I’ve been thinking a lot about how agencies are organised and subsequently reorganised recently and about how their systems work (or in some cases, don’t).
Looking back at the agencies I’ve worked for, I’ve seen a LOT of different approaches to the organising and running of an Integrated Northern Marketing Agency and none of them were perfect. The one thing all of these agencies did have in common was that they changed their minds about the Right Way To Do It fairly frequently.
From the point of view of someone who has never been privy to agency board meetings, management accounts and the like, it has been very easy to view yet another reshuffle and/or rebranding as about as likely to be effective as rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. In fact, given that both my previous employers went bust after I left them, perhaps that was closer to the truth than I realised at the time…
But organisations can’t stay still, they must move forward – or else slip backwards. One of the pioneers of modern Social Psychology Kurt Lewin had a three stage theory of change – Unfreeze, Change, (Re)Freeze. In simple terms, this was all about getting an organisation prepared for change and wanting to make the change, leaping into the Great Unknown, then establishing stability once the change had been made.
But this rather implies that Change is a starting-and-stopping kind of thing. Whereas these days Change can be more like a constant state of flux. Clients change their ways of working (shifts from pitches to tenders and fees to projects for example); technology advances; the economy tanks. The environment has changed and so the organisation must change to accommodate (and ideally anticipate) it.
So agencies tend to operate in a near-constant state of Flux. In the last ten years, I’ve only worked for three agencies, but have got through fourteen desks, six brands, nine reorganisations and ten rounds of redundancies.
Perhaps the agency model is going to have to become something more fluid and more adaptive to constant change. Desks, organisation structures, salaried jobs and prescriptive agency brandings don’t really fit with the demands of constant flux. There has to be a better way. Perhaps we need to look at organisational structures that embrace change itself?