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How to successfully align your in-house teams

By Jennie Kitchin

How to successfully align your in-house teams

Our London office recently hosted the seventh event in the ‘Good To Great’ series. The event, in association with Make Your Words Work, focussed on how to get your internal teams working better together, whether in the wider company or within your own creative department. We featured three amazing speakers from Capita, Macmillan Cancer Support and Argos, each talking about how they run their teams and align themselves with the other in-house departments, and giving advice on how you can take your own team from good to great.

Perfect your communication

This might sound like an obvious first step to ensure all your in-house departments are working well together but, as Joseph Shaffery from Capita explains, it goes beyond simply having a conversation. You need to make sure that all parties are communicating in the way they are most comfortable with. Different personalities respond to different ways of working, some people prefer email over face to face meetings, or are happiest picking up the phone rather than putting their concerns in writing. The key is to work out the best way of communicating and alter your approach depending on who you are interacting with. DISC Assessments, or similar workplace personality tests, have become incredibly popular in the past few years. Although they definitely still come with a degree of scepticism, they can be a very interesting and beneficial practice for your business and can give real insight into the varied personalities and working styles within your teams. Joseph found, as a design team, the most challenging aspects of a project were around technical issues from the development team. He found a workaround by altering the conversation and asking the dev team to provide a list of questions that they would ask for every project. This meant that his team could head off any issues before the initial handover, making the process smoother and the communication less strained. James Reekie at Macmillan Cancer Support agreed that day to day support is very important. His team matchmake their creatives with other internal teams so that every department has a single point of contact for their projects. This helps to streamline the conversation and ensure that every team feels their voice is being heard.

Streamline your process

It’s important that your team is seen as approachable and that you make the work process as easy as possible for other teams. Most companies have core values that cover the entire business, but they tend to be generic and don’t translate down to individual teams. Joseph suggests writing your own! They should be simple guidelines for your work process and values and you should connect their meaning with your delivery, referring back to them for every project. At Macmillan, James and the team have introduced a Creative Clinic which is held every day. The Macmillan senior creative team put aside an hour of their time to discuss any project that requires guidance or feedback. Each project gets a 15 minute slot, which is an opportunity to ask any questions about a project no matter what stage it is at. James has found that this is a very successful way of inviting the conversation, giving his team the opportunity to feed in early and join up each project with the right design contact. This then transitions into the daily support his team offer through their single point of contact as the project progresses. This process should be partnered with great guidelines, assets and templates that are easily accessible to everyone within the business. You should also ensure that everyone takes part in a full brand induction when they join the company. This is essential to instill brand values and will help each team to fully understand the creative process.

Own your brand

As an in-house design team, your brand is your most important project. It should inform everything you do. So, it’s important to own it and be seen as the authority on that brand within the business. This should go beyond simply creating brand guidelines and defining strategy, to actively controlling what is produced and distributed externally. If your in-house team is small and you need to outsource some creative work to agencies, make sure they are agencies you have approved. Create an roster and make sure only those agencies are used for your projects. As a brand ambassador, you should ensure part of your role is to build and maintain these agency relationships so that they are always up to date with your current brand values. Macmillan use a Brand Review process, which ensures that James and the team see and sign off on everything the organisation produces. This takes the form of an inbox managed by the team where every external communication is sent before it goes out, meaning nothing can be distributed externally without being approved. They offer a same day service so as not to delay execution of a project unless there is an issue, and they collect every submission in a monthly report to define future brand strategy. The process means James and the team get eyes on every project, can fix problems and keep all work fully on brand.

Think Agile

Adriana Andujar at Argos is a pro at integrating design into her heavily dev focussed role. Her work focusses mainly on online platforms and therefore she has a very different way of working. Adriana uses Agile working to keep all her in-house teams aligned and working as one. Working in two week sprints, her team have fifteen minute standups every day to discuss what they worked on the day before and what will be worked on today. This is a great way to flag issues, streamline workflow and get a good idea of what each person is doing. Each team member is assigned work that is tracked and reviewed, meaning that every team is connected for each project. Although in practice this way of working may prove challenging for an in-house design team, Joseph suggests applying some agile principles to your daily workflow. For example, iterations are a big part of the agile process and should be something that every design team is doing as standard. It can be tempting to only want to share finished work, whereas with agile you are encourage to show works in progress. This can be intimidating, as your work is being assessed and perhaps criticised before it is finished! But it will mean that problems are identified early on and can be addressed before time, resources and budget are allocated to a project.

It is important to understand that all of these methods can take considerable time to implement, none are quick wins. The process at Macmillan was started over ten years ago, whereas Argos have only been implementing their strategy for a few years. It can take several years for a new process to be accepted across the business and be used as a standard practice, the key is to get buy-in at director level straight away. It may take time and dedication but it is definitely worth the effort, even small changes can have a huge impact and you will start to see the benefits for your brand.

If you missed out on the event, you can see the full videos here.

Thank you to all of our in-house experts for their great advice and guidance. If you have any tips you’d like to share, then please do so in the comments. Or if you’d like to attend our next ‘Good To Great’ event, please get in touch!

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