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How To Build Units – Squads, SWATs, Tribes

Many businesses are reassessing how their business actually operates, whether that’s down to performance, a pending recession or a need to shake up the company.

It’s Not New: Quite a few leaders I have spoken to and spoken with over the last few weeks are looking specifically at squads. Squads are smaller units with very specific resources to cut through red tape and deliver problem-solving solutions very quickly, typically in short sprints, ideally in two-week cycles.

Why Squads? Squads were made famous by the likes of Spotify and many other startups looking to be quicker at releasing and often delivering product features really quickly.

I call squads, tribes and SWAT teams units, these are dedicated units that address problems and issues smarter and more efficiently and cross-functionally create better more cohesive teams.

Trust Not Control: Historically department first organisations are built around control. What the unit model enables is trust comes first and we the business trust units to deliver releases and features rather than waiting for big releases. (FWIW It is connected to agile methodologies)

Why are squads, swarms and tribes all named differently? Very often this is now a naming convention, historically many squads would roll up into a tribe and all be working on slightly different issues and then come together under the tribe leader and update regularly.

As you will see in my presentation, you should install a leader (tribe leader) and/or a leadership team around the unit to ensure you stay on track and deliver on the business objectives.

Why SWAT is slightly different?

When researching how to develop the best working style for a dedicated Growth department (importantly how for it to work in a large multi-business org with dotted lines) creating working style others across the org would adopt, being inspired by Police SWAT teams, super small agile specialists all working together to complete an essential project.

Here is my decade of experience with the different units (working in and running Squads, Tribes and SWATs) broken down into 30 slides.

It’s important to call out that many businesses actually will run squads or tribes in parallel and some even dismantle squads after a period of time.

Here are my 14 tips to make this set-up work for you:

  1. Design the org – around outcomes. Don’t throw colleagues together
  2. Build your objective first, build up and around the objectives
    Ensure everyone knows their role and delivery requirements. No excuses on this. If multiple player or dual role the team had to know and respect this
  3. Interview for the roles – ask for feedback from their colleagues first
  4. Agile means different things to different disciplines, centralised what agile means to your new unit
  5. Build support networks – Experts will be invaluable to support you
  6. Remove the challenges of previous bad rollouts, North Star – OKRs – Smart Goals
  7. More resources are required than you think
  8. Always ask questions: What do we need? Roles, Output, Owners, Steps To Each Goal
  9. Build Sub Culture (yes build it) – build deliberately different to gain alignment
  10. Objective Then Idea – build the concept, build goals, build focus and alignment
  11. No Connection Before The Unit = hard to shape collaboration and will take a longer time to build trust
  12. Full transparency works best – if it wasn’t for building asynchronous work and wikis it would be incredibly hard
  13. Co-ownership Or Leader(s) – DAO style might work if you are confident in over-discussing everything. Meetings will either be the death of everything or the secret sauce
  14. Positive Obsession with goals and outcomes (yes delivery on numbers is most important it will be the glue for so much you do)

If you would like a copy of the deck please hit the button below

Best of luck in designing or redesigning your org to embrace the new squads, swarms or swats.

If you’d like to read why this is the future of marketing set-up

If you would like to see some of the outputs from my previous Growth department, take a read of my case studies:

Growth Case Study: Checkout Optimisation

Case Study – QR Codes Offline To Online

If you are looking to improve your work: Marketing Coach

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