The P Word

I worked in an agency that was having a big issue with Process. Yep that’s the P Word.

"Quit talking Process," said the cat as he attempted to kill the AE.    Click on the image to go to  Managers Are Heroes  website. Good piece on self control when you want to strangle someone at the office.   I had to use the image. It has a cat doing what comes naturally. Amazing what you can find on a Google search. And I know the irony of  MAH  when I'm calling-out managers all the time on silly things they do...

"Quit talking Process," said the cat as he attempted to kill the AE.

Click on the image to go to Managers Are Heroes website. Good piece on self control when you want to strangle someone at the office.

I had to use the image. It has a cat doing what comes naturally. Amazing what you can find on a Google search. And I know the irony of MAH when I'm calling-out managers all the time on silly things they do...

I started there as a consultant, then, when they discovered how brilliant I was (or I was willing to do something that no one really wanted to take on) and couldn’t live without me, they offered me a full-time position. I couldn’t turn it down – solving issues is right up my alley.

In the process of evaluating everything that was going on – and going wrong – in the agency, I had a chat with one of the creative directors. I asked about process. He said, “If I ever hear that word again I’m going to kill someone.”

Process gets discussed To Death.

Why can’t anyone in a creative environment figure out process?

Because it’s so simple. Most agencies and marketing departments actually have a process. They just don’t know it.

Why? Because they think they have to have a big meeting, involve all the managers, sketch it out on a whiteboard, write a long-winded document, 50-slide PowerPoint, have creative do a Process Workflow Diagram to print out and post on a wall, hold a company-wide training session, avow lofty pronouncements and declarations, then roll it out.

Two reactions come from this: a) why are they doing this to us? b) hooray! What’s next?

Then everyone goes back to what they were doing. Before all of that hullabaloo.

And why is this? Because management, in their brilliance, didn’t include anyone actually doing the work on outlining the process; and this is a big one – they have no one to manage the roll-out, follow-up and make adjustments as needed.

That’s because it was perfect. From a management perspective.

I can outline your process in a couple hours.

You say, “Charlotte, you’re insane! You have no idea what our agency/department is like! We’re different! We have a Special Culture!”

Bet you do.

And another thing I’ll bet is that the people doing the work know what process is and practice a little bit every day. It’s just that when things go sideways – which they do in every agency – management decides they’re going to do a process survey and decide what’s best for everyone . . . else.

That is, after it’s been discussed To Death.

So, yes, you do need Process. You need to define it, outline it and everyone needs to follow it. There are exceptions because disaster can strike any time in an agency. In those cases, you take care of the client, get the work done, fix the mistake – then learn from it. Revise the process.

But the exception is not what this is about. This is about the 95 percent of the work in your agency – the routine stuff – that shouldn’t be a pain to manage. A workflow that is predictable. We don't need drama.

Routine isn’t a bad thing, and neither is a clear process that allows most of the work to happen in a routine manner. When it’s all in place and work is just humming along, you have time for the disasters . . . and even more time to spend on the real creative stuff.

Don’t hate Process. Just don’t discuss it to death. Get the folks doing the work to outline it; give them GOOD tools to manage their work (I advocate for agency management software – you should know that by now); and once in place, assign an individual (make allowances for this additional duty) to keep on top of evaluations and adjustments.

You need champions for Process to work. None better than the staff doing the work. They, after all, have all the responsibility and actually really care.

Process is easy – not a Death Threat.

organization - adjustments during implementation

So in my last post I stated it takes 40 days to create a habit. With respect to organizing your agency, you’re dealing with a lot of people in diverse roles. When you introduce process with structure and new tools (e.g. software) into the mix there’s a lot to evaluate and learn prior to rolling out the systems, not to mention gaining compliance.

Do your homework, get help (a staffer from each discipline is good) and get complete commitment from management.

Once you have trained – yes you must train and it can be painless – then roll-out and the 40 days begin. Be available to help. Few remember the details during training sessions, so prepare a simple step-by-step guide (specific to role) for people to reference later. When I say simple, I mean simple. Step 1 click here, Step 2 enter data here (pictures, lines and arrows do work).

Follow up continuously during roll-out. Be available to hold hands, stem the tears, deflect anger…and make adjustments.

