My experience of moving towards a more progressive, self-managing structure at Seed

Maisie Franklin

Maisie Franklin

August 16, 2022

7 mins read

I started at Seed nearly four years ago, and from the get go the way that the agency approached challenges, wins and decision-making was different to what I had experienced before. 

At Seed, we have always been an agency that isn’t scared to try new things, break down boundaries and carry out continuous reflective practice – as individuals or a team. 

What has this meant? Ultimately it has built a place to work where we are encouraged to always ask why, and not be afraid to test, measure and learn. Success is the outcome of an initial failure right?

Our newest, and potentially biggest challenge was to roll out a new organisational structure with inspiration taken from the Corporate Rebels. We started this process in September 2021.

I wanted to document this as I feel with change comes many roadblocks which can sometimes overshadow all of the impressive and great things we have learnt along the way. Things that are easy to forget!

The start

I think we can all agree that the pandemic turned the working ‘norms’ on its head. This forced businesses to re-think old processes. This put a greater emphasis on the importance of company culture and career progression in order to retain employees and compete with a good work-life balance. 

We decided to take this to the next level. Nick, the Co-Founder and CEO of Seed has always been a huge advocate for giving everyone a voice and a chance, a chance that isn’t limited to people at the top of the “hierarchy”. This embedded vision of the agency gave us the inspiration to rethink how we did things at Seed and how we could be better. 

At Seed, many of us have worked for different agencies and we collectively have voiced the issues with some of the traditional forms of organisational structures. 

In my experience, I was comfortable within a rigid structure with set processes in place that were already established. However, this structure in my experience can sometimes compress talent and lead to demotivation. At Seed, we wanted to explore the uncomfortable and be part of the Corporate Rebels movement. 

Reflective Practice Exercise 

The first step was to strategise how we could become a more progressive, self managing organisation. In order to do this, we needed to look inwards and see how the agency was currently operating. This part of the process involved some deep reflective practice, gathering key feedback and insights from the whole agency as to their pain points. 

Whilst it can sometimes be difficult to receive feedback, this was pivotal to the process. It was important to us to include the wider team at pivotal points in the process so that we could get a range of points of view, and we could build this new structure together.

An introduction to Corporate Rebels 

Fast forward through the strategy, we decided to look more into how other organisations had implemented this structure. Our homework for that month was to read Corporate Rebels, whose mission was to redesign how we think about work organisational structures.  It was important for us to see how this was working in the real world, which allowed us to visualise this further.

Corporate Rebels focussed on 8 main topics: 

  1. Purpose and Values 
  2. Network of Teams 
  3. Supportive Leadership
  4. Experiment & Adapt 
  5. Freedom & Trust 
  6. Distributed Decision Making 
  7. Radical Transparency 
  8. Talents & Mastery   

The Long Meetings 

Each of the 8 topics above formed our skeletal structure of the key things to explore in this journey. We decided to get creative and go back to basics. We used sticky notes, we used the whiteboards – we switched off from digital devices (where we could)! 

This allowed us to collaboratively bounce ideas around and consider each thought carefully. 

I am not saying that this was all plain sailing. There were intense conversations, long meetings and a lot of different viewpoints. But this forced us to stop at several points in the journey to listen to points of views aside from our own and see how this would affect the whole agency. Whilst it was clear this way did slow down the process, from the start it was always our mission to build this with voices across the agency. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race!

Test, Measure, Learn and Start Again 

The most important part of this process was at every stage we involved the wider team. 

Once we had consolidated a general structure we presented a vision meeting to the agency. This had been built on over 6-months of work from the senior leadership team along with input from each Seedling along the way. It is important to note that this is not a structure we have rolled out and then forgotten about. This is something that we intend to continually develop and build upon based on what works and what doesn’t. 

The beauty about Seed is that it provides a space where as an agency we aren’t afraid to build something, only then to question why and how we can improve – and sometimes start again!

It is something that we incorporate into our client work on a daily basis, so it was only natural to apply this same logic to internal processes. 

Our Challenges 

We understand that this was a big topic, and one that most of the agency hadn’t been faced with before. 

Generally speaking, with many new faces to the agency in the last two years many were familiar with the traditional corporate structure that focuses on hierarchy – something that is well practised across all industries in the workforce today. 

When something is difficult to understand, it can be difficult to gain the buy-in that is needed to make this work. At times this did prove difficult. We overcame this by listening. We spent a lot of time gaining feedback, insights and questions from the whole agency and working on solutions together to overcome any obstacles. 

The Wins 

More importantly the wins! We are now 6-months into the official roll out of V1 of the new organisational structure and we can see the impact it has had on Seedlings. Now, each Seedling has an outline of a career progression plan that works towards their talents, masteries and passion – rather than what they “should be expected to do”. We have seen this structure inspire and motivate Seedlings that before, may have been struggling to understand how they can progress. 

Of course – this is not the finished structure. It is always going to be something we change and challenge. In fact – we had the Seed Strategy Festival last week which was a great time to do exactly that! We want to be pioneers of an agency that isn’t scared to welcome change, in order to grow in uncomfortable situations. 

Our next challenge is to gain our B-CORP certification, which is something that we are extremely passionate about. So stay tuned for that!

We really do believe that work can be fun, and we want to create the best platform as an agency to grow together, individually and make a positive wider impact. We want to Grow for Good. 

**If you haven’t heard of the Corporate Rebels, or are interested in hearing more I would really recommend their book / website. 

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