In my experience, every communication team is different. There are similarities – but no two teams are identical.

Several variables define a team’s place in the world, including its:

  • Role in the company
  • Capabilities
  • Talent and expertise
  • Platforms/channels
  • Systems/tools
  • Policies and processes
  • Budgets and resources.

That’s why there is not one operating model that works for all teams at all times.

For many years, communication teams have used their disciplines – internal, external, executive, issue/crisis, creative, etc. – as the organizing principle underpinning their structure. Many smaller teams still use this as their framework, often because they are, by necessity, a band of generalists.

As companies expand internationally, their communication needs multiply. These companies often establish regional and local communication resources, in addition to their central communication resources. The larger the footprint, the more complex this network becomes, and the more important it is for these teams to align and collaborate. The operating model for communication in these companies often centers on geography.

Likewise, when larger companies diversify their business lines and grow geographically, internal and external communication needs multiply. A matrix approach to organizing internal (and external) communication around business line (and function) and geography is common here. These can be challenging frameworks to operate in because they demand higher levels of efficiency, coordination and effectiveness.

One of the other key variables is the maturity of a team’s capabilities. I like to use a simple, three-level scale for maturity – under-developed, developed and advanced. A typical team will have some capabilities that are developed (relative to comparable teams) and under-developed. Only a few will have several capabilities that are truly advanced. No team I’ve encountered is advanced in every capability, in part because there always are new peaks to summit.

The point is this: every team is different. Choosing the right operating model can make all the difference in the value a team brings to the enterprise.