The best laid plans get derailed if you’re inflexible during roll-out. However, this requires an objective review of issues before flexing. Keep in mind that when you’re implementing change in an agency or marketing department, you’re managing three distinct areas: process, tools (software / hardware), and people. The last is often the most difficult.

So, by day 20, invite an in-depth review of the issues, develop a plan to mitigate them, and review revisions with the entire team affected to assure a change is necessary. This will pave the path to a solid system for everyone by including the team in the process.  

Try not to make changes too early. Some people adapt easily and quickly and others do not. Determining whether it’s the learning curve, a procedure or a format (I had forms that just didn’t work for some – made an adjustment and everyone was happy) helps determine how soon you need to make those adjustments.

Something to watch out for: workarounds. Never accept them. Workarounds are the evil un-doing of a good process that consist of: still using old systems or forms – because everyone is used to them; deciding the new system ‘takes too long, is too hard’ and not entering essential data such as estimates, schedules or client updates; or just walking-over-and-begging-a-colleague-to-make-this-one-little-change-because-I-need-it-done-for-the-client, skipping every process in between.

I will never tell you that the process of organizing your agency is easy. You’re working with people who are busy, stressed, and may just put up a little attitude. But with good planning, engagement, training, review and adjustments, you can successfully organize your agency or marketing department.

In 40 days you should see improvement. If not, email me. I want to hear what's going on because that time was a real investment and I want you to succeed.

organization = love / hate

Everyone has some sort of New Year’s resolution… until they have to maintain it.

Like exercise: I will get up at 5am and go to the gym five days a week. It takes 40 days to create a habit. And commitment is easier because I have a partner to motivate me.

How does this relate to your agency or department? A commitment to getting organized, creating a process that everyone follows is like a resolution – with benefits. You just have to do it, stick with it, and get over the grief you will surely get in the process.

I have been hired by firms and worked with clients that were in the midst of chaos. I proposed a logical process solution, built it, trained and rolled it out – they loved me.

Let’s face it, a CEO, VP, partner, owner or manager hates it when simple things go wrong. Things that should have been routine. I completely agree, and when I see something going sideways, my first reaction is to fix it. I am a hero and they love me.

So, fixing it requires a process that is workable for the organization; tools that are solid and collaborative; people who are willing to put forth the effort to become the solution; and management who will NOT BACK DOWN.

That last point is for you – the C-level guy or gal, owner, partner – because someone (or more than someone) will complain.

You now have a choice:
- Give in because complaints (whining in my book) are too much trouble, and your team is so brilliant
- Tell them to buck-up, and a little structure won’t hurt anyone

I have been on the other side – when the complaints come in, they hate me. Then management wonders why they hired me.

So the bottom line is this:
What do you hate more – expensive errors, missed deadlines, creative that has gone off the rails and requires complete rework over a (holiday) weekend – OR – a bunch of whining (but brilliant) staffers who don’t like to follow some basic structure.

For my paycheck, profit sharing or bonus, I’ll take the second choice and tell them all to just do their jobs. Culturally (and I’ve heard this just about everywhere I have worked) structure just doesn’t fit them. They have to be free to create, collaborate, and move as fast as possible, and logging into a central system to note something, or notify someone (not in email!), what’s going on is…too hard. (All this, and timesheets too?)

I can guarantee that when you have a little structure, and a centralized place for everything related to a job, things will actually run smoother. You can find stuff, you know what’s coming up, there’s a budget, and a schedule! No one will admit it, but they will love me.

It can be done in forty working days. I am the partner to motivate you. 

welcome!

Welcome to my world. Managing the day-today isn't exciting, but necessary. And when done well, everyone in an agency or in-house marketing department thrives. I've been the person who managed, reviewed, checked, followed-up, pushed-back, facilitated, coerced Account and Creative folks;  pulled all-nighters, and took the heat from all sides.

Project, production, traffic management.  This is not the job for the faint-of-heart, thin-skinned, sensitive type.

In this world, we work to assure that things get done. On time. On budget. Without error. There are times when some feel like they didn't win – and the simple truth? This isn't about winning – you can’t always have your way.

In this blog I’ll provide my view on how stuff works between the Management, Account and Creative world; and share my wisdom of working with hundreds of individuals who are just trying to get their work done without a lot of headaches.

I address process, tools (the software kind), and people – how to get the best out of all of them.

Oh, and by the way, I’m available to do consultation. Just check out the about me page.

Cheers!