Key differences between large and small strategy teams

Key differences between large and small strategy teams

article by Blaine Ayres and Joe Opaleski Charles Aris, Inc, the InterSearch member in the US

In our career conversations with corporate strategists, we’re often asked about the benefits of joining a large and established strategy team versus a smaller, up-and-coming one.

While our answers vary based on every candidate’s unique career path and ambitions, there are a few key elements of both options everyone in this space should be aware of.

Benefits of joining a larger strategy team

The biggest upside of joining an established strategy team is that it comes with proven stability, support and resources. Your role will likely include a demonstrated trajectory should you perform well, and the people around you will have experience bringing you up to speed and helping you achieve your goals. In fact, there are often examples of individuals who have rolled off the strategy team to take on functional line leadership or operating roles in the business.

Being on a larger team may also mean that you have more agency to carve out a niche. Since more people are around to support the organization’s broader initiatives, your role may focus on a specific element of the overall strategy plan. Even for generalist teams, this gives you the ability to define your “major” and charter a longer-term path within the business aligned to your areas of interest.

Benefits of joining a smaller strategy team

When you think about joining a smaller, emerging strategy team, you can count on having a multifaceted job description, a diverse project load and a healthy amount of exposure to senior leaders within the organization. By joining a smaller-sized team, you’re more likely to have some level of responsibility in creating and implementing long-term initiatives for your organization.

A smaller team often provides more opportunities for rolling up your sleeves and gaining ownership over transformative projects. For example, candidates we’ve placed in these types of roles have told us they were able to create the entire strategy plan for their organization and/or run strategic projects start to finish. It may take several years to have that same opportunity with a more established team in a larger company.

Additional responsibilities we see for this type of role include leading acquisitions and serving as a one-person task force for tackling issues and heading new initiatives. The level of trust given in these roles is often fulfilling for those who crave a challenge and want to charter their own path in a less-defined environment.

The takeaway

If you’re deciding whether to join a small or large strategy team, the first thing you should ask yourself is what you’re trying to accomplish in the next 5-10 years.

If you feel you could benefit from the support and processes of an established team, and you’re more comfortable having a clearly defined career path, it’s worth looking at opportunities within larger strategy departments. Conversely, if you’re motivated by wearing many different hats and are comfortable with more ambiguity in your career path, a smaller team may be more advantageous for your career.

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