Breaking up Organizational Clots

When most people think about organization, highlighters, Post-it notes and dry erase boards come to mind. I, along with several others here, am highly addicted to these products, but fostering internal organization is far more complicated than answering the question, “Pink or blue?”


Organization is not an obvious thing for a marketing firm to tackle for its clients, but it can be found peppered throughout all of the strategic plans we develop. The reason? Most marketing solutions can’t be approached until internal factors are properly sorted, and when we come up against a real organizational beast, I call it a clot. The late Hallmark Cards veteran Gordon MacKenzie called it a ‘hairball’ in his book, “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”. Regardless of the term used, it’s an insidious, burdensome mass of challenges or process tucked away somewhere in a company or division that wreaks havoc on progress. Like a marketing CSI team, we identify it, hunt it down and dismember it piece by piece until we’re able to launch the strategies that lead to results (It’s actually quite subtle and not nearly that intense, but that sounded more exciting.) In my five-plus years at SW, I’ve identified some frequently heard statements that immediately hint at an internal clot. Now, strictly for entertainment value, imagine the below bullets stated in comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s voice:

You might have an organizational clot if you say:

  • “That can’t be done yet because our database isn’t updated.”
  • “Well, that was supposed to be done by Bob, but now he’s working on another project”
  • “We have been doing it this way for so long that nobody will do it differently.”
  • “Every department is so busy that nobody will have time to think about this.”

Let me assure you that time constraints, siloed employees and outdated or ineffective business practices are not unique challenges for a company of any size. From a marketing perspective, it’s an opportunity for us to go beyond establishing a discipline that works around the clot, and immerse ourselves in the business, tap into the expertise of employees at all levels to determine how things can improve, explore tools and get our hands dirty with the problem until we finally surface with a long-term, easily maintained solution that frees management from the obstacles that bind them.

Below are a few tips to consider when faced with a clot:

It’s not going to happen all at once

If there are a million reasons why something can’t be done, that doesn’t hold us back. We push on as if the problem isn’t there, brainstorming the strategies, building a social media plan, exploring e-newsletter content, identifying stories we want to tell the media, etc. All the while, we are working behind the scenes to reduce the number of problems until we reach zero and are ready to rock with a fully developed strategy. Chipping away at a problem is still a better solution that letting it fester unresolved.

Visuals add tangibility

The world would be a simpler place if we were all right or left brained, but that’s not the case. Sometimes a good old fashioned visual helps all parties wrap their brains around an initiative with many moving parts. An org chart with allocated responsibilities, a space layout or a fulfilled calendar go a long way in showing how things will play out.

Embrace new online solutions

With more and more work transitioning to cloud-based and mobile platforms, files, notes and documents are easier than ever to update and share. Tools like Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive have the potential to seriously streamline work when embraced by more professionals.

As I mentioned, there is no specific strategy in our plans dedicated to ‘getting organized’ and it’s not a top-of-mind selling point when we meet with prospects. But I am introduced to new clients and business challenges of all kinds on a regular basis and I see it in everything that we do, for every client we support. Providing organizational clarity is an understated pillar of our business, but arguably one of the most powerful ways that we provide solutions for our clients that help them sleep a bit more soundly at night.