Monday, February 27, 2012

The organization.

This post could be titled "Why it takes 39-weeks to produce a TV commercial or 84 weeks to update a website."

One of the things you learn if you've been in the business a long time--or if you read histories and biographies--is that most organizations, whether they're businesses, armies, political entities, families or academic in nature, create infrastructures that often surpass in power the nominal head of the organization and, just as often, threaten the very viability of the organization.

In short infrastructures are often consumed by infrastructure.

It doesn't take a genius to see this in everyday life. Just visit the post office, that is, if you can. Most are open only from 9-5, making it nearly impossible to mail a package unless you're willing to invest a large portion of your lunch hour or Saturday to do so. The same used to hold true of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 30 years ago all the guys trained at fixing train air-conditioners had gained so much seniority that they were able to take off large swaths of time during the summer.

Of course agencies and clients follow the same, predictable, road to ruin. The organization, most often, runs the agency. The agency doesn't run the organization.

In my career I have twice risen to lead agencies--each time I did so as an out-of-towner. Once in San Francisco and once in Boston.

In each of those cities and in each of those agencies it took me about 38 seconds to analyze the source of their burgeoning ossification. I worked hard to chip away at it. But the people who maintained the status quo ultimately won. They knew they could hunker down, hide beneath their desks, appoint committees, find high-ups also interested in preserving the status quo and by those means could stop things from ever changing.

I'm not sure if there's any way an agency or a client can stop calcification from paralyzing the activeness of the organization.

I do know that that which is suppose to serve the ends of the organization has become itself an end.

Preservation has overwhelmed innovation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right about the ossification or calcification that's going on. Mediocrity and the status quo hates change which is why so much of the work that is created by agencies sucks. Its easier to sell in vanilla crap than big ideas. Perhaps that's one reason why Gordon Bowen is laughing all the way to the bank.

Eddie Donoghue