Feb 22, 2012

There has to be a better way to do things

These past couple of days I’ve been able to witness the magic of bureaucracy in play, and I’m not impressed. We have a big project due that came forth as a reaction from something another company did. I could tell you all about it, but that would not only defeat the purpose, but possibly get me fired.

During the entire process, everything has been jumbled, people are using corporate bogey men to get people to work on projects and the general lack of organization prompted me to get my shit together, organize via a work table and start writing everyone that owes me sections required for the development of the piece. During the process, I’ve received four final versions of 3 documents, I’ve developed concepts and given direction to our artist to develop 3 cover, because after they've agreed to the concept, they change their minds because it's not the way they thought it'd look. The balls on these people are big enough to make Spalding proud.

If I hadn’t created the table and wringed a few necks, I wouldn’t have received the information, and even so, I’m still receiving documents, which means that I’ve verified over a hundred pages worth of documentation just to get the shit done. “Final” documents with typos, out of format, and poorly written/executed. I’ve made my annotations and track changes, and slowly and eventually, people are responding with the urgency of Droopy on oxycontin.

Looking at this whole process, it’s funny I often hear so many people talk about quality service, quality mentality and quality whatever, when their output is lo-fi and poopie quality. In addition you get to see some professional finger wagging and finger pointing (two separate events on the corporate jack ass Olympics) and only recently are we getting anywhere near to finish a subpar document. I’ve left work late, worked overtime, busted my ass and the response is lukewarm at best. Which gets me to think something so obvious that it’s borderline offensive.

There HAS to be a better way to work.

This might seem like such a natural thing that you’d think everyone would be on the same page, but no. People have scheduled dozens of meetings, the project owners change opinions on a whim, details and instructions do not arrive to the required people and we all end up looking a little bad to put it lightly.

When you look at this and most company processes, it’s funny to realize that the problem came from the first step. This project came about as a reaction. We are reacting to something, someone else did. And granted, it’s not to say that company penis envy isn’t funny, but I'm not saying it's efficient or productive either.

When you break down all the effort we’ve done, each and every step has been a reaction. We have to do a project because someone did something. We have to change the cover because someone didn’t like something. We have to do X because Y happened. Ok…. So why aren’t we planning better? Why are the meetings based on reactions rather than decisions? Why are hours being spent on something that will have to be revised?

The answer is simple… because we allow it to be that way. Tomorrow I have a meeting where I’ll do my part to put this puppy into gear. It will be stated what we can do, what we can’t do, and what we should do. Not sure if I’ll put up a follow-up post to this, but for some reason I felt the urge to share… because I know I’m not the only one in this situation.

So here’s to you friends, may we all be able to rein in those out of control projects and proactively develop solutions rather than half ass reactions that just serve to inspire us to drink.



Jeff said...

I think it has gotten so bad because we have become just like the client side where no one wants to be the one true decision maker because then they might be held accountable.

It's far easier to be a person who reacts rather than make a decision then have a team do work based on that thought.

We are surround by people who do not want to be accountable. And each day that goes by I think it's only getting worse and worse.

I've seen the quality of work at our agency drop quite a bit because of situations like this. I've seen a lot of recent pitches lost because of this.

I could rant about this for far too long.

There is always time to do it over, yet never the time to do it right.

Joker said...

I completely agree Jeff. Decision makers are scarce but there’s an overflow of people just waiting for someone to pick a side so they can agree. I’m not a fan of agree-ers or a fan of people who accept things as they are because a doctor said so, a lawyer wrote it a certain way, or someone behind a pulpit sold some morality.

Accountability is actually liberating when you deliver because if you consistently deliver and once you don’t, it’s because something happened but your track record shows it’s not your intention.

Way too many people react on all levels in all companies. My opinion? Reacting is time consuming, inefficient and costly. And delegators? Whoa, do they rock. When I say delegators I’m not talking about people who assign tasks to the person who is best capable of performing said tasks. That would be a real delegator. Instead what we see most of the time is the dumpers. The ones who don’t do a thing, charge a pretty penny for their presence and point fingers all day long.

As for it getting worse and worse, context and perception tend to define reality and maybe it’s an unfair generalization, but it’s a definitely plausibility where you’re at.

People focus on deadlines and compliance rather than quality and results. Like you said, there’s always time to do it over and revise, yet there is NEVER time to do things right from the get-go. Planning? What for when we can have a 2 hr. meeting that leads to nowhere.

As for pitches being lost, that’s a major problem and my recommendation is to see what you can do within the limitations you’ve been given to try and rein things in. Find a core team and try to get a good presenter. Meet with the group after hours or during lunch and try to iron something out. Results are not being delivered and adjustments need to be made, but way too many agencies operate on the law of probability. Do the same thing enough times, and you’ll eventually win a pitch instead of focusing how to make sure each pitch goes as best as possible and try to improve your results.

That being said, also take into account that your results are possibly due to other reasons of which you have no control over. Mainly money, partnerships, business relationships and the good ole golf handjob meetings where agency presidents give clients a reach around and the client gives them the account. That happens a lot more often than any of us would like, but hey, it’s all part of the game.

About your feelings regarding the agency you’re at, who knows? Maybe it’s time for employees to fire their companies for not delivering what they expect from them. Regardless, all the best to you and hope that either things pick up and improve, or you are able to pick up and leave to somewhere that may or may not be greener.


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