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4 Rules of Thumb for Managing Successful Marketing Organizational Changes

By Alex De Fursac Gash | December 16, 2021 | 0 Comments

More often than not, proposals relating to marketing organizational structures are driven by ‘big change’. Big changes are often driven by strategic opportunities, such as addressing a skills gap or pivoting to better meet customer needs. They can also be driven by external events such as M&A activity, new leadership, and unforeseen events.

One such event that has been shared by organizations globally was of course the global pandemic, and the immense macroeconomic uncertainty that it generated. Companies simply had to respond and adapt to changing customer needs and demands. For marketing leaders, this meant reviewing their existing marketing structures and proposing seemingly necessary changes.

Gartner research suggests that – perhaps unsurprisingly – most marketing organizations have responded by seeking to centralize the marketing function for the purpose of greater efficiency, scale, and brand consistency (see Marketing Organization Survey: The Evolution to Centralized, Functional and Agile Continues). However, such trends are often meaningless as the task of selecting and proposing a new organizational structure is immensely subjective and always comes with series of trade-offs.

The reality is that selecting, proposing and implementing any organizational change is a big and often tough exercise. It requires detailed analysis, careful planning, and effective stakeholder mgmt. and internal communications. After years of research into the topic, Gartner has identified 4 rules of thumb that can help simplify the process…

  • Rule of thumb #1: Strategy precedes structure: The first trick is to assess whether or not there is a need for change. Ensuring a clear understanding of corporate goals is essential to establishing marketing objectives against which your structure is expected to deliver.
  • Rule of thumb #2: Communicating the cost of ‘no change’ drives change. Assuming a clear strategic need for change has been identified, communicating the cost of inaction (and not the potential benefits of change) is a far more effective driver of internal buy-in amongst key stakeholders.
  • Rule of thumb #3: New organizational structure = trade-offs. Selecting or changing organizational structures is first and foremost a story of trade-offs. There is no silver bullet. Centralized and decentralized structures both come with their own sets of benefits and disadvantages. Hence, it is important to assess probable trade-offs and suitability (both strategic and cultural) when selecting a new possible marketing structure.
  • Rule of thumb #4: Capability > Commitment. Any major company change has the potential to impact employee morale and performance. Interestingly though, Gartner research reveals that it is often ‘smaller’ changes (e.g. “I have a new manager” or “I am moving to a new team” etc.) that impacts people the more than ‘big’ changes (e.g. “ we have a new CEO coming in”). you can maintain motivation and performance by supporting employee capability and ownership of ‘small’ change related projects.

Please see Gartner’s webinar-on-demand ‘Shape Your Marketing Organization for Success and Adaptability’ replay to learn more on these 4 rules of thumbs and access related Gartner research and tools.

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