Have you ever thought about the relationship between birds and politicians?
If not, here is something to scratch your head over.
Think of an owl. A normal, pedestrian, garden-variety owl that, according to folk tales is supposed to be a smart and wise animal.
Then owls gather in a group and we call them a parliament of owls.
That’s fine because some people think that parliaments are full of smart and wise people.
But as it turns out, owls are rather dumb birds. It turns out that African Grey Parrot, starlings, robins and even normal backyard chickens outsmart them.
And the reason why a group of them are called a parliament is because someone thought that way they can boost owls’ self-esteem.
And now we’re circling back to politicians.
We know that most of them are arrogant, power-hungry ego maniacs, who are not exactly the smartest specimen of the human race.
And now think about that in most countries there is a parliament and a congress.
And do you know which group of animals is called a congress?
Salamanders. Yes, another species of animals fairly low on the animal smartness scale.
And when I look at some inbound marketing plans, sometimes I think they have been created by a parliament of owls in close collaboration with a congress of salamanders.
In his article, 5 Reasons Why Inbound Marketing Fails, Oktopost writer Daniel Kushner lists the five reasons as…
- Bad Content
- Lack of Targeting
- No Tracking
- Lack of Integration Between Sales and Marketing
- Not Mixing Inbound with Outbound Marketing
In my experience, before we even get to the point creating content, targeting or tracking, inbound marketing teams face an even bigger problem.
And that problem is that the collection of people are not a real team, but an interest group or a committee posing as team and that can be dangerous to the overall campaign.
No, they are not bad people. And regardless of their individual expertise, the danger lies in the structure and character of the operation of the group.
I was living in the UK when the Channel Tunnel was being dug. The British diggers measured everything in imperial units and the French diggers in metric units.
As a result, they didn’t meet in the middle and had to do some extra tunnel-tweaking to make sure that the tunnels met.
Experienced tunnel diggers caused serious delays not because they didn’t know how to dig but because they didn’t operate as a cohesive team.
So, What Happens When A Team Is Not A Team?
There are 14 major differences between a collection of people and a real cohesive team…
- Competition: A group competes internally (members with each other). A team competes externally (with other teams of other companies).
- Structure: A group has a hierarchy of people. A team has a network of people.
- Communication: A group communicates up and down the hierarchy. A team communicates all across the network.
- Agenda: Group have many individual – often hidden – agendas. A team has one single agenda.
- Focus: A group is task-focused (efficient: doing things right, looking dutifully busy). A team is goal-focused (effective: doing the right things; getting things done).
- Leadership: A group has autocratic (micro)management. A team has participative leadership.
- Success: A group’s success is often misaligned with the company’s success. A team’s success is aligned with the company’s success.
- Dependence: A group consists of independent or co-dependent people. A team consist of interdependent members.
- Affinity: Group members tolerate each other and the work they do (work for money and/or promotion). Team members actually enjoy their work and enjoy the company of people with whom they work.
- Urgency: Group members have no urgency. They finish whenever they finish their work. Team members work fast, so they can see the fruits of their work as soon as possible.
- Risk: A group thrives on risk avoidance. A team thrives on challenge and ambiguity.
- Departure: When one member justifiably gets pissed off with management and quits, the rest of a group breathes a sigh of relief, but the rest of a team is highly likely to follow that person. (When Yahoo revoked the working from home privilege, the best programmes quit en masse.)
- Order of commitment and accountability: In a group: 1) Individual, 2) Team 3) mission. In a team: 1) mission, 2) team 3) individual.
- Skillset: A group has little or no redundancy: Segregated silos of narrow specialists. A team has significant redundancy: Deep generalists with few deep multiple skills each.
Since inbound marketing is close collaboration between a fair number of professionals with a pretty broad character traits, senior leaders have to make sure that, just as a cart is pulled in the same direction by all the horses, the whole team is moving in the same direction.
Micromanagement is out of the question because the best people will instantly quit your company.
Very often, even when an inbound marketing initiative is scoped (what gets done), the personnel part of the project (Who does what) often gets messed up, and management don’t even recognize the problem until the whole initiative goes hopelessly FUBAR (“F***ed Up Beyond Any Repair” or “All Recognition”).
I know some people may say, we’re getting very close to micromanagement, but we aren’t.
