Is Your Agency In Chaos? First Evaluate Your Situation.

You’ve heard it before: the first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one.

Maybe you’re not in total chaos, but there are some really frustrating issues. It’s time to do an evaluation.

How often do you go in search of a solution – no – a quick fix to an issue that rears its ugly head at a horrible time – only to find you have to address that same issue again and again?

So, fix A) you put a new step in place – a requirement – so there is no repeat offense. In time you’ll have dozens of steps, checks, reviews and a process everyone hates.

Or, fix B) the staff creates workarounds, second-guess what’s coming, put their own safety-nets in place (email reminders). Basically do a whole lot of extra work so that they’re covered.

C.Y.A. is a waste of T.I.M.E.

Here’s a quote from Einstein…

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

It’s time to get your agency in order, but first, you have to evaluate your process (yes, that P-word), from start-to-finish. I have gone through evaluations dozens and dozens of times with clients – even when I was the one in the agency dealing with the chaos. Mapping the steps your staff takes peels back the layers to reveal the glue-stick and paperclips that are holding your process together.

Do spend the time up-front to perform a thorough evaluation, and solutions to those frustrating issues will begin to surface.

Before you start the evaluation – talk to management/owners/partners and get them to commit to supporting the process. If they want a happy team, and perhaps be a bit more efficient (and profitable too), they must have your back. They should announce the endeavor you're about to take on, that they support it – and support you.

I always start with a brief interview with the powers that be. Their heads are not in the details of the day-to-day, but hearing their concerns is huge and should be kept in mind as you work through this process. What are their expectations?

Next, I sit down and talk to everyone. Yep. Everyone individually. Let them tell you everything. From nagging little details to major issues with a co-worker. You will be astounded at what you learn.

I call this the Complaint Department.

Yeah, I know people say that taking complaints makes you part of the problem but I disagree. I guarantee this: if you do not listen to complaints, they will never go away and derail any new systems you put in place. Listen carefully and take notes. Personal (and personnel) information stays with you, and may clarify some of the reasons why things aren’t running like clockwork.

I take handwritten notes while I chat with staff. Using a laptop seems impersonal – like I’m taking a survey. Ick. I schedule a half hour per person - that's usually about all they can spare.

Later, I put my notes in an Excel document. This is one of the very few times I will recommend Excel. More on that later…

The document is a simple grid which I separate by department: Account, Creative, and so on. Then I list the individual, role, what tools they use to manage their work (this is extremely important when you’re looking for a new software solution), notes on the conversation, and key takeaways.

  • What are the steps you take to do your job?
  • What tools do you use? (programs, spreadsheets, aps)
  • Is there an ap being used no one else is using?
  • What are the constant pain points?
  • How do you communicate with coworkers?
  • Where are documents stored? Versions?
  • What redundancies or workarounds are you using?
  • Who is being a giant pain?

As you go through interviews and fill up the spreadsheet, themes will emerge. Sometimes you just have to get a person started and they will unload. 

Bottom line: you want to find out what staff does; how they do it; the tools they use; their frustrations; and last, how they feel about working there.

That last one is hard, but happiness can be as simple as making sure you have an in and out board so they know where their copywriter is.

The result of this exercise is your Current Situation.

Enough for today. This step, depending on the size of your agency will take some time. But the payoff is huge. This is about making informed decisions for your agency.

If you’d like some help getting started, contact me directly.

About Excel – Excel seems to be the go-to program for just about everything. A spreadsheet is a lovely thing. But it is fragile. Keystroke errors, sharing, redundancies – it’s just too inefficient, but I get it, it’s easy to use. If you’re in an agency or a marketing department over four people, look to an integrated database solution to manage operations.