The Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team

This is part one of a three part series on digital team structures published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review co-written by Jason Mogus of Communicopia, Michael Silberman of Greenpeace International, and Christopher Roy of Marketworks Media.

The digital function is increasing in importance in nearly all institutions today, yet few are actually managing it in an effective way. While there is no one right way to manage digital, the way most institutions—whether corporate, government, or nonprofit—structure their digital teams greatly limits the outcomes they seek, because every innovation they want to do online will be limited by their own internal capacity to dream, execute, and sustain it over time.

When an organization’s external digital presence is inconsistent or incoherent, this is nearly always a symptom of deeper internal structural problems, such as:

  • Silos: The people responsible for digital work are isolated from the rest of the organization, and the team ends up becoming a quick-turn-around “Kinkos copy shop” for publishing. The digital lead may not be seated at a high enough level to be proactive, or it may have a director who does not represent digital well for leadership or cross-team planning opportunities.
  • Personality Fit: You have the wrong person in the digital role. Digital work interfaces with all aspects of an organization, so the person responsible must be open-minded, solutions-oriented, and ideally a delight to work with.
  • Overload: Often the digital team isn’t the right size to keep up with increasing demands, or the leader is unable to prioritize the volume of work on their own. Often they don’t know how to say no to requests that are unrealistic or that don’t fit their vision.
  • Lack of Digital Vision: Every organization needs a digital vision to set a direction and evaluate whether the inevitable new tools, creative ideas, and campaigns requested are actually viabile online ideas and fit the strategy.
  • Lack of Organizational Vision: A good digital communications strategy can’t compensate for a missing organizational vision or outdated theory of change, both of which have to come first. If you can’t clearly articulate what your organization is trying to change in the world and how your supporters can play a meaningful role in it, then you’re just asking your digital team to create pseudo engagement with often increasingly meaningless actions.

You can read the full post at the Stanford Social Innovation Review website.

Stanford Social Innovation Review – Part One: The Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team
Stanford Social Innovation Review – Part Two: Four Models for Managing Digital
Stanford Social Innovation Review – Part Three: The Seven Patterns of Digital Teams

Jason Mogus is the principal strategist at Communicopia, a Webby Award-winning digital consultancy that helps social change organizations adapt to a networked world. Jason has led digital transformation projects for the TckTckTck global climate campaign, The EldersNRDC, the United Nations Foundation, and the City of Vancouver, and he is the founder of the Web of Change community.
Michael Silberman is the global director of Digital Innovation at Greenpeace, where he leads a lab that envisions, tests, and rolls out creative new means of engaging and mobilizing supporters in 42 countries. Silberman is a co-founder of EchoDitto, a digital consultancy that empowers leading organizations to have a greater impact through the creative use of new technologies. Follow Michael on twitter: @silbatron.
Christopher Roy is a senior strategist with Communicopia and the founder of Marketworks Media. He works with social purpose organizations and businesses to create clear strategies and tactical plans that harness the full potential of online engagement for creating change.

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