For the whole duration of my career every 18 months or so there is a renewal of "The Process", the agreed procedure for how the company internally organises and codifies the relationships between the different departments. A series of events that brings a heavy heart to all who hear its name. I suspect that this will continue until the day I retire, have a breakdown or drop off the perch, whichever comes first.
Since I have spent most of my career focusing on digital communications, I would be interested to see if the same thing happens in direct or 'ATL' agencies, as their workflow is more established. However, since a lot of the friction and the proposed changes are due to the shifting power relationships between different departments as much as they are around the quality of the output I would imagine they will be.Ultimately, the intention of any formalised process for doing things is to create an environment in which great ideas can flourish and not be killed as they are born. The difference is whether this is an idiot proofing of the system, to prevent ineptitude destroying good work, or whether it is a collection of best practices to help people create better work
This is an important distinction as competent people (and you should be working with competent people) do not need a process. If you are working with incompetent people, you will never achieve anything so get out of there as soon as you can.
Nothing is ever comprehensive enough to cover all of the potential situations that may arise anyway. Suppose you are close to your deadline, the client requests copy changes that will make you go over budget and the only way to get them done is to feed them directly into the final website or artwork. The creative director has an alternative copy version that will mean the layout needs to change slightly and you will probably need to do this on Saturday morning. How can any piece of paper tell you what to do, or in which order in this situation? And this isn't even that uncommon a type of occurrence
Countless hours have been spent constructing impressive looking documents, which are gret if that is what you need – to impress clients for example, but in practice they are just not used by the vast majority of people doing their daily business. While they are potentially useful tools in learning the craft of managing a creative business, I do not believe they are useful on the whole in actually carrying it out.
Paul Feyerabend was an influential philosopher investigating how scientific developments came about. His seminal work – Against Method – rebelled against trying to codify or contain the creative endeavour of what is essentially an anarchic process. Essentially, in creative matters "anything goes"
Scientists do not solve problems because they possess a magic wand - methodology, or a theory of rationality - but because they have studied a problem for a long time, because they know the situation fairly well, because they are not too dumb (though that is rather doubtful nowadays when almost anyone can become a scientist), and because the excesses of one scientific school are almost always balanced by the excesses of some other school.People stumble on the right answer often over the course of a project, and while awards entries encourage Olympian levels of post rationalisation suggesting that the only successful campaigns are the ones that run like clockwork with a well thought out big idea that arrives fully formed some time after the creative brief and before you start finalising any artwork. The truth of the matter is that you never have the strategy completely nailed before the creative work is on the table, the concept is only half done when you go into production, and changes that right at the end of a project make all the difference between success and failure. I would contend that not 0nly is this the only realistic way of doing things, it is also important to the creative method, and the way things should be done.
So what are the important features of a process? For one thing, a process acts as the statement of a philosophy or way of doing things. At the very least you would understand from it if you are living in an authoritarian regime or not. Acting as a 'playbook' from which you adapt and use the relevant parts is a good way to go. Dare have the somewhat happy clappy 'good and nice' philosophy to recruitment policy which filters through to the key stages process. This is infinitely better than a massive document that nobody uses.
I had a previous client who was beside themselves that the agency I was working at could not produce an encyclopedic process document. We ended up writing one, which was 90% made up on the spot, to my shame we didn't but should have insisted that we work to a series of waymarkers based on our own experience, an make the rest up as we go, and that is the best thing to do. I wonder what they would have said.