While advertising is a business, it is still in the business of creativity.
Your account team, your creative department, producers and project managers all need to have a sense of what that statement means. A by the book, strictly business-oriented account or project management centric agency might very well be productive, but the end product may never win awards. Mediocrity doesn't get you to the next level, mediocrity doesn't attract creative talent -- great work created in a great environment does.
Great ideas are crafted.
Building a flexible workflow system in your ad agency is key to building a framework where great ideas can grow and develop. The workflow in your agency shouldn't be overly complex, but it shouldn't be a free-for-all either. Great projects happen when you can build on the basics.
Great environments start with a commitment.
A system for systems sake means nothing. As an agency leader, you are a role model. You need to set the stage for how things are run. When you commit to a new framework, champion the changes. Allow for the new system to fall into place.
Rethink your agency process.
Start with a clean slate. When you start from scratch, nothing should be considered sacred. Ask yourself if you really need those four levels of account management or the division in production. Identify your core team and then build from there. Your new process should also be an outline, not a book. If its longer then a few pages, start cutting.
Rethink your agency staffing.
Creative teams shouldn't be four levels away from a client and neither should your project manager. Have a lead for the big picture, but let your team face the client. Simplify the information exchange chain.
Identity the basics and stick to them.
A sow, a brief, a change order, a schedule – identify the key elements and what works best for your agency. Make people accountable for following through on these elements. If you concentrate on the basics, there will be less surprises, time and cash lost.
Keep the information flow open and accessible.
Expect and ensure that everyone has access to the information they need.
Train your agency.
Training your staff in the new framework shouldn't be a one time process. All workflow systems require nurturing. Manage the new changes and keep up with how everything is going. On-board everyone in the agency and set up a training program for new employees.
Empower your staff, empower your teams.
When people know they are responsible, they act. When people are accountable and mutually depend on each other they will step up and work together at whole different level. If you find yourself less at ease with letting go, you might want to have a hard look on why you can't let go. Creatives and true professionals do not like being micromanaged and they don't have to be.
Create cross team interaction.
Set up a mentoring system, mix up teams, build in time for cross team brainstorming or creative huddle time. Every team can benefit from outside input at times. Create your own way of fostering this in your agency.
Everyone should be considered a creative.
Great ideas happen because everyone in the agency plays a part in crafting the idea. Everyone should feel like they can contribute to the process and should be encouraged to do so. The best project managers in an agency are not strictly business. They are creative and they allow for creativity to happen. Rethink the whole concept of what project management in your agency really means. Creativity can happen at any stage of the project and you need team leaders who can help foster that creativity.
Lastly, create and maintain a positive environment.
Advertising is a fast-paced, long hour environment. Maintaining morale is just as important to the quality of work as it is to the bottom line. If you want the best out of people and the best creative to happen, treat people right.