How to get More Intentional with Org Design

getting intentional with org design
In this episode, Gareth Webb, OutScout's founder & CEO, discusses getting more intentional with org design, structuring teams, and why more work and thought upfront can save weeks throughout the process.

Additional things we touch on: 
  • do you really need a VP or 'head of' hire right now?
  • mapping out internal talent and career pathing first
  • internal team alignment & generating buy-in from hiring managers
  • rethinking job descriptions and building out the 'position as a product'



[00:00:00] Gareth Webb: So, this morning we're talking about...

[00:00:01] Jake Gorgol: Organizational design and scoping out the role and just step one, determining, the hire you need to make and if you need to make a hire.

[00:00:07] Gareth Webb: Yep. So obviously this is all, everything is a timely conversation because this things are changing all the time, but right now we've seen, so the last take the last month It's a perfect time to talk about org design, structuring teams, whether you make a hire or not in the very first place how you go about it and what we're seeing is mass layoffs, or we have seen them.

I'm sure there'll be more we're seeing pauses, but we are also seeing plenty of hiring happening. It's just, it's actually better. It feels better than it was. Three to six months ago and all of, and most of last year when it was almost a frenzy and a panic for people making hires, because everyone's herding to this mentality of, oh, the world's back on.

And, there's this [00:01:00] probably like with the way the travel is at the moment, like pent up demand to do things and travel and hire people. Without probably the right amount of thought. And so it is always mind boggling to us. And to me that you don't really get like org design as a discipline at all companies at all stages.

So you do have org design specialists in big companies. As part of, part of the people org the people team. But you don't, you get it. It's all very slap dash when you get to more kind of startups or scale up type businesses. And that's not all always the case, but it definitely is often the case where you can tell when you're talking to a client, sometimes that they haven't thought it through, they just want to make a hire.

And they are basically doing what they think should be done, which is, oh, we need a head of this, or we need a VP of this or we need regional AEs everywhere. So yeah, I think it's like just looking at the very beginning before you release a position and you start [00:02:00] to put it out to the world, to the internet, to agencies, search firms, whoever you're using.

I think there's just not enough. So I call it like the sharpening of the blade. I don't remember who, I think it's an Abraham Lincoln quote, but it's if you gimme four hours to chop down a tree, I'll spend the first hour sharpening the blade. That is incredibly true with hiring.

And most people just pull out an old spec or rehash a spec or job description, make it even wordier than it needs to be from very often, then go out to market. I think there's just a lot of like exercises and disciplines and thought processes that should go on prior to that point. That probably don't.

So I think it's a good time for people to actually understand that, learn about it and bring that kind of like process in, into play before they actually kick off a hire.

[00:02:49] Jake Gorgol: So when, how do you go about deciding if a hire should be made or if you should be thinking about bringing someone in or bringing someone up internally, what does that kind of thought process look like? [00:03:00]

[00:03:00] Gareth Webb: So there's obviously the.

Spectrum of seniority or how critical the hire is, how much it's gonna impact an organization. It may well be that you're a busy startup and you need busy work doing and no offense to interns, but like you could get an intern in pretty quickly and that would solve your problem. And you may find like a future, like a rising star from doing that, but you don't need to give it too much thought cause it, it doesn't need to be a massive investment.

And that person, like the engagement itself is look, come in for three, six months, we need loads of work doing, and it's a win-win. So you've got that real okay, we need stuff doing, we can get somebody in and there's not a massive risk associated. However, if you are like bringing in a senior engineer or an engineering leader or first sales hire, or even like a a layer of management.

Like that structurally changes the organization and has a big impact on other people. Then there should be a protocol that's okay. Is an [00:04:00] like, can anybody else do that job that we have? Can anybody else do the job in six to 12 months or three to six months with an intensive training course or some shadowing.

And if the answer to those questions is no, then yes. Maybe you need to make a hire, but quite often companies will let people apply. Like it's, it sounds strange. It's we need to scale the business and we let people apply for jobs and then assess them. But there's not, it doesn't feel like there's much internal talent ID Oh, that person's , that person's excellent.

Let's talk to them now about where they could be in six to 12 months and make and map that and make. Work make that happen. Don't hear much of that going on. So we are, oh, we've got this role and we're letting people apply and we're having external people apply. There are other steps, so yeah do you have internal talent?

Can people be, can you level someone's role up and give them like strip away parts of their job, give them more impactful work to do. So take away. The work that they're very, [00:05:00] they find very easy or not particularly challenging. Give that to maybe a more inexperienced person and then level their role up, pay them more and invest in them.

