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This Is How Your Org Chart Is Holding Back Your Business

These two “silo”-smashing alternatives can fix the problems caused by your stagnant org chart.

This Is How Your Org Chart Is Holding Back Your Business
Snagajob COO Jocelyn Mangan is piloting two programs to shake employees out of discipline-based thinking.

Snagajob COO Jocelyn Mangan says it wasn’t long ago that her 500-person company had two design teams–one just for marketing and another for all-purpose design. The two didn’t exactly coordinate.

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“Some of those designers were being treated as production-line designers,” Mangan recalled earlier this week at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York. “They weren’t being brought in at the early stages of things.” So Snagajob, a marketplace for hourly workers and employers, appointed a design leader to oversee everything design-related, regardless of whether it was for a marketing campaign or a product. Now, says Mangan, “There’s not a designer who gets something put on their desk and told, ‘Hey, go paint that blue.'”

The reason why designers can get treated as mere colorists rather than as the product designers that they are, Mangan believes, represents one of the most widespread organizational challenges out there: Companies draw up org charts that reflect their employees’ professional buckets, rather than the outcomes that best serve customers. To bust out of the “silos” that mentality typically creates, Mangan and her team are testing two ingenious solutions.

Jocelyn Mangan, COO of Snagajob

Option No. 1: Redraw The Org Chart Around Customer Personas

“Discipline reporting still exists,” Mangan concedes. “It’s very important if you want to become a better marketer, a better engineer, a better designer.” But that model has its limits, especially when it comes to collaboration. “The more you can say, ‘Look, this is the customer we’re trying to reach, and we want this outcome,’ then it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in sales or marketing,” she explains.

As a marketplace for connecting hourly workers with employers, it had initially seemed logical for Snagajob to assign staff to focus on either the “worker” or the “employer” side of its user base. But around a year and a half ago, after Mangan joined the company from OpenTable, Snagajob realized this approach was “a false distinction.”

One employer may be the owner of a small, family-owned seafood restaurant, with seasonal hiring needs for a small staff. Another employer may be the human resources lead for a corporate behemoth like KFC, whose culture, hiring protocol, and staffing needs differ dramatically. So grouping those two customers together under a single rubric–“employer”–overlooks the yawning divide between them, even though their differences will dictate how they use Snagajob’s platform. Worse still, grouping these two distinct customers together asks a marketer for the “employer” team to try and reach two radically different demographics simultaneously.

So in recent months, Snagajob has begun to experiment with restructuring its marketing teams around “customer persona,” and it’s already having an impact, Mangan says. Marketers have learned to “start thinking about the business outcome” for a given customer segment–rather than whether or not a certain task is a job that an “employer” marketer at Snagajob would ordinarily do.

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Option No. 2: Swap “Function” For “Customer Journey”

More recently, the company has also started reorganizing teams around the type of activity–or the stage in the “customer journey”–that a Snagajob user might undertake at a given moment.

This way, rather than having product people tinkering separately on something that sales people are busily selling further upstream, both groups can collaborate more intimately–and with a broader, shared perspective. Now, says Mangan, “we have an ‘acquisition’ team, which is trying to acquire workers and employers, a ‘find and apply’ team, a ‘recruit and hire’ team, and a ‘work’ team.” She says this is encouraging people to work more cross-functionally in order to deliver the best product or service at each moment in the user experience.

These two pilot programs are still pretty new, “but both have had success,” says Mangan, who says she can potentially foresee the “persona” approach working long term for Snagajob’s approach to product, and the “journey” framework dictating its marketing. But that’s just an educated guess. For now, the experimentation has been liberating–as long as it’s done carefully and in small bites. Mangan adds, “You have to be really clear about what you’re not going to change.”

Still, Mangan believes this mind-set can also help organizations relieve internal headaches that they might not have expected. For example, she says, “We put someone in charge of data as though it were a product,” then asked that person (who started at Snagajob around six weeks ago) to clean up inconsistent terminology that makes it tough to draw data-based insights for any purpose companywide. “If we don’t know what these six things are, guess what happens when you run a report? No one trusts it,” Mangan says.

A traditional org chart might encourage companies to see jumbled data definitions as a mere housekeeping problem–something that can be deprioritized since it doesn’t touch customers. But if one person is in charge of both internal business-intelligence reports and external customer reports, “that puts pressure on you to be timely and accurate,” says Mangan, which is a good thing.

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“The bar is high.” But unlike the imaginary boundaries separating one job function from another, it isn’t holding back progress.

About the author

Rich Bellis is Associate Editor of Fast Company's Leadership section.

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