equipped to beat the shift. At some point, we all must ask ourselves if the team we needed three years ago to meet our business goals is the team we need today. If the answer is no, it’s time for a reorg.

When I asked frequent “Call to Action” contributor Paul Redfern, who serves as vice president of communications for St. Lawrence University, about reorgs, he responded with empathy: “A friend once gave me a quote from author Robin Sharma that I think is a great way to describe a reorganization,” he said. ‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.’”

There is a process to advocate for staff augmentation, pivots, and yes, even promotions, that works. Even though you might be trying to augment your hi-fi marketing technology stack, the tactics you actually need to get the job done are low-fi by comparison. 

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Ask a mentor for help

Don’t start from scratch. Reach out to someone who has been through the process before and ask questions. Before going into each of my reorgs, I asked so many questions of so many mentors from various stages of my career that I had a good idea of what to expect before I started the process. 

“I have found it helpful to have a thinking partner during the process,” Redfern says. “Someone who you can bounce ideas off of and who shares your vision for the future.”

Your partner can be internal, too. In fact, internal helps. 

Conduct a team SWOT analysis

Assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats isn’t just for corporations—it works. First, conduct your own. Then, meet with each team member individually and ask for theirs. More often than not, they’ll match. The same bottlenecks and workflow issues will surface from the phalanx, not just from a single spear. Combine them.

Write a memorandum (with charts and job descriptions)

Now that you have identified your needs, you must hash out a solution that you can pitch to senior leadership and human resources. So, start writing. What is the state of your organization in terms of needs met and needs left dying on the vine? What is the overarching problem you must solve? What is your (informed) vision for solving it?

You must make a business case to communicate clearly how you plan to plug your gaps. If new positions are warranted, write the job descriptions and do your research on median salaries. If you are advocating for promotions of current team members, write their new job descriptions and grade them, too. Build a new organizational chart based on your new staffing plan. Don’t wait for someone to ask, because it won’t happen.

“As a leader, if you wait for the perfect time to reorganize it will never come,” Redfern says. 

Include alternatives and plan for less

What if it’s not in the budget to promote three employees? Include an alternative org chart and promotion plan to promote two. If you can’t get two new hires, plan for one.  

"Organizational leaders who execute a structural change really need to keep two things in mind: people and positions,” says J.P. Rains, director of digital strategy at Laurentian University.“We should be creating a structure that takes into consideration the existing people in positions, as well as the future of that position with a new person. Each change has to be a custom design to your organization." 

Think about every option, and in each scenario, ask yourself how each change can improve performance and open bottlenecks. What can you absolutely do without? 

"While it can be tempting to re-create an organizational structure that would create the most efficiency, it's important to consider the existing people in each role,” Rains says. “Creating something that is complementary to the people in your organization might create even more efficiency in the end. It's a balance between where you are today and where you need to be in two, five and 10 years." 

Meet with your boss and make your pitch 

After you’ve built your plan, print it out. Place it in a clear-view binder titled “Department Reorganization Plan.” Use dividers and tab extensions with labels to delineate your current org chart and job descriptions from your proposed new structure.  Actually, make two binders.

Now, ask for a meeting with your supervisor to discuss reorganizing your department. During the meeting, walk through the current org chart and job descriptions for your proposed new structure. Chances are that if you’re having the meeting, your boss is already aware of any issues and is willing to listen to what you have to say. Remember: you can’t green light a reorg without a plan. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got a fighting chance. If your boss opts to call in Human Resources, be prepared to make the same pitch again. Bring your second binder this time. If your boss bought in, chances are HR won’t disagree. 

Communicate the reorg to all stakeholders

Since you’ve already asked your staff to share their insights about the team, it’s safe to say they know there is a chance change is coming. By now, months will have passed from that first brainstorm to successful announcement. Be sure to ask HR exactly when you can communicate any promotions, new positions, or other moves and do it as soon as you get the nod. Call a team meeting and answer every question. Meet with each team member individually, too. Then, work with your supervisor on a plan to communicate the changes to the rest of your organization. 

As this Harvard Business Review piece suggests, don’t stay silent or resort to “ivory-tower idealism” by broadcasting the reorg so much that it begs cynicism from others.At this point, you should be prepared for some pushback from other units, even from within. It’s inevitable in any bureaucracy. This is the hardest part. I’ve made both mistakes. I’ve stayed silent for too long, waiting on direction that never came from senior leadership. I’ve also made the announcement myself—without a plan for further dialogue. When the politics reign down, it’s your job to be hypersensitive to the culture of your workplace. Keep dialogue open and make sure to listen to feedback.

"Sometimes we have to consider what's best for the organization, rather than what's best for the internal politics," Rains says.

Remember, no matter how your needs appear on the surface, it’s not about politics. It’s about surfacing more value from your needs. Good luck. 

Joseph Master is the executive director of marketing and digital strategy at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He serves on the Board of Directors for the College and University Public Relations and Associated Professionals (CUPRAP). ​

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