Is it time for management pods?

Rethinking how it’s always been done is something I am a huge fan of. 


It can be an interesting way of trying to make a positive change within a stagnant organisation and encourages teams to challenge how things are done or review poorer performing elements of the business and optimise. 

Making a change in organisations and going against ‘the way it’s always been done’ can be a very long-drawn-out process and often one that is fought back against from dominance leaders. 

In many leadership team developments sessions, these are core pieces of feedback that come back from the leadership team. 

Pride, ego and an old school approach are the other most common pieces of feedback that you will hear. This often leads to poor performing leadership teams that filter through the organisation. 

No one deep down likes to be challenged or change but it is essential for business and personal growth.

Swarms and SWATS 

In recent years we have seen the move towards swarms and SWOTS, where you create a specific goal or problem to be solved and that cross-functional group does everything to complete that mission. 

I am a huge fan of swarms if rolled out correctly, two ways to win with swarms are you have to right written rules and agreed on principles to roll out a swarm and make the move towards this model. 

Swarms are great as the model is built on co-ownership, with disciplines owned by internal experts of the swarm and collaboration has to happen in order to complete the goal, it is very rare that the Product person can get success in a swarm without the Marketing partner developing a great product marketing offering and offering valued opinions on brand positioning and the CTA that works in these situations. Likewise, a designer will need to work with the right development partner to ensure the new element works seamlessly. 

SWATS are typically more short-term, it can be for very specific issues or problems that need to be solved and often your core team can stay together but experts are brought in. 

This works well for shorter periods of time.

There is often a parallel to the military, policing and sports with SWATS and was borrowed from these worlds. So order, communication and execution are paramount pillars to success.  

SWATs work particularly well in growth companies that know how to tackle smaller but important projects to compete with large competitors or within newer Growth Departments in larger organisations.  

Time For Management Change? 

In management, there are a huge number of issues that are time-sensitive, time-restricted items that just never get prioritised or egos get in the way, or most typically old ways of doing things that are just routine or we do it this way here. 

This causes micro fractions that escalate over time, many teams will ignore this until something seeming mundane happens it can then blow up.

Often informal groups or cooperations appear in management teams, these happen for numerous reasons, typically alignment around: 

  • A common goal
  • An agreed social commonality 
  • An agreed move towards taking over more ownership 
  • Or in some cases a way to keep or hoard power. 

In more recent times we have seen management become harder, managing a team can be more challenging, teams have reduced but the goals are still aggressive and as managers, we have experienced many more emotions ourselves and with our teams. 

Remote management is a whole new ball game for many leaders, less in-person time means it is harder for them to understand their teams mood, to understand cues from individuals or groups working together, and picking up on individual anxieties or how an individual may be feeling can be challenging to truly pick on.

When we shift to a fully hybrid workplace these managers should have the right muscle memory and skills to help less in-person time work, but is there a support and learning network set up to share these learnings. Unlikely.

With remote work and lower levels of transparency and clarity, business strategy is being challenged more than ever as the strategy has to be clearer and more brought into.
Leadership team members struggle to widely support a strategy when they are not fully brought in or were not involved in developing the strategy. 

Introducing The Pods Concept

All of the above challenges are not easy factors but factors that can be worked upon and collectively can be addressed with collaboration, transparency and support groups or as small pods. 

Why a pod?

A pod instinctively protects each other and is formal, this enables smaller groups of managers and leadership to protect each other, share experiences and discuss problems they might be encountering.  

The further up the totem pole, the more lonely it can become, especially having to make more difficult decisions and challenging outputs and results. 

Pods are going to be harder to roll out if you and your leadership team have pairs that have strong alliances already formed, I would recommend connecting pods of people together by having 2-3 random leaders connected and work together for six months. 

As a leadership team or a solo leader you will have to make the difficult decision to break up pairs and mini-groups, embrace and encourage pods.

The essential parts to pods are you connect and regroup with the larger management team and report on learnings, lessons and takeaways and take time in leadership meetings to collectively learn from experiences and form bonds. These have to be formally discussed and discussed as a wider leadership team. Keeping the learnings from the pod to your pod goes against why you need pods.

These meetings should be treated as important discussions and learning sessions, you will learn about each other, understand different pressures and align your departments together by the bonds you build.

Importantly, these bonds will also help your teams to connect and develop relationships cross-functionally. 

Something that is key every six months; rotate the pods.
This keeps sharing up to the maximum and ensures you have a blend of problems you can tackle in different ways. 

If pods are strong they will proactively look to continue the meetings, and the learnings and collectively improve the business.

Pods will be a step towards better leadership team performance and ensure you can create an environment and company culture of sharing and development. 

I hope you and your leadership team make time to discuss the pod methodology and make the time to roll this out into 2021 and beyond.

Like this idea? Receive one actionable tip a week to improve and focus your leadership. Subscribe to the leaders letter newsletter below