The Dark Side: When Process Becomes CYA

Back to matters of getting your agency organized…

Clouds 365 Project. Shot dated 04/17/13. 

Clouds 365 Project. Shot dated 04/17/13. 

Process is in place for a reason. It’s your guide to the way you do your stuff every day. I’ll bet you don’t give it a second thought. But someone else probably does. And that person is trying to figure out what the heck’s going. It’s usually your friendly producer or project manager.

Well, you still need to get things done. And it’s that delicate balance of maintaining process – the checks-and-balances so things don’t go sideways – and CYA because of other issues.

I’ve said it many times before; if something is wrong in an agency it is one, or a combination, of process, tools (technology to manage work/collaboration) or…people.

Process – without it, priorities are set by whichever client is barking the loudest; things get lost; errors made; and who knows how many dollars you lose – every hour.

Tools – those awesome technologies that, along with a good process, actually can take some of the daily documentation burden off of you and allow you to do your real work. Like strategy, creative, tweeting.

People – your co-workers – you gotta love ‘em, but they can throw a wrench into the effectiveness – or usefulness of process or tools. When one or the other isn’t followed or used properly, errors can and will happen.

There is a dark side to process and tools. When they are implemented for CYA. You know what that is. And it may be more costly and time consuming than no process or tools at all.

How I hate CYA. Such a waste.

Process steps, put in place as punitive measures because something went wrong. An error, now there are extra steps / extra people involved in proofing, more reviews and approvals on everything.

Massive emails and documentation just to make sure that when a project goes sideways you can say, “See, I did my job” (aka: it isn’t my fault).

A tool purchased to ‘fix the problem’ without identifying what is really going on. It is ‘sprung’ on the agency with little warning, and expectations that you’ll be on easy street.

Uh huh.

Process is not CYA. An effective process – that is practiced and not cumbersome – reduces the need for time-wasting efforts. Process makes you more efficient.

If you really take the time to map out your process – the steps a project takes and who touches it – you will get a clear picture of redundancies, gaps and bottlenecks in your workflow. Then you can start applying the two other key aspects – tools and people – to clarify how to make workflow better.

Mapping is the first thing I do with a client.

Before you choose which tools (technology) to invest in (and it is an investment – whether it’s fee or free), map your workflow and define / refine your process. Evaluate your technology options carefully – and get input from your colleagues. And get to the bottom of personnel issues.

You will be introducing change and that involves transition. Transition is the process of change.

Get it? It’s all about process and not CYA.

I’ll leave you with a line from Kelly DeLay’s Clouds 365 Project:

“Process matters. Good work flow is satisfying in its own right apart from the success of the final product. Effective work flow allows me to maximize the outcome of my work while minimizing the costs. I want my process to be open and transparent.”