We speak to executives and like people, teams and leaders who, in some cases that's happening. But it's also in many cases, just not happening at all. Like people just get overlooked. And the answer is the shiny object, which is like the new hire. And so if you haven't had those, like tracking your internal teams in an internal staff and already identified who should be potentially moved into future roles, then just that might that think that blinkered thinking then means that there's.

Wasteful internal resource. And then, yeah, basically the notion of just hiring like obviously we want to help companies hire, but sometimes you look at teams and think that it's not necessarily the answer. So then there's okay, what if you are going to make the hire, it doesn't necessarily have to be what everybody else is doing.

Sales is one, that's talked about a lot on LinkedIn [00:06:00] and amongst businesses. Like we need a, we need to build out sales, let's hire a VP of sales. Like it's probably wrong. Need to just keep selling and scale out the sales processes and the sale, like the customer base to then warrant a VP of Sales. But it's the quick fix.

So there's just so many cases. For example, of VPs of sales, they get brought into early and then they don't really wanna be whipping up a pipeline from scratch and figuring all those things out.

The term in the investment world is past performance does not indicate future success like it, and that's probably could not be more true of the way the world is now. Like someone could have been wildly successful three to five years ago as a VP sales, and the landscape's very different.

So many even sales leaders are saying, yeah, probably just get salespeople in, maybe have a lead or have this, the CEO or founder or somebody managing. And then at some point, bring the VP in or bring in [00:07:00] a director that can become a VP. So that's what we see, like people making too big, a hire too soon.

And this is obviously largely in like startup land, like Series A, B. Once you get past that point, there is more critical mass to warrant those bigger hires. But there's definitely an element of, and I think candidates should be really careful of this like window dressing hires. So like hiring around a raise, the going to impress the VCs with who you, your VPs are when you don't have

necessarily the scale of customer base or revenue. Like if you start off that way, then you just keep going that way, which is where we've seen these big later stage private companies and early IPO'd, probably like really bloated, headcount obsessed and then having to make big cuts.

Yeah, so I think there's there's many steps. Should you hire, is there somebody internally, road roadmapping people's careers earlier, like making that good process. [00:08:00] And then what's the leveling of the hire. Once you decide to hire that's where people go wrong a lot.

[00:08:08] Jake Gorgol: So you're in a kinda unique spot, right? Because you have so many different clients across Series A through enterprise level, like you mentioned. I'm curious to get your thoughts on what are some of the, best in class practices that you have seen or in your opinion, just from your experience to what are best practices in terms of org design and scoping the role?

[00:08:25] Gareth Webb: Yeah. The.

[00:08:27] Jake Gorgol: And I'll lead you a little bit too. Cause I think you, you brought it up in our like pre conversation yesterday too. Positioning the position as a product, not a job description, I think was something that was interesting to me.

[00:08:37] Gareth Webb: Yeah. Okay, so I'll answer the first, that second part first around position as a product. I think if people think of that more, so we are putting this position to the market, which is something someone's going to not buy, but they're going to commit to it. They're going to have to say yes to it.

I think like how [00:09:00] that is historically put out to market is wrong. So I think oh, here's our company. Here's what we need. Here's what you should have. It's and they're really worthy. And I don't think people. Read them properly. So I think if you are outlining the position from the very beginning, like going back to org design, and then if you've absolutely decided you want to hire either internally or externally all of these things, like lot, a lot of hiring and people coming to work every day is to do with like expectations.

People forget about that. So if you are saying that you have an expectation of work to be done. And then in return for that, like you can expect to get this in the short, medium, long term. Like every position is important to somebody. Even if it's a junior, like I said, at the beginning yeah.

Okay. You can bring in an intern, it should be straightforward, but that's important to that intern. You should still just think about like, where it could go to motivate the person from the very beginning. But the same for a junior salesperson or a senior product manager or an engineering leader is yeah, here's the problems we're [00:10:00] facing and the challenges we have, here's how we want to try and fix them.

And we think that this type of skillset experience would help us fix them. But then that's not enough. Like you then have to go one step further to say, this will enable you to go into various directions and later on. So assume that it'd be lovely if people stayed, if they were really good for 3, 4, 5 years plus, but if somebody stayed for two, three years and then they left and they did a good job, would they would then be able to go on and do a number of different things with the skills and experience had acquired in that role.

