Change: incessant revolution, and silos of creative specialty


Should we fear change? Change is hard – but designing change can be fun. Organizational change or transition is particularly hard, and its success is rooted firmly on having a coherent and collaborative management team that shares a clear vision.

One of the cycles that is being addressed in creative businesses – once again – is the issue of silos of creative specialties. These have grown up within companies and become profit centers with their own P&L. Often they have had considerable success. But as they succeeded, the silos became possessive of their clients and of ownership of the work. The silos are now competing with each other. The center does not hold. The work for clients no longer hangs together. The silos spin off.

According to a writer in Forbes Magazine “we find that more often than not, silos are the result of a conflicted leadership team… It is the responsibility of the leadership team to recognize this and rise above to create effective, long-term solutions that are scalable, executable, and realistic.”

As these silos spun off and competed with each other, the job of holding it all together to make a consistent brand story shifted from the agency to the CMO. I remember asking a brainy panel a couple of years ago where the CMO’s would be coming from who would be smart enough to understand and manage the data deluge and the multiple providers: the experiential guys, the social, the influencers, the promotional, the outdoor, the TV, the brand gurus, the media planners,  the SEO nerds, the data geniuses and on and on. I was firmly told – in a wonderfully condescending tone – that the future CMO would be automated.

Well I guess that automated CMO project is not coming along too well. AdAge quotes Marc Pritchard CMO of Procter and Gamble, “We’re looking for a higher degree of consolidation to make integration and interdependence more effective. How it manifests itself across the holding companies—I don’t know.”

So these holding companies have been buying up the silos and now they’re trying to make them play nicely together: they are putting together consolidated teams, at holding company level, to go directly to clients to take care of the needs of Marc Pritchard and his ilk. The cycle of life.

Joseph Schumpeter espoused the virtues of creative destruction: “a process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.  This is probably the way we should treat our business models going forward. Technology and innovation are hurtling along on all fronts – so probably our businesses, and by extension our careers, should be operating from now on in a state of incessant revolution.

But beware of breaking things and walking away, this is not a good solution. So when you are designing change for your organization, be questioning, be challenging, be constantly in revolt, and always be making things better.