Mixing Up How You Meet

If you’ve followed much of my blog, you hear me regularly talk abut the importance of collaboration in marketing. It probably sounds something like this. As marketing offices, we have the opportunity to work with a multitude of people across the entire campus and that gives us a real opportunity to impact change.

One way that I work to create that in a meaningful, sustainable way is through the development of regular cross-functional teams.

A cross functional team is a team that brings together individuals from different areas to work together on a particular project or to support a specific effort.

More About These Teams

This Forbes article talks about cross-functional teams and says some of the benefits of such teams are increased innovation, efficiency, and better understanding of the big goals of the team.

How Does it Work in Marketing?

At the universities where I have worked, we have key campus clients that we partner with — admissions, advancement, athletics, etc. To best support these areas, I have a team of my staff who serves on an internal team for these areas. For example, the admissions team has a design representative, a web representative, and a content representative. These individuals meet weekly to work on projects to support that particular areas.

In addition to the internal meeting, we also have a regular meeting with that area (some are weekly and some are bi-weekly) and all members of that team attend. They hear about the project needs, learn more about the area and how it works, and develop a camaraderie with the folks in that division.

Why This Model?

I started using this model about five years ago and found it did a couple of things. First, it really helped to ram up the collaborative nature of the relationship because it wasn’t one person from marketing meeting with everyone and then bringing “orders” back. (There’s a place for that in smaller projects.) Instead, it fosters a sense of collaboration where marketing is a real partner to the other group.

Second, it created an opportunity for additional learnings for the marketing team. When working with admissions, advancement, or athletics and meeting with them regularly, the marketing team learned about their struggles, better understood industry best practices, and saw how that area fit into the university organizational chart. It really helped generate new insights that made the MarComm team better at our jobs.

The Downside

Time. Time is the biggest downside of this model. It definitely takes time for that team to meet internally and also to attend the meetings with the external team. However, I do argue that it’s a time spend on the front end versus time on the back end kind of thing. When we meet regularly with that area, I think we understand more and deliver a better product faster, so the overall time spent is about the same.

One way that I have mitigated the time spent is switching up our weekly staff meeting. We no longer go around the room and talk about what is on our to do lists. Instead, we share big updates that will impact everyone (brags, announcements, etc) and then we break into cross-functional meeting time.

One by one, each team meets to review where they are on things, review any action items they had at the last meeting, and any next steps to prepare for their meeting with campus partners. The morning staff meeting takes about 2 hours but every team meets and works through what is pressing on their agenda and sets them up for success the following week. And, there aren’t dozens of meetings happening throughout the week. We get them all done in those two hours.

Is it for you?

If you regularly meet with external groups and have staff meets that need an energy boost, I encourage you to try this model. It was something I’d not ever heard about and it really changed how our team works and keeps us focused on the big tasks with key partners.

Should you want to talk more about this model for your marketing team, I’m happy to visit with you to share how it works and how we use it.

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