That's the bit for me that just doesn't really get explained or visualized like put into the visualization mode for people because people struggle to visualize things sometimes. So people would argue that's like selling too much, but I don't think it is the case. I think everybody should understand.

This is what I'm getting myself into. This is like the lay of the land and how I would think about solving the problem and smart [00:11:00] people wanna solve problems. So there's nothing wrong with outlining the problems. Cuz you'll probably get the right person, wanna try and solve it if they think they can.

And then once they're on the part of fixing that, like here's the other things that can happen afterwards, like scaling a team or building new products or taking on a new territory. And most. You can't, it is very difficult to be too prescribed because you dunno what's gonna happen in the future, but there should be some thinking about what, where these things could go.

And I think really good candidates want to have a path to what's next. So I think stating that early is really good practice. So I, then you have all the kind of comp discussion, equity, benefits, and that's why I think if you think of a position as a product, you can get a little more

concise with what it's about and why it's good for you and why it's good for everybody. And then you can illustrate the position with more clarity rather than just the word doc that's like [00:12:00] often, far too padded. And they all sound the same. So then going back a little like that's one thing I think

really good hiring companies do well. But then if you go to best practices then to do, to get that position as a product outlined very well. The best practices that we see when each hire is initially kicked off in the right way. So they've decided they want to make the hire. They know what they need to hire.

They've got an understanding of like dream state scenario. Like here's what we think the hire should look like in the perfect world. But then they also know that this is not a perfect world and they have spin off versions of that ideal hire so they could be slightly more junior.

They could be out of sector. They could come from a bigger company or they could come from a smaller company. There's all these different things. Different types of skill set or like a mixes of experience that they would consider. Those companies tend to just have their shit together in general.

More so at the early stage. So we try and like we try and focus on those companies [00:13:00] because it's better for us. And it's better for the candidates better experience for everybody. They're more consistent, so they're not like pulling hires out left front center and saying, oh, let's just go.

Let's like focus, time, energy, and effort. They build consensus early. And they document consensus early as well. So say the position has four people involved in the hiring or those four the best companies are there at the beginning talking about it, even with us, in some cases Or nodding agreeing, smiling saying, yes, this is exactly where we want to go with it.

This all sounds really basic, but just not that common. And then the opposite of that is company wants to hire, hiring managers are too busy to really get involved in the conversation, they've written up a word document, people team circulate that and they wanna see profiles. You can get lucky and that can work, but again, going back to the whole, spend some time upfront investing to then make the whole thing much cleaner. So we have an example right now with a client trying to hire for a director [00:14:00] we've been given the brief, the interview feedback is like random, like blindfold throwing a dart.

Like people are saying strong. Yes, people are saying strong no .Comp, three different people are giving us different comp ranges by some margin. And so like at the very beginning we were saying we need to have this ironed out. So now we're starting again, four weeks in and that's just because we didn't get all this stuff ironed out with them, they wouldn't commit to a kind of, a protocol.

[00:14:35] Jake Gorgol: Not only a waste of their own kind of internal time and resources, but also the agency they're

[00:14:39] Gareth Webb: working with so much time and money of theirs.

If you combined the comp of the execs that we are dealing with, Hundreds of thousands of dollars probably wasted in just a month. Or, we've got four or five people involved in a big senior director type position. Yeah, the best practices are the ones that arguably [00:15:00] require the most thinking and most effort, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Cause once you get it rolled out internally to your business and if you have a lead and they own that, then. That is a very repeatable process. Like it's a very, okay, we're making this higher 20 minute zoom document up on screen, all going through like the must haves the areas of flexibility, the process, the numbers, like the are like, I would've thought that's a very de-stresing

situation to have happen, to be like walking away going, we all know what's going on. And then it's an accountability tool as well. Because if people deviate from that, you've got essentially like the minutes or the one pager outlined. So yeah, it's just, it's too much chat in hiring and that's not always just the recruiting teams or the

the internal talent team or the agencies of research firms is often, there's just no internal [00:16:00] lead on a hire. And everyone's chiming in with comments and thoughts and ideals, but then it just, you then just have like different paths walked. So yeah, that's what we tried to isolate is just, yes, we want dream state.

We want real world potential, not dream state, but will help get to where you need to go from the higher you get the result. And then, yeah, so there's the whole kind of like specking out the position. So the position as a product in my mind, and in our mind, then there's like consensus and like confirming what the truths are about all the desired outcomes in the process and like where everybody's gonna converge toward.

