Own It

Remember how simple it used to be? Ok, so not of all you are that old….but if you are 35+ or maybe 40, you remember. Not that we thought it was so easy then. We still screwed up, drowned in complexity and complained like mad that “it wasn’t Rocket Science, come on!” Remember what? What am I talking about? You mean you don’t know yet! Come on! Getting the work out, of course! Executing the strategy, producing the “stuff;” making it real.

At one time you learned the business by entering our honored society in “”traffic” [I don’t mean playing in it and certainly not in a yellow vest standing with a whistle and a little sign by the schoolyard]. Traffic meant coordinating between creative, account management and production, with an occasional extra thrown in, like research and the special reward of getting to go to a TV shoot—someplace exotic as opposed to some studio in New Jersey or Marseille.
And then technology hit—not that TV wasn’t technology in its time, or print, or cave painting, I imagine. Somehow the complexity of getting work out the door for the web, added a level intricacy and complication that required clients and agency to move to a new level of execution called Project Management (PM for short).

And so, the old system of traffic with its entry level novitiates and great after work parties (surely you remember those, or maybe not!) became PM and professional black belts became as common as ninjas in a good or bad Hong Kong action movie.
Now here’s the thing. I know I have written with a bit of sarcasm and cynicism (OK, maybe more than a bit) about PM. However, I truly believe Project Management is a good thing and certainly don’t want to cross any black belts or ninjas.

We need project management. But we live in a world where managing the project has become more important than the business outcome: the process trumps the product and where we spend hours analyzing each and every step and a miniscule amount of time, in contrast, developing insights and providing serious value in terms of business results.

Let me be clear and save someone the trouble of defending a system that I too believe in and is critical. My point is simply we cannot allow ourselves; or allow our clients to lose sight of the goal—business outcome—full stop.

We need to be efficient. We need to be buttoned up and buttoned down and organized. And, we need to be cost-effective; well organized and resourceful to boot.

We need to control process and put it in its rightful and critical place and then move on.
I was inspired to this by reading some client comments and then seeing the following quote:

“A project is complete when it starts working for you, rather than you working for it”
Scott Allen

Think on that and share it with your teams and your clients. If process is killing us; creating complexity and in general slowing us down and hurting our work, then we are not in control of the finished product.

We occasionally declare work finished and cry victory while in truth we are still enslaved and shackled. True liberation (and I believe fulfillment and pride) come with owning the final product and the results (there is much to be said about accountability here).

So next time you feel bogged down by process and drowned by project reporting needs remember you can own the output. It’s all a matter of focus, perspective and intent.

Vendors work for projects. Partners own them.

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