Our In-House Agency (IHA) runs on process - and, well, maybe coffee. Process is our gravity; it grounds us, it holds us together, and it's always there. It can be our scapegoat when we find a project went off course: "well, he didn't follow the process." And it can be a feather in our cap when we make improvements to the process: "this new process is going to save us two hours on each of these project types." Process is the foundational layer supporting everything we do.
Because process is so important to our agency, we continuously review it, measure it, and amend it. While I'd love to say everything is always hunky-dory, the truth is, over the years, we've encountered a few pitfalls that I want to share here so other in-house agencies can avoid them.
1. Failure to Involve the Stakeholders
While process is often driven by a business need or leadership request, those who will be following the process need to understand it and own it. If it's a new process or change to an old process, talk through what you are thinking early to solicit feedback from the stakeholders who will be following the process, and then listen to their recommendations. There could be tweaks your team suggests that make the process more familiar or easier to follow. Plus the changes won't be as shocking when it comes time to implement.
2. Forgetting to Include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
All processes should include some sort of performance indicators so that you can measure and track their effectiveness and success over time. For in-house agencies, success may be measured by response time to clients, time-savings from kick-off to first draft deliverable, estimate accuracy, etc. Over time, we have learned to build in a variety of ways to gather metrics and report out on them to measure performance, leading to the next major pitfall to avoid.
3. Believing Implemented Process Is Perpetual
Process cannot remain stagnant. As our business and team have evolved over time, we have learned that our process should too. I am pleased to say that within our in-house agency, we have been able to adopt a culture of continuous improvement so that team members proactively seek ways to improve process. Leadership reviews operational performance indicators and looks at the process behind any that aren't meeting our success criteria. And with metrics in place to measure efficiency gains and service successes resulting from continuous process improvements, the feedback can be very motivational. Success begets more success.
4. Thinking Process Will Replace the Need to Think
At least in our in-house agency, no two projects are the same; each has its own nuances. I definitely have some team members who have wanted the process to handle every circumstance or contingency. But process is not built that way. Rather, if the team understands what the objective of the process is, they can reason out what path to take when process doesn't speak to a project-specific circumstance. In other words, encourage your team to do what makes sense. If they think the process should be skirted in a particular type of instance, give them the leeway to apply sound judgment (and have their back if a reasonable risk doesn't pan out well).
Without process, our team would have difficulty keeping up with the thousands of jobs our IHA handles. They would have difficulty operating across functional areas with such a large team. And they would be left without clear expectations of how to communicate and respond to our client base of about ~2,000. Establishing and then evolving process is, therefore, an important job of leadership. Knowing how to implement process smoothly, avoiding pitfalls wherever possible, is critical. From my experience, other IHAs are in the same boat, and I wish you much success in avoiding the pitfalls listed here as well as any others.