If your in-house department works for multiple clients in multiple departments you should be operating within a shared services model – period. Chances are, at least based on the surveys and anecdotal evidence I’ve reviewed, that you’re not. Most likely you’re part of the Marketing or Sales departments but responsible for providing services to HR, PR, Facilities, your C-team, Finance and on and on. That’s good – you’re an integral part of your company that’s flexible and creative enough to do everything from a recruiting brochure to a package for your new product.
The trouble starts when you have to prioritize your projects, enforce uniform branding standards and gain access to strategic meetings while reporting to a group whose self-serving interests may be in conflict with your needs and goals. I don’t care how enlightened your managing group may be – they’re still operating under a territorial mindset. To a degree, that’s how they’re supposed to be behaving. A company is group of departments each with their own mandates that hopefully operate under a reasonable system of checks and balances and with enough shared goals that, in the end, they achieve overarching organizational goals. But your team can’t best serve your company if you’re reporting into a department who doesn’t have the expertise or incentive to allow your department to do that.
Your team should be a separate entity outside of any one department if you’re servicing multiple departments. Of course, here’s where the challenge lies and where you have put your designer derrière on the line. You have to make a case for your departmental head reporting into the C-team and having the same authority as the heads of your company’s other departments. This is, at best, incomprehensible to upper management, at worst, utter blasphemy. If you come to them with this suggestion without the needed gravitas and rationale to back it up they’ll patronizingly pat you on the head and tell you they’ll take it under advisement.
I can’t coach you in one post on how to become the kind of person whom they’ll listen to or feed you the rationale you’ll need to make your case. I can direct you to periodicals, books and consultants who can get you where you need to be to achieve this goal. And, believe me, you need to achieve this goal.
- A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
- Design Thinking by Tim Brown
- The Design of Business by Roger L. Martin
- Fast Company Magazine
- CATALYST Strategic Design Review
- Cohen-Miller Consulting
- HOW’s InHOWse Conference
- Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company by Robert Brunner, Stewart Emery and Russ Hall