In 1989, Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change many moons ago, French sociologist and with Karl Marx disciple, Émile Durkheim said…
“When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”
In plain English, no amount of laws, rules, policies and procedures can create team cohesion. They can create only obedience. But there is a world of difference between a cohesive team and an obedient collection of people.
Oh, and obedient teams and cohesive groups don’t exist.
It’s mores, core values and creeds (a collection of individual credos) that create cohesion.
Laws, rules, policies and procedures can create obedience.
In the military, “We leave no man behind” is not a rule or law. It’s a core value. And people join the military to live the value not merely obey the rules.
In managing inbound initiatives, we want to create strong mores. Yes, rules are necessary, but we have to make sure that those rules are based on core values.
Members show up for team meetings not because they follow the rules but because adhering to the core value of respect and accountability.
So, once you have this team cohesion, you have to document the project in such a way that everyone knows her level of involvement and responsibility level in specific phases of the project.
This is a problem that you can solve by using…
The RASCI Roles And Responsibilities Matrix
The role of the RASCI matrix is to map out who does what within the scope of the inbound marketing initiative and present it in an easy to understand fashion.
If you’ve read some past articles (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) about the key roles in an inbound marketing initiative, then you see that orchestrating such initiatives is pretty complex, but for team members to understand who does what on the project is vital to create a representation that allows them to see how they are involved in the project and what they are personally responsible for.
It’s like an X-ray photo of a patient in a hospital.
For the skilled eyes, that X-ray says a whole lot about the patient, while for most people that X-ray is meaningless.
This is what we have to do in inbound marketing projects too.
But unlike the medical X-ray that shows the state of the patient, this proverbial X-ray shows the work phases and the associated responsibilities.
Since inbound marketing initiatives are quite complex, they can present the team with high level of ambiguity.
But in order to successfully implement such complex projects, the team needs a method to bring ambiguities and hidden issues from under the table to the top of the table, so they can be discussed openly.
The idea behind the RASCI matrix is to establish the scope of the engagement and the roles of engagement team members.
The matrix also means that Individual managers can’t be singled out to accept full responsibility for the success of an inbound marketing initiative that is riddled with moving parts that are out of their control.
The RASCI matrix’s purpose is to show team members’ responsibility levels. And when we know each team member’s level of responsibility and her expertise, management can push decision-making as low in the organisational hierarchy as possible.
When decision-making is pushed down to the level where the effect of the decision is felt the most, people tend to improve their decision-making.
What that means is that the marketing team has to maintain a fairly flat hierarchy, so it doesn’t become the typical corporate slumbering giant walking around like a somnambulant slob causing more harm than good.
Granted disempowered, hence irresponsible, employees are easier to manage than empowered, hence responsible, ones, but we know from Peter Drucker…
“90% of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.”
Empowered, thus responsible, professionals are hard to manage but easy to lead.
Granted, disempowered and irresponsible slaves are easy to manage but impossible to lead.
Responsible professionals need direction (leadership) as to which way to go, not stopwatch (management) as to how fast to work.
When it comes to defining the roles in inbound marketing engagements, there are three major assumptions we have to make.
- Role expectation: What do other team members think about this person? Do they like him, respect him and or fear him?
- Role notion: What does the team member think of himself and his role in the engagement? His self-esteem and his clarity about his role can influence the overall success of the engagement.
- Role behaviour: Does the team member know exactly what he has to do? Does he know all the tasks to perform and the quality standards to follow?
The next step is to align the role expectation and the role notion, so we get the desired role behaviour.
While you can’t directly control people’s behaviour, you have some control over how a team member regards herself and how the other team members regard her.
Good alignment between role expectation and role notion makes role behaviour fairly consistent and predictable, which is good for making financial and other projections.
And now, after having laid the foundations, you can start…
Scoping The Project
This is a process of scoping your inbound marketing initiative from several perspectives.
For scoping, I like using mind mapping because it allows me to see the big picture and make the necessary changes as soon as possible.
But before you start using mind mapping, I’d suggest that you read some books from Tony Buzan (Mind Map Handbook: The Ultimate Thinking Tool), the inventor of the mind map concept, so you better understand the little but vital nuances of mind mapping.
