In the lead-up to a massive year of new projects, our Marketing mag team has been experimenting with a ‘war room’ collaborative workspace.
This time last year, the team at Marketing mag sat in different rooms. This is pretty normal for a publishing company – the editorial department sits together in one area, sales in another. Our managing director, Paul Lidgerwood, and digital projects manager, Rashi Mujoo, were locked away in their own separate offices.
Working under the traditional model, our editors wrote and curated content, and separately, our sales team worked with our advertising clients, while the digital team tweaked the website, and Paul oversaw the whole operation. It worked reasonably well.
But in late August last year, we started gearing up to relaunch our magazine, our website, and develop Marketing Advantage, our new membership connecting marketers to premium resources. This was a massive move for our organisation and we would all really need to pull together.
Paul sums up his thinking at the time: “The thought of trying to coordinate the number of meetings we would require – to get everyone’s input, thoughts, ideas, opinions and buy-in – was scary.”
So he suggested we all move into a separate office together – a Marketing ‘war room’ – in which we could easily share ideas, collaborate on work, and make sure we were all on the same page day-to-day. In it would sit Paul, Rashi, business development manager Kendall Chadwick, editor Peter Roper and myself, assistant editor.
Peter jumped straight on the task of researching what made a great war room. “The minimum requirements seem to be copious whiteboards, Post-its and plaid shirts,” he wrote in an email to the team.
In recent years, war rooms have become commonplace in creative and tech industries. Companies have realised the value of the productive energy created when a team collaborates inside four walls covered in whiteboards, posters and sticky notes.
So, in September, we politely moved our subscriptions team to another part of the building, dusted off a bunch of whiteboards, and set ourselves up in our little haven – just for Marketing.
Our war room buzzes with music and discussion; whiteboards list revenue figures, client meetings and print magazine layout plans; and both tiny and giant Post-it notes remind us of everything from our content plans to upcoming birthdays.
We’ve also got a nice break-out meeting space with comfy chairs and naughty snacks – to the great envy of Niche’s other staff.
“Sharing our wins and losses, feeling part of a team that has common goals is easier to do in a common space,” Paul says.
“The bonus is that you get to understand the way each person works, their passions, their energy, their lives outside of work and the contribution they make to not just the project but the culture.”
For Kendall, who stepped into the role just in time to join us in the ‘war room’, it’s been a very different experience to his previous roles working closely with other account managers.
“The past five months have been a real eye-opener,” he says. “Working closely with the managing director and editors has allowed me an accelerated level of learning and insight with regard to the publication and industry alike.”
As our digital projects manager, Rashi has found working within close proximity to everyone in the team to be challenging and motivating, despite the occasional loss of focus that comes from being able to regularly interrupt each other.
“I have liked the constant focus and engagement with the goal. A team effort and the feeling of everyone contributing to one objective is motivating to me,” she says.
“As the manager for this challenging project, sitting closely has made stakeholder management a lot easier with getting quick buy-in from all of the team on various occasions.”
Before we moved spaces, our editors and salespeople would discuss much of their work over email, if at all; a face-to-face meeting would involve a walk to the other side of the building. Although this shouldn’t sound like a big deal, in reality, it means less communication, and at times, miscommunication.
“You can’t underestimate the significance of actual physical proximity,” says Peter.
“When everybody knows what’s going on with everyone else – and not necessarily influencing each other or crossing the important boundaries – the efficiencies of communication are tremendous.”
Of course, at times, the mix of roles sharing a room can be jarring – salespeople’s and editors’ jobs involve different kinds of work and different types of energy, so we have to make sure we’re sensitive to each other’s needs.
“From a management perspective I knew that it would be tough on the team to work with ‘the boss’ sitting next to you, hearing your calls, etc,” Paul adds.
“However, the upside is I’m in a position to listen, see, make decisions with all the information available and provide guidance where necessary.”
Peter concludes: “The positives far outweigh the negatives.”