Darwin, Comics & Companies
25 Jan 2018 by Nev Haynes
Excellence, effectiveness and efficiency
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin.
In the professional field, whatever the sector, for an independent worker or for a global company, nowadays the speed of delivery of a service or a product is crucial, as well as the satisfaction of the client with the result of our work.
In the same way that David Attenborough describes in his documentaries life in jungles, deserts, jungles or oceans, the environment that surrounds us in our work is hostile, aggressive, competitive and implacable for those who do not adapt, move slowly or not take the steps in the right direction.
Now we will describe three different ways of approaching a professional project, depending on the environment that surrounds us. These conditions will have tangible effects on the 3 results obtained, very different from each other.
These are the three scenarios contemplated:
- EXCELLENCE: When we have all the time in the world to do our work. There are no budget problems. The client gives us full freedom to work in planning, design, proof of concept, development and execution, feedback and corrections, completing with last minute details and tests of all kinds before delivery. Basically, very badly we have to give so that we do not get an excellent job and the client is more than satisfied for having trusted us. This does not necessarily lead to efficiency, since we can incur an unnecessary waste of resources.
ADVANTAGES: A lot of time, comfort and freedom to create. Maximum care in the details. Final result very satisfactory.
DISADVANTAGES: Unrealistic scenario. Excessive relaxation Waste of resources. Inefficiency
- EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY: We are tight time, as almost always, and we cannot get out of a budget, which is usually less than we would all like. We will try to give the best of ourselves without wasting time in too much planning, intermediate tests and final touches. We will do our best and we can. In any case, we will be less effective than in case 1.
ADVANTAGES: Greater efficiency. The added pressure encourages creativity.
DISADVANTAGES: Danger of lengthening the delivery time and exceeding the budget set for wanting to approach excellence without thinking about the time and cost limits or not reaching a reasonable level of efficiency for being efficient.
- BOTCHED JOB: The client wants results “for yesterday”. There is hardly any budget and we do not put the same interest in achieving a result like the one we would all like. Basically, we are wasting our time if we think that miracles exist. Evolutionist theories rely on chance and gradual adaptation for long periods of time. A sudden change in the environment can lead a species (or a company) to its extinction.
ADVANTAGES: none, except for the experience and the lesson learned for future projects, if we survive to see it.
DISADVANTAGES: Any investment of time and effort will end in disaster.
To understand it better, let’s put a practical case to get a more graphic and tangible effect of all this: an example of “speed challenge”, where a professional cartoonist will let us see how the same project is executed with three very different scenarios.
What conclusions can we get from the video? Again, we have three different scenarios.
- DRAWING WITH 10 MINUTES OF TIME
The artist has ample time or budget to devise and plan the project, using a thin pencil. You can afford to work on the strategy and see how the whole thing is going to be. It does not hurt to take advice, to benefit from an exchange of ideas, to rethink everything. Afterwards, the work is carried out with a marker, with the contribution of feedback from the client or from other departments involved. The project leader can even submit the final result to a series of tests, followed by details and final touches with shadows and light effects. Result: a masterpiece.
- DRAWING WITH 1 MINUTE OF TIME
We only have 10% of the time in the first case. Look carefully at the way the artist draws the first strokes in the air. Just a few seconds are enough to know where you have to approach the drawing. He is making use of the accumulated experience, in the absence of time to be able to make tests and this time without being able to afford to make mistakes. The speed of the strokes obviously leads to inaccuracies and small deviations from the ideal model that he would have executed if he had time. But here lies the heart of the matter: is it worth investing a lot of time and money? That will depend on the level of excellence and the urgency that we are looking for. What we can say is that we have been very efficient and the work can be considered well done.
- DRAWING WITH 10 SECONDS OF TIME
The result is not surprising. The expert, no matter how much practice and experience he has, with hardly any time to plan or outline his work, cannot don anything but undertake a project that is doomed to failure from the first second. As an essay, it is not bad. And not even that. Perhaps the lesson learned is that without time or money you cannot expect a good result. Impotence and frustration grows like foam and it is better to learn that, to work well, you have to believe in the project, motivating the parties involved and feeding with positive reinforcements the viability of the ideas, even if it is against the clock and draining the budget to the maximum.
At this point we can extract five logical conclusions:
- If the client requires it, as long as there are no time and budget limits, the difference between a job well done and an excellent job is noticed. And that starts by following simple logical rules throughout the production process. The methodology applied in project management is there for something. Another thing is that it is worth doing. When a footwear craftsman does a manual job, he invests in each pair of shoes made much more time in the design, choosing the raw material and the components, gluing and stitching them, pampering down to the last detail of the elaboration of a magnificent pair of shoes almost custom made. The higher margin (and final price) of the shoes partially compensates for the lower number of units sold. Although the competition among artisans is much lower, since the target audience is also smaller and not all manufacturers want to fight for such a small and specialized portion of the pie.
- Not necessarily an excellent job is the best option. The balance between effort and benefit can be differential when choosing between “excellence” and “efficiency”. Following the example of the footwear industry: the shoes of second brands that are made in series, although their components are of a reasonable quality, saving on manufacturing and design costs can maintain an affordable price for the user. The margin per unit sold is not too high. However, according to the principle of P x Q (price per number of units sold), the business is very profitable. Hence, more units are sold in the market. But it should not be forgotten that the competition is much greater. After all, the target audience for these shoes is a majority.
- The lack of time and budget can be replaced (in some cases) by a team with creativity and experience. This is the case of marketing and communication agencies. The client companies outsource some services. Not only because of the issue of the size of the in-house team, which implies fixed salary costs, but also because of the agility, experience and specialization of these agencies, which can take more than one client out of trouble, achieving more satisfying results and with the added benefit that the competition is transferred to the agency, which competes in creativity, speed of response and cost in each project. The variable cost that outsourcing projects to the client company is not always low, but it will always be cheaper than the fixed cost that a creative department would have at home.
- The supplier must be able to transmit to the client his vision of the project. In some cases, it is very important to convey to the client that excessive time and budget adjustments will limit the final result of the creative and execution process. And that consultancy work is partly the responsibility of the agency, which has to know the need of the company-client and the circumstances of each launch. In other cases it is the agency itself that provides a dose of reality, considering the second option of a job “well done” if this saves time and money for the client. After all, it is convenient to create a bond of trust and long-term collaboration.
- What is clear is that you have to avoid botched jobs. Following the example of a marketing agency, it is the responsibility of this to discourage actions of this type, not only for the damage it entails for the client, but also for the loss of prestige that this would give to the agency itself. In this case it is advisable to rethink the strategy, wait for a more propitious moment and re-approach the project with greater determination. This is the case of the mass consumption product to be launched in season, such as summer holidays, back to school or Christmas campaigns. If a children’s film that is going to be screened in movie theaters is delayed for the summer campaign, there is no point in risking its release if the release dates are very tight. It is better to wait for Christmas and prepare a campaign with all that entails.
And with these arguments we return to the beginning: it is not strength or intelligence that makes a species survive, but its ability to adapt to a changing environment. The ability to be efficient and effective, aiming at reasonable excellence. No matter how much financial or commercial muscle a company possesses, no matter how advanced and disruptive a product or service, it is the strategic decisions to launch a quality product or service, of reasonable cost and at the right time, which create distinctive capabilities in a market in continuous change. Those decisions are what make a company succeed and another company be extinguished.