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Pod Structure: Build Better Remote Teams With Agile Pods

I restructured my business into agile pods. When I decided to change the way we worked, I switched to a pod structure. Here’s why.


I restructured my business into agile pods –– for myself, my team, and even my clients. The old ways just weren’t working anymore.

After 18 months of working remotely, my team had retreated into their own private bubbles, only communicating when they couldn’t avoid it. This not only drove wedges in internal communication, but it was taking a toll on our clients’ campaigns as well. When I finally decided to change the way we worked, I opted to switch to a pod structure. Here’s why.

 

Pod Model Framework

The pod structure is nothing new for industry juggernauts like Google and Hubspot, where it is implemented regularly to complete projects large and small. But, what exactly is a pod?

 

A  pod is a small group of individuals with complementary skills working with a shared purpose to complete a portion of a larger project or campaign. The pod is not a “process,” but a way of thinking. It’s a complete mental shift, with the onus of responsibility to make decisions and complete tasks placed completely on the pod. No more chains. No more bottlenecks.

 

Pod Structure: Build Better Remote Teams With Agile Pods
Photo: Christopher Tompkins, co-founder, and CEO of The Go! Agency | Source: Courtesy Photo

Build better remote teams with agile pods

In a pod structure, everyone has defined specialties and roles based on their expertise and with that, the lines of communication have become much clearer. The load of the campaigns is also dispersed more evenly, giving us back time that we were previously spending just trying to communicate effectively. With the new pod structure, all of that has changed.

 

Identify employee skills within a pod structure

What do your employees do well? Well, you should know at least part of the answer to this (you did hire them, after all), but not everything that an employee is capable of is going to be apparent right off the bat. There will be aspects of the job they excel at and others where they could stand to improve.

So how do you define these?

Many of these will be apparent the longer your employee is part of your company. In our previous way of working, all of the account managers were responsible for the email portions of their campaigns, but there was one in particular who enjoyed building emails, curating the lists, and doing all the back-end work that would help to cement a good open and click-through rate for our client’s content. So, naturally, when roles were divided up, she became our email marketing expert. The same thing happened with another employee who was a Facebook advertising whiz.

Another good way to figure out your employees’ hidden talents is to ask them—shocker, right? This Harvard Business Review article outlines a method I’ve used when trying to pinpoint how I can use members of my team more effectively.

In short: turn every bit of praise into a learning opportunity for yourself. Instead of just complimenting your employees when they do something well, say, “Wow, you really delivered on this! How did you tackle this task so effectively?”, along with follow-ups like “Would you enjoy it if I gave you more work like this in the future?” Everyone likes being recognized for a job well done and will be happy at the chance to further prove themselves.

With a pod structure, all members of my agency are now in a role that serves them best and have been identified as the experts and owners of said expertise. This helps not only with morale but also streamlines the process.

Instead of throwing a task on our virtual bulletin board and saying “Who can do this?”, the expert will take it under their wing, factor in the time for it, and see if it gets done by the deadline.

 

Increase team efficiency with agile pods

The entire purpose behind the pod structure is to automatically define the right team for the right project every single time. No more energy has to be wasted on my end debating which client manager has the bandwidth to properly service a client versus who would do the better job. Not all of the projects have defined roles, people know what they need to accomplish and the load that one person used to be responsible for is now carried by several.

One major issues that prevented some of our campaigns from moving forward was reoccurring client bottlenecks. When a client didn’t respond with the immediacy we hoped for, all work on the campaign essentially came to a dead halt.

We haven’t gained the power to make clients respond in a more timely manner, but by shifting to a pod structure, where everybody on the team is familiar with the client and has a stake in the campaign’s success, we have the ability to strategize with more available brainpower and anticipate the future. We can plan around slow responses instead of succumbing to them.

 

Serving your clients and yourself

You want to give your clients what they’re paying for; nothing less, but preferably nothing more either. Clients are known to be mile-takers when you overdeliver—they’re going to expect it and complain when they don’t get it, even though they were never paying for it in the first place.

How can a pod structure solve this?

Narrowing the size of each team will also help to narrow the scope of the project. It’s a nice idea that everybody gets to throw their two cents in for what would look good in a campaign, but too many ideas can easily inflate the campaign beyond the client’s budget.

Paring it down to one or two digital marketing experts along with the creative (design and writing) team has kept the campaigns in check and more tightly strategized, so we’re only focusing on the deliverables that will make the most impact.

We’ve been working within the confines of the pod structure for about a month now and although it took effort and a lot more meetings than usual to get up to speed, we’ve now all begun to run at the same pace, and I feel much more confident about continuing and expanding our ethos to consistently underpromise and over-deliver.

 

Christopher Tompkins is the co-founder, head strategist, and CEO of The Go! Agency. After working at marketing firms in the UK, South Africa, China, and the US, he created his own agency in 2009. His international experience helps him work with customers from around the globe. Christopher regularly speaks at national and international conferences. His passion for education led him to authoring several articles, essays, and even books about online marketing and social media. 

 

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Photo: Stock Rocket, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
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