How We Use a Team of Teams Structure as a Digital Agency

We implemented the ideas in "Team of Teams" in our agency structure three years ago - here's how we did it.


“Agile,” “Scrum Master,” “Team of Teams” – if you work in the business world, you’re probably familiar with the terminology behind the latest management trends. They sound great in theory – but too often, companies fail in practice when they try to put them into action.

We’re here to tell you: these new concepts do work in practice. And we’ve got three years of success to prove it.

What Is Team of Teams?

General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, outlines his management strategy during the surge in Afghanistan.

The basic premise is simple: the world is too complex and fast-moving to only have the general calling the shots.

His approach revamped the U.S. military’s hierarchical decision-making structure as they fought an agile, decentralized foe. Instead of running orders up and down the chain for approval, he focused on equipping the men in the field to make real-time judgment calls.

And it worked – his leadership helped make the surge a success.

After that experience, he saw how the same principles that guided his military strategy could apply to any organization. And so, “Team of Teams” was born.

Team of Teams Structure at Work

Why We Use Team of Teams

At IMGE, we state our values right on our website: we work fast, meet deadlines, and practice radical transparency. Those values are reflected in the way we organize our workday. It’s why we use transparent, collaborative tools like Slack and Asana.

In 2017, we realized that the structure of our firm could better support those values.

When you’re working for clients who have to act at digital speeds, there just isn’t time to run approvals up the chain from the Assistant Vice President of Marketing to the Assistant to the Vice President of Marketing. You need to act fast and remove silos from information so you can make the best decisions.

Team of teams sounded like the approach we needed to take our work to the next level.

How We Implemented Team of Teams

Adopting this new structure took some serious thinking. What do our clients need? What is the flow of a given work day? What do we do here, and what do we want to do more of for our clients?

Thoughtful reflection on those questions helped us develop the basic structure of a client team that we use today:

  • Digital Director
  • Content Strategist
  • Marketing Strategist
  • Advertising Strategist
  • Graphic Designer

Layered on to this core team are our specialists – advertising specialists, web developers, animators, and videographers. Each member has the full expertise and authority to make recommendations to the client and execute strategy in real time.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

What It Takes to Use Team of Teams Effectively

If you find yourself a little wary of letting go of control in your firm, you’re not alone. It’s a hard shift to make. We found that these three elements are crucial for team of teams to work for an organization.

1. Great Staff

At IMGE, we like to say that we hire the best – and then invest in them to make them even better at what they do. A team of teams structure attracts self-motivated talent. Not only that, it gives those same great staff members opportunities to grow, lead, and achieve results.

2. Real Teams

A true team isn’t just “more than one staff member.” A team has a shared consciousness, shared goals, and real cooperation.

After working together on a project from conception to completion, with total ownership over results, the teams take pride in their ability to work as a unit. Our teams have names, crests, and budgets for team activities. We invest in cultivating that team closeness, because that closeness yields real results for our clients.

3. Trust in Your Teams

The hardest part of making this structure work, however, isn’t the team in the field – it’s often with senior leadership. In order to let these client teams make these decisions in real time and realize the full potential of the team of teams structure, it requires trust.

At IMGE, we’re lucky to have that. We invest in a team of departmental directors who train, coach, and empower our client teams to stay on the cutting edge of their respective disciplines.

Want to see the results our team of teams have produced? Check out our work – and see how we can get to work for you.

Thanks for reading!

While you're here, check out these related articles: