The VPM Blog

Autonomous Teams: We’ve Always Done That!

Posted by Tod Meisner on Feb 17, 2016 8:30:00 AM

Today’s workforce dynamics are changing. Companies and agencies are looking for ways to adapt in order to meet the ever changing needs and demands of their clients and customers. This means identifying ways for employees to work faster and smarter, while also not burning them out.

There’s an integrated approach at play that can help your agency accomplish these new goals. In fact, we can speak about this approach with great authority because Verge Pipe Media has always operated using this practice.

Autonomous Teams: We've Always Done That!

Out of necessity, Don Crow founded Verge Pipe Media (VPM) using the Autonomous Team Model (ATM), an approach that allows teams to manage themselves. He was smart enough to know that in order to build VPM for the long term, he had to adopt revolutionary ways to build the company from the outset.

Below, we discuss a few key tenants and benefits of the Autonomous Team Model. By the end of this post, it should be apparent that these fundamental changes help bring teams and clients together. Agencies using this autonomous approach often find themselves viewed more favorably by clients and staff, while identifying significant reductions in overages from poorly defined projects and campaigns.

Autonomous teams, usually comprised of four to six people, allow for small companies to remain nimble and innovative. But, just having small teams doesn’t guarantee instant success. Studies have shown that it is not just the size of these teams that has an impact, but they’re often cross-functional and self-managing. This is most commonly shown or visualized in various autonomy/alignment matrix. (See below)

Autonomous Teams  It’s no surprise; autonomy helps you move fast because you don’t get bogged down with decision-making by committee and inefficient coordination. Autonomy is also incredibly motivating. People crave some degree of control and self-determination to make, build, and create awesome things rather than being told what to do.

Alignment is the other key piece to help this structure work. The stronger the alignment, the more autonomy you can grant because you don’t have to worry that people are going in a million different directions.

At Verge Pipe Media we sit together in an open workspace and often around a shared work table. Anything resembling a meeting is a direct result of needing to make a good decision. Therefore, most of our meetings are on a topic that the team has a strong opinion about. Because we work so closely together, we stay in sync. It also instills trust among the group. We become confident that anyone involved can be trusted to present ideas to the team when it comes to making a decision.

If we miss our mark with a client or proposed client, we all usually feel partly responsible. Likewise, if we hit a home run or bring on a new client, each member of the team also feels responsible for the success. Along the way, as our teams have changed and adapted, it was on Don and other key players to work to improve our setup if it became apparent that we needed a change. Over time, we have made tons of small changes and a few big changes in order to improve how Verge Pipe Media could be successful.

Here are some takeaways that we have learned to help ensure that your ATM-modeled team can achieve high alignment/high autonomy:

  1. Slow to hire, quick to fire
    At Verge Pipe media, we’ve learned over the years who can fit with our team and who can’t. It’s taken some time to know this, but let’s just say Don has a feel for this sort of thing. Finding these good fits boils down to hiring people that have the basic skills to do what we ask, but will also be able to work together with the team. We do this by asking pointed interview questions to see how candidates would handle certain situations. We want to be sure that they are both self-directed and collaborative.
  2. Progress over power
    We’re a true team at Verge Pipe Media, and while certain people have titles of authority, those leaders help allocate work and provide direction. The “why” behind our methodologies and strategies is the most important part to convey to our workers. The leaders then allow them to go about finding the best solutions to achieve the goal or project. It is then up to the leaders to make sure everyone is in alignment.
  3. Transparency is key
    We try to be transparent in all of our efforts, whether it pertains to work for clients or work among our team. We hold various meetings throughout the week around the team table so we all know what everyone is working on and can provide input for what is needed to accomplish the work. When everyone is on the same page and has the shared knowledge of the team, they are free to make decisions that get work done. Sharing knowledge means sharing power and responsibilities, which leads to keeping smaller teams aligned.

People in agile small teams thrive on autonomy and mastery. We’ve found they also need to be guided and need to stay connected in order to thrive. One of our mantras at Verge Pipe Media is “nothing is someone else’s problem,” and we mean it. Everyone has a purpose that is leading us to our business goals, and we’re all in this together. We win together, fail together, grow together and, of course, celebrate together.

Our hope is that you realize adapting your teams to the autonomous format, while challenging early on, can provide great benefits. Similarly, helping your company adapt to the inbound methodology early on can also prove beneficial. Luckily for you, Verge Pipe Media has all the information covered so you can begin the transition today! If you’re looking to learn more about how our small team can help your company integrate traditional and inbound marketing, download our FREE eBook below!

Get the Free Guide to Integrating Traditional & Inbound Marketing

Photo Credit: via Pexels (CC0 License)

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