Don’t Become a Victim of Your Own Success

The good news: your team is operating at a high level and receiving kudos from your clients and key stakeholders. The bad news: the practices, processes, procedures and culture that got you to your new evolved state may become harder and harder to maintain in the face of the very success they engendered. As inescapable as the irony of your predicament may be, so too is the need for you and your leadership team to aggressively determine and address your newly earned challenges. Here are some red flags…

As the work your team brings in becomes more complex and strategic (a tier 1 multiple-media campaign for example) the amount of people and the expertise level of the team members working on those projects most likely will increase putting pressure on your organization to raise chargeback rates. The best example of this is the new need to have Account Managers and senior level Project Managers assigned to these types of projects. If your group does not bill for account services, then there’s additional overhead that needs to be covered in your rates. If you are not a chargeback organization, you may feel this pressure differently, for example through new hire requisitions with increasingly higher salaries raising the average compensation rate across your team or pushback on hiring any new headcount needed to address an increasing number of increasingly complex projects.

Team leads who once had time carved out to address more big picture strategic initiatives that raised the status of your group and the level of work coming in, now find themselves so overwhelmed with the amount and complexity of the new work coming into your in-house agency (IHA) that they can no longer focus on continuous improvement—the very mindset and practices that won your team its new position in your organization in the first place.

Your individual contributors, like your leads, also find the time they had available for sustaining a culture of continuous improvement eroded by excessive workload and demands. No more time for knowledge sharing, professional development or exploring new trends in their respective disciplines.

Studio-wide communication and deliberate change practices you leveraged to achieve your current status become more and more cumbersome. Team members may now be in multiple locations or working remotely meaning you can’t get the group into a room to hash out new policies and procedures. There are multiple schedules to align for meetings, and follow-up conversations to clarify new guidance become too time-consuming given the size of the team. Cascading important communications becomes risky as messaging becomes garbled or inaccurate on complex issues. The larger your organization, the more challenging this becomes.

Team morale and collaboration might dip as team members find themselves unable to maintain personal relationships with their co-workers because of the rate of new members joining the group, their increasing workload and the adoption of remote work practices.

Just to rub salt in the wound, all your boasting about the substantial efficiency and productivity gains you’ve achieved has made it difficult to push for additional headcount to stabilize your team or upgrade the level of expertise.

The trick is to get ahead of these challenges by adopting adaptive technologies and policies and training of your leadership team to allow for a higher level of scalability than your group originally engaged in. It also means clearly articulating to upper management, Finance and Procurement what benefits your company will accrue through your continued growth and development as well as setting their expectations about the cost to achieve those benefits. Stay ahead of the curve and you’ll be able to pay the price of success.

Join Cella at Beyond the Creative 5 “The In-House Hack” on March 28-29 in Philadelphia to learn problem-solving strategies and tactics to propel your team to increased success.

Andy Epstein Head ShotAndy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Director of Studio Operations for Cella Solutions where he has oversight of the managed in-house agencies run by Cella. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative,” a book on in-house design in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, the former Programming Director for the InHOWse Managers Conference, and a key member of Cella’s professional development team. Andy is focused on empowering in-house teams to raise their stature in the design and business communities.

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