Looking to make changes?

We all know what it's like when the lines of communication break down. It may have been a simple message, or a missed email that caused a catastrophic event; in any organization there is a strong need for solid communications.

Depending on your approach, the effort to improve information flow within your company can be a smooth or bumpy ride. Don't be quick to make impulsive changes. Write down and flowchart your current workflow. Although your agency might have a "flat hierarchy", in reality, you do have employess who often fullfill very specific roles. Identify who is responsible for each step in the path as it moves along toward fulfillment. Search for the gaps in function, tasks and positions. You'll find that sometimes, simply adjusting a key position, can move a long way toward correcting or shaping an employee into an effective communicator. Examine the need for positions or tasks that your agency might be missing, or should do without.

Many agencies simply don’t take the time to teach their staff how things are done within the agency. Build a strong employee initiation program to make sure your new employees understand what’s expected of them. Take the time to train and update your current employees. At all times remembder that your agency has it's own unique existing culure, be mindful of how any changes you are going to introduce are going to effect the cultural norms within the agency.

With larger adjustments set realistic goals. Breakdown long-term milestones into smaller steps. Be dynamic in your approach and set clear guidelines and time-frames. Build a strong core of key communicators within your agency who will "own" the new process. Also, invest the time in studying your environment, what works in one agency may not work within your company's culture.

Although agencies are organic beasts, they can benefit greatly by adopting an improved, or at least defined, workflow. A strong commitment by everyone to adapt the company's culture will improve morale, the quality of the work environment and above all the agency's bottom line.

Here are some key elements that can make the restructuring ultimately successful.

- It must have the support of top management. Make sure they are committed to change and will support the process. Be certain they see the scope of what needs to take place; outline everything that needs to change clearly.

- If you haven't already, seriously look to move away from a paper based workflow system. An accounting system that has built in production, media and time-sheet systems are key elements in shortening the time it takes for your jobs to be completed. Up-to-the-minute financial reports at the lower project levels, mean greater profit and loss analysis earlier on.

However, when looking at workflow solutions you don’t have to stop there. Tie-in the agency's regular workflow to a central system in which everyone has access to the same information. Every agency has some form of job jacket, estimate, media schedule, purchase order, client change form and general ledger. Moving these forms to a computerized system is crucial to accurate information exchange. Although the technology can be an expensive undertaking, a computerized accounting and workflow system that is accessible to all departments can easily increase your profitability to cover more than just the cost of the new system.

- Information exchange on the creative side is also key in shortening the approval process. Is the agency using pdf files for client approval? Do you have an online client approval system or virtual workspace? Although these types of technology systems are sometimes more difficult to introduce into the culture of the agency, you'll find several agencies out there who could not live without them.

Remember, no matter what you do, take care of your core staff. These people will make or break whatever new systems you put into place. Know that when you implement new systems that there is a time period of adjustment, a little confusion and some uneven starts.

In many cases these new systems will also mean staff cuts or changes. With fewer people working the newer system, make sure they are well taken care of. Reengineering is tough enough, but much tougher without the good will of your staff. Keep everyone informed, set clear goals and the world of change will happen at a much smoother pace.