Really. Boring. Stuff. But Agency Life Will Be Better.

I’ve been reading about Kanban (as it relates to software development) and The Theory of Constraints.

It’s really super-boring when you read this stuff and apply it to an advertising agency. But there are a few nuggets in there.

In my line of work, I’m all about Process, Tools and People.

A.     Process – how you get stuff done, start-to-finish
B.     Tools – what you use to do your stuff, communicate about your stuff, and store your stuff
C.   People – the people who do the stuff and their willingness to do A, and use B

It’ll all come together. And by the way, I don’t like to use jargon unless I’m looking to confuse my audience. (yes I know you’re all highly intelligent folks, but Orwell said it best:  “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.” My everyday word is stuff.

So The Theory of Constraints, as identified in Wikipedia (my go to source for all things about organizational management) goes like this:

The theory of constraints (TOC) is a management paradigm that views any manageable system as being limited in achieving more of its goals by a very small number of constraints. There is always at least one constraint, and TOC uses a focusing process to identify the constraint and restructure the rest of the organization around it.

TOC adopts the common idiom "a chain is no stronger than its weakest link." This means that processes, organizations, etc., are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or break them or at least adversely affect the outcome.

It goes on…

Types of (internal) constraints

  • Equipment: The way equipment is currently used limits the ability of the system to produce more salable goods/services.
  • People: Lack of skilled people limits the system. Mental models held by people can cause behaviour that becomes a constraint.
  • Policy: A written or unwritten policy prevents the system from making more.

So I could repackage these three constraints as:

A.     Tools – inadequate, redundant, time-consuming
B.     People – unskilled, unmotivated, crappy attitude
C.   Policy – the notion that you are maxed-out and have to say no, or worse, you outsource because A and B were not addressed (aka process – you actually think you have one – but you don’t actually follow it)

Now as for Kanban (as it relates to software development – which is kind of like the process in advertising) – is all about efficient process and improvement. In other words, one that is free of the baggage and crap we load onto a project (or anything for that matter) – which could be an attitude or too many bells and whistles for that website you’ve been trying to get done…for months.

The Kanban method is rooted in four basic principles:

  • Start with what you do now
  • Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change
  • Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities and titles
  • Leadership at all levels

Now, I’ll repackage Kanban as:

A.     Don’t re-invent the wheel – there’s actually a nugget of process in there. You start a project; it goes through your machine and comes out the other end, finished. Your process is probably messy – it just needs tweaking
B.     Get along, make it better and don’t be an asshole about it. You can actually work with others to improve life at the agency (and it doesn’t require dogs in the office or Beer Fridays), and realize it takes a little time and a bit of input
C.     Respect the things that work, don’t cross into another’s territory, and be honest with one another for cripes sakes
D.    Own the project, the process and give credit. There are huge benefits, like making more money and not hating coming to work every day

So, before you fall asleep I’ll wrap this up into a neat little package. Take a look at the issues in your agency or marketing department (your constraints). What’s driving everyone nuts? What's too cumbersome and taking too much time? Who's not pulling their weight, or worse, being a jerk?

Start practicing a little Kanban and get things done without so much grief.

Yep, that’s a start. Need help? Give me a call (702-370-7447). The first one’s free. I’ll do a little Kanban magic and figure out what constraints are ailing ya.

A couple parting items:
Here’s a lovely link to Orwell’s 5 rules for effective writing
Here’s a link to Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. Read it.