Monday, March 14, 2011

Tell me how it's done

In my list of all-time stupidest things a client ever said to me, I think near the top must be “I wish you would stop telling me that my changes are causing delays!”.

That’s kind of like saying “don’t tell me banging my head on this wall is going to give me a headache!”

As insane as that client may sound, I actually blame myself.

The client was new to their job, had never commissioned this kind of work before and knew very little about how the project would unfold. Their own lack of expertise and my neglect in explaining things better was very frustrating for them. 

I should have recognised this early on and spent some time explaining the way things were going to work before we got close to the deadline and panic set in.

I used to worry about clients feeling patronised if I explained process to them. But I now realise that all projects need to be managed according to the level of experience and expertise of the client you are dealing directly with. Asking a few questions at the beginning of a project to assess this and taking the time to help fill in any gaps in their knowledge makes it so much easier to discuss problems with them rationally down the line.

In my experience, the risk of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs in this situation is pretty slim. Most agencies don’t share enough process information with their clients. Which means that chances are even very experienced clients may have spent years commissioning work which they have very little insight into the making of.


  1. Hi Kate;

    Another great post. As you know, I recently joined Philadelphia agency 160over90. They are very serious about their working process, and apply it to every project -- large or small -- in a dedicated, bordering on mildly obsessive, way.

    I think the key is that they're speaking with the client about process at every step of the engagement -- there's literally no chance for misunderstandings about the ramifications of delivering assets late.

    It's early days yet -- I've only been here a month or so -- but I have to say, the client/agency relationships are refreshingly low on tension, in large part, I think, to the consistency and clarity of message about process.


  2. Hi Tim,

    That's great to hear. My experience is full of agencies with good intentions but surprisingly few who do it well in practice.

    Clients are also often at fault for not being available enough or allocating enough time to get fully involved in their agencies process.

    Speak soon,