And then I think like after that, then it's just the updates and the briefing and the cadence of making it happen. So yeah we try t o sit down every two weeks in the initial stages. We can do every week, but weeks go by quick. Every other week is like good timing to keep on track of things.

And everybody gets busy and those [00:17:00] sometimes fall off and then that's when things can slip. So it's like deal fatigue if you wanna call it that. Or hiring has seemed to be busy work and I need it fixed. And I just wanna, I think hiring manager. Like real busy execs. They just wanna see the person in at the end.

They want the result, but it's one of those things that it does require investments. So yeah, the best companies are the ones that have these programs or these processes ironed out. They don't always perfect it, but for the most part, they're just really bought in up front in, in the investment of their own time.

The best companies put a lot of the ownership on they'll say to hiring manager, part of your job is to build that business, build the team, build, hiring the right people. So just a case of being demanding and explaining why and that kind of works well.

It, I, it probably can backfire where. Execs look like you are getting paid to do the hiring. I wanna see the results, the best [00:18:00] companies put a bit more pressure on the hiring managers and say to 'em this is your business, right? Like we, we are here to help you scale it, but you have to lead the growth of the business.

So hiring the team is the same as bringing customers in, like it's given the same priority almost, which I mean it should do. If you think most people complain about work. Because the people they have to work with largely all managers have complaining about their team. So if you are fully invested, then you should be driving who comes through.

So yeah, I think that's just the expectation management at the very beginning is like, Hey, this is on you as, as much as it is us. Like we have to do this together. So the best companies do that. And the best talent lead talent acquisition leaders are good at selling that and influencing that.

And then I think just knowing how busy executives are of earlier and later stage companies, like just small things, like silly things that we kind of demand upfront or really try to get is just like being on a slack connection with the comp, [00:19:00] with the client up front and knowing they can just have.

Less email from us, potentially less calls just like one liners to keep on track. Most people will feel like that's reasonable. I think a lot of this is about being reasonable. It's about people understanding that this hire is gonna come in and impact their business unit, their team their income stream, like a bonus or stock, like it's all linked to that stuff.

I think where people get bogged down with hiring is they just think they've gotta have X amount of conversations a day and X amount of emails and giving feedback and filling out forms. I think that's the bit that bothers people. Rather than just like one liner in slack, yeah, love that person let's go like next steps or it's a no to junior that imediacy is achieved through.

It's a real, basic thing, but since we did. Like we've seen a big improvement in just how embedded we can be with the clients. And yeah, there's nothing revolutionary about that, but some companies [00:20:00] are a bit resistant to that, cuz they feel it's too much of an invasion, but it's actually less of an invasion cuz it's just of time anyway.

[00:20:07] Jake Gorgol: Great.

We've got the team walking in now, so I think we can go ahead and use it as our cue to wrap up coming up on time here. Any final thoughts at all before we sign off?

[00:20:14] Gareth Webb: No, not really. I think, we covered should you hire in the very first place internally or externally?

I think mapping internal talent earlier is something that doesn't seem to happen too much. Like we've got some clients that are really good at it. But a lot don't even think about are too busy in the day to day, but I think really that's where, you know, if you're a founder or a CEO of an early stage business, you should be doing that all the time.

As soon as you hire in a people ops person they should be doing it straight away. Like every member of staff should be getting being tracked somehow to go somewhere. And then if, yeah, if you're a bigger company, I think that the bigger you are Harder that is to do, but like you should have more resource to do it.

More tools, more people. So that there's that part. And then there's yeah. Then the whole position as a [00:21:00] product and getting that defined in a more attractive way, a clearer way, a more concise way as like a blueprint for someone's career potentially.

But no one really talks about it like that. Just come in and do this. We're great. You'll love it. It's not really good enough in my opinion. Yeah. And then it's just, focusing on the. Let's just call it. What for it is let's call it like the more busy or boring or administrative setup work like earlier, getting that done at the very beginning and investing in that time upfront.

Yeah, if we you've got a question, right? If a hiring manager, even if you're an internal talent person, if a hiring, manager's not prepared to sit down with you for 15 minutes on a zoom. And go through a doc with you are, they're probably not gonna give you what you need later. Anyway, it's a good, it's a good indicator of intent.

Find if it's a junior hire a more junior hire, but if it's a director or VP, that's non-negotiable.

And I think that's the same with candidates who are like talking to companies, if they don't feel like it's been set up right from the beginning, it's probably [00:22:00] not gonna be right later on. But yeah, there's, it's just a lot of it is basics, a lot of it's discipline, a lot of it is rigor, and it needs internal champions.



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