August 04, 2014
The Process People
I retired from the agency business with one unanswered question: Why does it take 20% of the people in an agency to make the ads and 80% to make the arrangements?
Even as the ceo of two agencies, I could never figure that out.
In my last few years in the agency business a new variety of doubly non-productive people were gaining ascendancy -- "operations" people. Not only did they produce nothing of value, they stole time from the people who did.
They had meetings about meetings. They wanted to know what everyone was doing so they could... I don't know... know what everyone was doing, I guess.
They were process people. They wanted to be certain that rules were being followed, and lines of authority were adhered to, and flow charts were generously endowed.
They spent as much time tracking projects as the productive people spent working on them. They were less than useless. They were value-free overhead.
Certainly in the ad business timelines and deadlines need to be adhered to. But it was my observation that the process people consumed more time than they saved.
I think an agency functions best with a little bit of healthy anarchy. There's a component of creativity that thrives on operational chaos. It seems to be the job of these people to denude agencies of any illusion of chaos or anarchy.
I guess I am constitutionally averse to "process." Maybe it's just impatience, intolerance, or stupidity, but I believe intelligent people can do their work best when allowed to do it their own way -- without the interference of meddlers who know how to do everyone's job but their own.