One of the biggest challenges we face as enablement practitioners at high-growth, scaling organizations is trying to build a strategic function while also putting out the little “fires” that pop up around us.
We know that in order to justify our existence and make a case to grow our team, our revenue leadership wants to see scalable programs that demonstrate a clear impact on the bottom line. At the same time, they also want us to solve the smaller challenges that pop up and support change management for the organization. It can be really hard to balance these two competing demands – making sure you save time for the “important-but-not-urgent” when there’s so much urgent work in the air.
At Seismic, we tackled this problem by creating a dedicated team. My team manages all ad hoc, point-in-time enablement projects so the rest of the enablement organization can focus on building and scaling repeatable programs. However, we found that a dedicated team alone still wasn’t enough to create the balance we needed. After all, the presence of a fire department doesn’t mean you have fewer fires, and your firefighters still run the risk of burning out (pun intended). That’s why I decided to work with our enablement leaders to hatch a plan to turn my team from a fire response team into a fire prevention unit.
Making the shift from a reactive to a proactive response
I knew the first step on the road to fire prevention was to understand why fires were popping up in the first place. Of course, high growth means you’re never going to stay ahead of every change, but it’s still valuable to understand where your gaps in coverage are. In order to gain this visibility, we set up an intake request form in our project management tool, designed a submission process, and shared it with the rest of the business. We made the process as simple as possible – just click a link and fill out the form. We also decided to implement a one-business day service-level agreement (SLA), because we knew that more people would use the form if it elicited a faster response than an email.
High adoption of the form in the fire prevention process allowed us to see where gaps were constantly popping up. And, we’ve used that awareness to spin up longer-term alignment projects. For example, this quarter I’m working with our partners in sales operations to set up consistent touchpoints that will strengthen our partnership and ensure we can stay ahead of operations changes.
The other change we’ve implemented to become more proactive is something we call the “Squad Model.” Think about any good heist movie – there’s always a scene where Danny Ocean or his equivalent pulls the team together, making sure he has an expert in each of the tasks required to pull off the job. Our enablement team is full of experts in different tasks, too. Not only do we work with our onboarding, product enablement, and partner enablement teams, but we also have dedicated teams that manage continuing enablement around our core skills and ad hoc requests. In the Squad Model, each member of my team serves as the “Danny Ocean” for part of the go-to-market (GTM) business including top-of-funnel, pre-sales, and post-sales functions. Each of these areas includes a member from each of the other enablement teams I mentioned earlier. These squads meet weekly to drive alignment within our enablement team and to ensure we’re serving our GTM customers in a holistic and coordinated way. The Squad also discusses any ongoing strategic projects and any new intake requests that we’ve received. This ensures we’re not duplicating work, getting in each other’s way, or missing a huge gap.
In addition to leading the Squad, my team also serves as the primary partner to the GTM leadership team. Our entire enablement organization works to drive requests, questions, and other traffic from the business toward our squad leaders, and the squad leaders themselves meet with the GTM managers in the functions they serve at least once a month. In these monthly leadership syncs, we keep them up to speed on what’s coming their way from enablement and our partners. We also learn about goals, challenges, and initiatives that might need our support. Our squad leaders blend this information with the requests we receive to create a holistic view of what’s happening in the field. This allows us to stay on top of the current state of the business while keeping an eye on what’s around the corner.
In the first sixth months of this motion, we’ve seen increased alignment across our enablement function and we’ve surfaced innumerable gaps that we would have missed if we were all operating in silos. We’re in the painful part of the process now, where we can see more clearly what is causing the fires, but we have more work to do to stay ahead of them. Aligning one team is easier than aligning a whole business, but our early success makes me very hopeful that by this time next year, we’ll bring potential fire risks to our GTM partners rather than our GTM partners telling us that something is already on fire.