In the 90s, when I was living in the UK, I attended a three-day workshop with Tony on mind mapping, and that completely changed my traditional “list-based” approach.
For instance, did you know that by writing something down in all caps will significantly increase your ability to retain it effortlessly?
Then once you’ve got everything on your mind map, you can convert it to a Gantt chart so you can see the timing of certain tasks relative to the projects starting and completion dates.
Scope the project as if it were a normal client project, starting with your goals and then work backwards all the way to your costs doing the project.
- Scope of goals: What is the specific strategic goal you want to achieve with this inbound marketing initiative? Example: “To increase online sales from $15 million to $25 million (66% increase) in 2017”
- Scope of objectives: What conditions have to be fulfilled to put your business on the trajectory of reaching the above goal? It’s one thing to fulfil the objectives, but there are some factors that are outside the control, so achieving the goals is not a foregone conclusion. Example: “To build a fully optimised, content-rich website to generate high calibre sales leads and do the heavy lifting of lead conversion.”
- Scope of services: What services have to be performed? Example: Coding, graphics design, copywriting, SEO, etc.
- Scope of efforts: What tasks/efforts do each service include?
- Scope of costs: What is the maximum cost that you can incur to perform the necessary tasks to complete the objectives?
Obviously, if you conclude that the button costs more than the coat, that is, your cost of running this initiative is higher than the value of your projected goal, it means you have to go back to the drawing board and re-run your calculations and re-think the project.
And now, after having completed the scope, you can…
Start Assigning The Roles And Responsibilities
There are five roles In the RASCI matrix.
“R” For Responsibility: The Worker Bee or Foot Soldier
These people are assigned different tasks. It’s their responsibility to complete their tasks on time, on budget and at clearly defined quality standards.
For more complex tasks, responsibility can be shared between worker bees, but the percentage of sharing, that is, who is responsible for what must be known to the engagement leader.
“A” For Accountability: The Ultimate Decision-Maker And The Person In Charge
In plain English, this person has the ultimate accountability. This is where the buck stops.
Referring to our inbound marketing team article, this is the Inbound Marketing Leader. It can’t be the project manager because he wasn’t involved in conceptualising this project. He’s an implementer.
However, he must be accountable for the implementation part. So, he’s held accountable for adhering to timelines, budgets and quality.
But if it turns out that the wrong idea got implemented perfectly, that this the Inbound Marketing Leader.
“S” For Support: Various Support People
There are some people on the projects who are not actively needed at every stage of the project, but perform ancillary support work.
These people can be various IT folks or office staff that chip in on an as-needed basis.
Also people who order supplies, take care of logistics, admin etc.
“C” For Consultant: External Subject Matter Experts
Smart decision-makers often invite external subject matter experts to consult with before making final decisions on certain important matters.
Consultants work collaboratively with decision-makers to optimise every decision to minimise risks and maximise rewards.
However, project leaders have to realise that these consultants work with them in an advisory capacity, and at the end of the day, their advice can either be accepted or rejected. Well, or accepted with some modifications.
Either way, while consultants can be made fully responsible for their advice, they can’t be made single-handedly accountable to the project’s outcome and its ability to reach the desired goal.
“I” For Information: People To Be Informed
And of course, there are people who are not active parts of the project team, but who need to be informed about progress, hitches and glitches.
Sometimes, as a result of certain actions, the informed person has to take actions in other areas of the organisation. That action is outside the scope of the original project, but other people in other initiatives may need to be informed to make sure that initiatives don’t step on each other’s toes and cancel each other out.
For instance, on the very day when your inbound marketing initiative goes live on the company’s website, you want to make sure IT is not doing some major system updates on that day. So, the IT director has to be informed.
Knowing the roles, now we can…
Start Listing Tasks And Assigning Who Does What
Now that every knows who does what, you can start documenting it in the RASCI matrix.
And after having the RASCI matrix completed, you can move on to the Gantt chart to map out the timelines. Gantt charts are parts of most project management software, but if this is your first stab at it, you can even use an Excel table (How to make a Gantt chart in Excel 2010, 2013 and Excel 2016).
Once you have the tasks, you organise them into action groups. For instance, search engine optimisation (SEO) is one action group with tasks of 1) keyword research, 2) title tag development, 3) link building, 4) tracking and analysis setup, etc.
And once you have the list of tasks and the action group of tasks, you can assign the appropriate task(s) to each person.
Since people may come and go for various reasons, instead of assigning people by their names, assign them by their positions. So, instead of saying, Fred does web programming, assign “PHP gal” to web programming or “editor guy” to copywriting.
So, now your RASCI matrix looks something like this…
Please note that content writing and copywriting are as different as a tooth brush and a toilet brush.
I know a brush is a brush is a brush, but you may not want to mistake one for the other. The error could be rather unpleasant.
And so would be the use of a content writer to write copy.
Remember, content informs, entertains and educates. Copy sells.
You need a healthy blend of both content and copy.
After assigning the roles, make sure every team member receives a copy of both the RASCI matrix and the Gantt chart, and acknowledges his buy-in. That is, he’s on board and is aware of the expectations of him.
Analysing The RASCI Matrix
But just with any tool, the RASCI matrix can be misleading too, so you have to pay attention to imbalances.
Too many “R”s: Can this person be responsible for so many things? Can he do so many things at the required quality?
Too many “S”s: Can we consolidate the number of support people just to make life less complicated?
Too many “C”s: Do you really need to consult with so many people? Aren’t you going to lose too much by consulting with them all? Does the added value justify the additional time?
Too many “I”s: Is it necessary to inform so many people and so often? How can the informing process be automated to the hilt?
No “R”s: Too many chiefs and not enough Indians syndrome. The work is clearly set up, but there is no one to actually do it. Hm.
No “A”s: Who the hell is in charge of this gig? What’s happening here? There must be one single “A” person for each action group.
No “S”s: Who is working into the hands of the engagement team? If no one, then it will be a rather miserable engagement due to lack of support.
No “C”s: Is it really wise to do this initiative without the help and support of someone who has already done it a good few times. Realistically, anyone can do brain surgery after reading the books, but it’s also a good idea to consult with a brain surgeon who’s already done if a few times.
No “I”s: Is this a sign of the lack of communication between departments? It usually is.
Consideration About The Number Of People On The Team
Let’s start with a little crowd science.
The difficulty of leading people and managing engagements lies in the number of people on the team. With each person, the number of relationships among people increases exponentially.
So, with four people on a team, we have a total of six relationships.
But add just a fifth person (25% increase), and now we have a total of 10 relationships. 25% increase in personnel and 66% increase in the number of relationships.
And these additional relationships bring both additional effectiveness and additional conflicts. The engagement leader has to consider both.
So, let’s remember that the total number of relationships is…
(N * (N-1)) / 2
Where N is the number of team members.
But the other side of the same coin is creativity, experience, finesse and other qualitative attributes that made Mozart Mozart and Marie Curie Marie Curie.
Mozart was more than a guy who merely knew the chromatic scale.
Marie Curie was more than a woman who merely knew the periodic table.
Let’s start with one team member with – for the sake of simplicity – four brain cells. It means he can have six neural connections.
But if this person collaborates with another person who also has four brain cells, together they can have 28 neural connections. An almost 5-fold increase in creativity.
What this means is that we have to optimise the size of the team both for leadership and creativity. At one point the team gets so large that it becomes unleadable and the increased creativity becomes sheer confusion.
Let’s face it, every new initiative has a certain level of both risk and reward in it.
I also know that many management gurus talk about doing things boldly. They even use the “Ready => Fire => Aim” sequence that you don’t have to worry about aiming. Just get ready and keep firing.
I love the way Peter Drucker refers to gurus…
“I have been saying for many years that we are using the word ‘guru’ only because ‘charlatan’ is too long to fit into a headline.”
Realistically, the Ready => Aim => Fire sequence shouldn’t be disturbed.
We know from project management that, within reason, every hour of planning can shave off three days of implementation time.
Whatever we do, if we want to get it right, we’d better aim carefully before pulling the trigger.
Yes, a project manager gunslinger may try to convince you that real pros don’t have to aim only shoot.
But a project manager marksmen will tell you that every successful project starts at the drawing board and every aspect of the project is carefully planned.
No RASCI matrix or Gantt chart can replace the cohesion among team members, but no cohesion can make up for poor documentation.
So, the ultimate victory lies in a cohesive team in which projects are properly documented