Spearheading an In-house Creative Team Revolution: Q&A with Saint-Gobain’s Amanda Froehlich

Creative pryamid

Learn how Amanda Froehlich successfully planned and implemented a corporate reorganization that greatly improved the performance and reputation of her in-house creative team.

Ah, the corporate reorg. Reorganization is one of the most feared words among employees working on both client- and agency-side teams. It was also one of the first tasks Amanda Froehlich voluntarily tackled after being promoted to lead the Creative Services department of Saint-Gobain, a global leader in the development of high-performance materials in the residential construction, aeronautical, automotive, defense, and security industries. “My manager and I discussed at length the issues facing the department. I was told that the possibility of closing it down was a very real option,” Froehlich says.

Prior to the restructure, the group worked in silos with very few processes and little to no documentation. As a seasoned professional, Froehlich, who rose through the ranks at large global companies, was well aware of the pain points that can impact the effectiveness of an in-house creative team. We spoke to Froehlich about how she made a significant difference in the evolution of her in-house agency within the first year of taking a leadership role.

Amanda Froehlich

You lead Saint-Gobain’s in-house creative team, called The Hive. What’s the significance behind your team’s name?

Everything that my team and I create is an experience; from the text that you read, to the visuals you see, the websites and applications you interact with, and the videos that you view. The name has a great deal of significance for my entire team since our restructuring. After lots of brainstorming and collaboration we settled on The Hive, which is the acronym for “High Impact Visual Experiences.” It feels energetic, lively and descriptive, even more so when combined with our tagline, “Saint-Gobain’s Creative Hub.”

Many people have experienced the sting of a corporate restructuring. You refer to the restructuring of your in-house department as an “evolution revolution.” What made it so revolutionary?

The reason that the reorganization and optimization of the department was so revolutionary was because it had been operating in the same way for more than 30 years. It was time to shake things up, flip it upside down and reveal its true potential and value to the organization.

I knew the reorganization had to be a quick and decisive action, but I also recognized that it would have to evolve over time. That’s why I refer to it as an evolution revolution. It was also important for me to figure out who was needed as an informed advocate and trusted confidant. Having my managers’ support was critical; once I had that, I partnered with human resources and legal, keeping everyone up to date on every move.

How did you go about determining and redefining team roles during the restructuring process? What was the greatest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Developing a vision, strategy and goals for the department that aligned with the overall company strategy was where I started. Once this was defined, it made it much easier to determine what types of functions and roles I needed within the group.

I would say that one of the greatest challenges that my team and I faced was working to transform how the rest of the corporation perceived the department. We had a reputation as a production shop, purely tactical. I knew it had the potential to be so much more and we could become a high-performing integrated internal agency that tackled both strategic and creative assignments.

Once we reorganized, the managers on my team and I went on a campaign to build relationships and stay in touch with our customers. We were transparent about saying, “We’re at the point of building a new relationship with you; please teach us how to earn your trust.” That gave our customers comfort and we began to build trusting connections.

What surprised you post-restructure?

To be completely honest, I didn’t anticipate the initial reaction from some of our customers. I thought I'd either get a positive reaction or no reaction at all, but I never expected the negative, emotional responses. Some customers who complained prior to the reorg called me post-reorg to complain about the updates! I caution creative leaders to expect their changes to scare people; even the ones you expect to be thrilled may not be, initially.

On the upside, shortly after the reorganization, headquarters heard about our updates and wanted to learn more. So, they flew from Paris to meet us in our location here in the U.S. All of a sudden, we went from being this unknown department to being asked to join the Global Corporate Communications team. We are now brand ambassadors, strategic thinkers, innovators, educators and consultants. Our insights are sought out and it’s a great feeling to be able to provide so much value to the entire corporation.

Prior to reorganization, the majority of the work we did was third-tier production work. Being trusted to work on the high-end, strategic projects has definitely boosted morale enormously. Since partnering with the Global Corporate Communications team, we won the Saint-Gobain Communication Stars Grand Prize for a branding and integrated campaign we created. We were the first North American team within the company to receive this award in the global contest's history! With every internal or external award we’ve won post-restructure, it boosts the confidence of The Hive. The work and accolades from doing good work remind us that we’re not just creative, but also strategic problem solvers.

What are five lessons learned in planning and implementing a transformative restructure?

1. Look for the opportunity to make change, and don’t be afraid to take a risk and go out on a limb.

2. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Make sure you create a roadmap; you need to know where you’re heading and have an idea of how to get there.

3. Communicate and triage! Listen to your customers and your team; fix things as quickly as you can and understand that you are going to adjust things along the way.

4. Never stop growing, changing and evolving.

5. Try to enjoy the ride! Don’t let the setbacks get you down and keep looking at the big picture.

How will the evolution continue?

Every day it evolves; it’s a never-ending process. My team and I are always looking at ways to improve our work and become more efficient. We learn from our mistakes. It seems like each day brings on new challenges that we have to tackle. We know that as the markets and industry change, we have to stay one step ahead. We are always looking to find ways to be trendsetters when it comes to creativity and innovation within the company.

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