20 Steps Towards Operational Efficiency in Your Agency [Ultimate Guide]
To remain competitive in the agency landscape means improving your operational efficiency. But it can’t be achieved by one person alone. It has to be a collective effort from every person in your agency. How to assure that everyone plays their part and your agency is working like a well-oiled machine? To help you out, we have gathered and outlined 20 best tips on how to improve your operational efficiency.
Today, agencies must move with singular purpose stemmed from a clear strategy, to create meaningful relationships with clients. The biggest problem is that people don’t feel loyal to one single brand or service anymore and value those who can get them what they want immediately. Which means that as an agency, you have to deliver quickly, and be able to respond to any changes and challenges instantly.
Another vital aspect to consider is the ever-growing competition. There are so many other agencies fighting for the same clients. Even worse, many companies are shifting more creative capabilities in-house. However, the biggest drawback with this approach is that creative decisions might not be driven by creativity but by the demands of shareholders.
Therefore, to gain a competitive edge over your competitors – both direct and indirect – it’s crucial to allow your creative teams to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. That means being able to focus on the projects without anything falling through the cracks.
An inside-out approach might be just the key to your agency’s success. This is also supported by a recent study published by PwC, which revealed that 77% of global CEO’s are planning to drive revenue growth through operational efficiency.
What is Operational Efficiency?
Operational efficiency entails “the capability of an organization to deliver products or services in the most efficient manner possible, while still ensuring the high quality of its products, service and support”. This kind of efficiency is relevant to every company, but for agencies always in search of a balance between chaos and structure, operational efficiency is often the key.
For one, clients are quick to turn away from the agency when they are working inefficiently. It is even said that “sooner or later, any company not operating efficiently will be out of business.” This does make sense in the light that efficiency, productivity and initiative are becoming more ubiquitous. Therefore, there’s a high chance that someone somewhere can always provide these things cheaper.
Great, we have established that people should be encouraged to work more efficiently. It only has one major drawback. If every person in your agency is expected to, or even worse, left to fine-tune their email system and to-do lists, they might steer too far away from what truly matters – their creative work. Suddenly, they are spending more time on perfecting their workflow than on their actual work. They might be efficient, but not focused on what truly matters.
How to avoid this situation and make sure your whole agency is working with operational efficiency? Below, we have gathered 20 ways you and your organization can improve the overall efficiency. But before you turn all your attention towards efficiency, there is something else to consider. Your efforts might not yield the best results if you have overlooked your agencies operational effectiveness.
Operational efficiency and Operational effectiveness
Closely related to efficiency, operational effectiveness is more about taking the right actions and doing the right things. It’s making sure that the focus is on the right tasks and your current efforts are helping to progress towards your goals. As such, effectiveness focuses more on what work is done and efficiency on how work is done.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
The easiest way to establish effectiveness is to:
- Make sure that all your goals and objectives are communicated and understood by everyone. If everyone has a clear understanding, it’s easier to come up with a game plan and to execute it with success.
- Boost accountability and ownership by ensuring that everyone knows their responsibilities, and they have the tools, skills and support to carry out any task.
20 Steps Toward Operational Efficiency
1. Rely on a Single Source of Truth
The benefit of using a single source of truth is that everyone is monitoring the same timelines and working toward the same goals. Therefore, invest in software that acts as a single source of truth. Bringing all your scattered information together into a single platform is one of the most important steps towards greater operational efficiency.
2. Outline Processes
Having all your processes outlined saves time and frustration. Especially in a creative environment where chaos is part of the work process. Just talking it through is a good start, but documenting everything will be more beneficial in the long run. Especially in a situation when someone from the team is out. Having all the processes documented and clear to everyone makes it much easier to step in and get everything done on time.
3. Measure Performance
It cannot be emphasized enough, “You can’t change what you don’t measure”. Data is getting more and more accessible, and it provides consistent feedback to guide your agency’s strategy. Undoubtedly, every decision can’t be based on data, but why not use what you have to make decisions more confidently.
4. Visualize Workflow
The goal should always be to deliver the best possible project for every client. Much easier to achieve when your teams are working efficiently. For a larger agency, it’s not enough to only focus on separate teams. The only way to get a better overview of the whole agency and assure all teams are working efficiently is to visualize your agencies workflow. Ideally, in a single place where all your projects are on a timeline, side-by-side.
