Project Management

The Perfect Recipe

It sounds odd at first but it really is true that who is doing the transformation is just as important as the transformation itself.

Think about it. If a topic — let’s say some small and really irrelevant subject like lead routing (being sarcastic, folks) — isn’t an area that the guy setting the agenda understands well, do you really think it will get the in-depth consideration that it might actually need? (I saw this really happen and the effort it took to backtrack is still impacting the company, years later.) That’s one reason to get the team composition right.

food recipe marketing transformation

Another reason is that, because this is the real world and not your best case scenario, most likely, things will not go as planned. That’s why your marketing transformation team needs to be composed of people who can adjust on the fly. I like to cook so here’s a foodie example. Imagine that the famous restaurant in town may use a teaspoon of salt per serving but your guests are on a restricted diet. You need someone who can compensate for the lack of salt by thinking up some other interesting but complementary flavor to put in its place.

There is no perfect recipe for team composition but there are some guidelines you should consider before you go too far.

Skill Sets

First off, you need someone with good hands-on management skills to be the leader of the team. It seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many marketing transformation oriented executives choose the wrong team leader. Too often they select someone who ends up being more of a sponsor who sits in an execute office and delegates. While it would be great if your team leader was also an executive with the ability to leverage relationships for the team’s benefit, that’s not the key criteria.

A good team leader is someone who knows how to get people involved, how to manage meetings, how to mediate discussions on differing perspectives, and someone who can see though clutter and make decisions when others are unsure. That last part means you don’t need a “facilitator” but an actual leader who takes ownership of the outcome and has the skills to achieve that outcome.

Other skills you’ll need across all members of your team are the same ones that make someone a good consultant, not a huge surprise since that is essentially the function they are carrying out for the organization. The most important skills include critical thinking, flexibility, project management skill, analytical abilities, curiosity/ability to investigate, and ability to see holistically.

Subject Matter Expertise  

You would be surprised (horrified?) by how many marketing transformation teams do not have people with hands-on skills with the subjects they are responsible for transforming. I know of one team that had so little understanding of the marketing area they were working on that they inadvertently crippled their company’s marketing efforts for years, until a new set of leaders came in and had the energy to try again

It’s not that you don’t need strategic thinkers on transformation teams but you also really need subject matter experts (SMEs) within all the disciplines up are impacting.

This means the team leader and her lieutenants need to spend some quality time searching out someone who knows your target buyers and markets, marketing operations, sales operations, field sales, IT, HR, etc, until you get representation of all the areas impacted. Then tack on a few more that may, possibly, one day, in some person’s mind, care. Then you ask the assembled group if they think you missed anyone or, as a consultant might say, you do a gap analysis.

You can always prune back later if you find you really don’t need someone but it’s better to collect them all up front and make an informed decision about it, rather than just skip it for no reason.


The process will become very painful for all involved if you have a team with the wrong temperament for marketing transformation. For the organization, the wrong temperaments creating the processes and tools for change can literally be the difference between a transformation that works or one that fails.

There are many baseline qualities employees must have to an effective team member but there are several qualities especially necessary to marketing transformation team members. For example, you need people with the ability to tolerate uncertainty, who like challenges, and have a strong desire to learn new things.

At the same time, you want to watch out for some normally admirable traits. For example, I like consensus as much as the next person but putting together a group of nice people who never challenge each other is asking for a marketing transformation train wreck. Similarly, someone who likes to work very quickly and move on to the next challenge may be too hasty when making decisions.

When it comes to team composition, measure twice and select once. The impact these people will have is incredible so you want to create the team thoughtfully.

Comments welcome, especially if you have some examples of how your team was created.

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