What’s your take on Process? Procedure? Here’s mine…
Process was once a word absent from creative endeavors. How could you possibly map the journey to an end product dependent upon muse, synapse, spontaneity and sheer inspiration? The very word process was redolent with cheap cheese and industrial-tasting meats….
But what a difference a few years make! Process is everywhere. We don’t see an RFI without a process question, and few business discussions don’t contain some reference to process or process-related issues. In fact, we have competitors who have beaten us to business because their process was clearer and more developed – at least on paper.
And lest you think process is related only to our data or digital side of the business – many, if not most, straight-out old fashioned advertising RFIs ask process questions too. And there you have it!
Process is critical to business. It helps align disparate organizations and departments in an increasingly complex business environment; it helps to establish benchmarks; it provides common language – critical for multinational or multi-anything programs; it provides multiple pathways for performance optimization; and (at its best) it creates a set of universal metrics to further performance and delivery excellence.
Process, then, is critical to us – full stop.
Procedure is not process. Don’t mix them up. Procedure is bureaucratic; not flexible; incapable of adapting to new environments; and in general, a deterrent to a good client relationship.
Our clients want simple (in the brilliant way) process. They want that process aligned with their own. They want us to be flexible and able to react as they do – as they have to – as they must – to stay competitive.
Make no mistake – understanding process is critical to our success. Developing great process is a competitive must.
Procedure will sink us. Clients will not align to sets of rules that we define. Full stop.
Here is a way to look at the issue that I found compelling:
“Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963
Most of our clients’ competitors – Google, Apple, Open Software – operate without the manual of order and command, but they do use process: ways of herding and nurturing good ideas to separate them from the pack of mundane and just-plain-bad notions. And most importantly, to get them to market fast—make that note—not only does process not limit, it empowers and quickens.
Embrace process; help develop it; use it and refine it and then learn and make it better. Don’t be afraid to change it, kill it and start again. And do embrace different means for different clients.
The use of process helps shape our success; process alone does not define us.