5. Track Time and Prioritize
Equally important to measuring performance is tracking your time and prioritizing your work. Keeping track of your time will make you aware of where your minutes go throughout the day. More importantly, it allows you to identify the activities that are wasting your time. And for an agency, working day in, day out with clients, it is crucial because clients should always be the priority.
6. Adapt to Changes
A good overview of the agency’s processes is especially important during the growth period. Only when you have a clear understanding of your team dynamics, should you start thinking about new talent. However, trying to follow the workflow ideal for a small team might have an opposite effect on bigger teams. Therefore, move people around and don’t feel afraid to test new things – it’s all part of a continuous operational efficiency.
7. Stop Pointing Fingers
With every new project, there will be some challenging moments. Whether due to unrealistic deadlines or simple communication errors, it is easy to start pointing fingers. Often, the biggest culprit is the process itself, not people in the team. For that reason, it is crucial to understand all your processes and find a better way to streamline them.
8. Find Your Optimal Speed
Immediacy and urgency are both something we all deal with in the era of speeding time. Unfortunately, trying to speed up the process will often have a major downside – decrease in your quality. The challenge is to find the right balance between time and quality. Let the projects speak for themselves and prove to your clients that your work is worth the extra time.
9. Align expectations
Surely, some clients are more difficult than others. Regardless, there is nothing worse than an unhappy client who feels like their expectations are not met. This situation is often caused by the lack of communication of the expectations.
Important to keep in mind – expectations are always twofold. Firstly, the whole team has to have a clear understanding of the client’s expectations. And secondly, it is necessary to be very clear what the client can expect from your team.
10. Be More Selective
There is so much competition for clients. And it often feels the only way for an agency to be successful is to lower the prices and take on every client – quite the opposite. Regardless of the competition, agencies should be more selective. Don’t take on too much because you will end up overwhelming your team trying to meet all the deadlines.
11. Avoid overcommunication
There is a thin line between efficient communication and overcommunication. An endless flow of emails and unorganized meetings can quickly lead to overcommunication. Focus on the most critical aspects, consider investing in software, eliminating the constant need to send emails, and plan your meetings carefully.
12. Understand Everyone’s Strengths
Understanding people’s strengths should be a priority in every agency. This kind of knowledge is the best possible way to align operations around your team’s strengths. In turn, having every member of the team using their full potential can make such a big difference in terms of profit. Ultimately, both time and money will be saved that would have otherwise gone towards hiring new people.
13. Involve Everyone
One of the hardest things to do is to trust the people you have hired. However, trying to streamline your work processes by only focusing on the management, without giving specialist any autonomy to contribute, will not lead to desired results. Working with high operational efficiency means including every member of your team, which brings us to the next tip.
14. Create A Culture of Collaboration
As much as it’s about the exceptional work and perfect outcome, success is also determined by the culture we work in. In agencies, it often means a culture that supports and promotes collaboration. If people feel they can count on each other, they are more likely to go above and beyond.
Equally important is to celebrate your victories with the team. Showing appreciation makes people feel like they are important, and they are more likely to step up when understaffed or under a lot of pressure.
15. Pay Attention to Onboarding
While every person is brought in with specific qualification and different expertise, it is great practice to give everyone an overview of your agencies work. This helps to assure that beyond every team’s internal communication, there is also cross-team collaboration within your agency. It’s also easier for others to step in and help when it’s needed.
16. Have Freelance Talent on Hand
For every agency, the struggle is to navigate between the busy times and slower periods. How to avoid a situation where people are hired during a busy period, only to have them bored when there are not so many projects? One option is to work together with the freelance talent you can call in on a project basis.
17. Keep People Engaged and Committed
In case your agency uses outsourced talent, it is good practice to have them working on something at all times. This builds a stronger relationship with the talent, and they are more likely to step in when you need someone to help you manage your workload.
18. Encourage a proactive mindset
The best way to inspire your team is to lead by example. Thus, be proactive and encourage your team to take more responsibility. This will push everyone to think outside the box and motivate them to excel beyond their capabilities.
19. Boost Team’s Morale
Especially, when your team is under a lot of pressure, it’s important to maintain a “yes we can” mentality. Help your team find meaning in their work and explain how their work contributes to agencies long-term goals.
20. Show Respect and Leave Egos at the Door
For any project to be a success, there needs to be someone taking ownership of the project. However, this shouldn’t mean that the same person is calling all the shots. Good ideas can come from every team member. Being open to all ideas and accepting that someone else’s ideas might work better will create mutual respect.