Monday, October 24, 2011

Studio Performance Metrics: Math, Perception, or Good Management?

Measuring an individual's performance in an Advertising Studio with Profit Center guidelines, could be as easy as applying a simple Profit Margin formula that will accurately give you each artist's ROI. However, these numbers can be particularly deceiving in many ways.

Let me explain by presenting five Case Studies with a universe of 10 operators, which can very well represent any Studio population:

Case Study #1
A Studio with 10 operators where only 3 of them have the required set of skills to handle every single request. These 3 operators do more than 80% of the work load while the rest will have lots of downtime on their time-sheets. Not very promising. You should probably be looking to run a lean Studio with only 3 or 4 operators.

Case Study #2
A skill-balanced Studio with 2 conflicting, bad-attitude individuals and 3 proactive operators will pretty much present the same workload unbalance as the previous case. We have 3 operators coming to their Manager asking for the next job, volunteering to do overtime. Before you know it, their active participation, good work ethic and close interaction with their supervisor will have them getting most of the work load every single day. And again, plenty of downtime on the other operators' timesheets.

Case Study #3
The "Specialist" or the Studio Artist who usually works on special projects, which are usually non-billable. Even when this individual often work more hours than the rest, the fact is that anyone working on billable jobs can easily beat his ROI by only working half as many hours.

Case Study #4
“Slow” or "Milking the jobs" operators. These individuals present a double problem to the Studio Manager. Their timesheets are usually "air-tight" with no downtime but at the same time they affect the job estimate, resulting in conflict with the client or requester because of overcharging, not to mention that it also affects the morale of the rest of the team.

Case Study #5
The "Charismatic" operator. This is the one that some of the requesters ask to work with exclusively. These operators are usually very skilled and possess great personality—nothing wrong about this. The problem is by allowing the requester to dictate whom they want to work with, you are pretty much defeating the purpose of a balanced job distribution throughout your team.

All these cases, more often than what you'd imagine, can go unnoticed. Many Studio Managers go on the routinely and easy road of handling the daily work load with "their people" and don't really pay too much attention to this situation. 

It actually presents a true management challenge when there is anticipation of the problem and we're trying to ensure a fair workload distribution. In many occasions an operator presents a poor performance review, when it might really be a case of poor management.  It is a fact that not all the operators have the same level of skills, so let's create an environment of highly motivated individuals by means of reward programs and also by promoting professional growth via training and coaching.

An Individual's performance shouldn't be measured by applying a single metric only, there are so many variables in place that is absolutely necessary to pay attention to details.


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Ernie Arias

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Über-Manager: A true story

In a shrinking economy resulting from a huge market crash and a subsequent recession, corporations had to deal with the nuances of keeping businesses profitable and stable at all cost. So you could see massive layoffs, expending cuts, merging departments, etc.
Pro-active Department Directors were holding staff and status meetings periodically to keep track of individual performances and finance in general. So in one of those meetings held by the Director of the Studio with all his managers, one of them proposed to train all the managers by giving them the opportunity to learn the other manager's job description. Making them able to cover any position due to vacation or sickness. He even coined the term as the 'Über-Manager'.

More than one laughed after this genuinely and brain-child-out-of-the-box thought. I'd say it was kind of funny the way it was proposed. To make the story short, a year and a half after that meeting it is not a surprise that within that department all the managers fit the concept of the 'Über-Manager'. 


If you've made it to this point it means you read this article. Awesome!! Your opinion is greatly appreciated and if you like it please use the share buttons to spread the word.
Ernie Arias 

Breaking the Laws of Physics or Meeting Impossible Deadlines

I was recently reading a post from Liz Resko in the LinkedIn Studio and Print Production Manager's group (ASPMLINK). It was about what a Studio Manager can do to enforce deadlines. All the comments, from the really complacent ones which saw it as the norm for the Studio to not get enough time, to the process-oriented opinions, missed the point, until Liz intervened again and explained she was not referring to her own unit, but instead to other departments "dropping the ball" and putting the burden on the Studio.

It was very interesting to notice that many of the good suggestions focused on improving communication at all levels, from developing good relationships between departments (internal) and between Studio and Vendors (external).

In Print Production it is very important for the Studio to have close communication with the Producers, briefing on big projects and launches; a robust process and workflow supported by high-end technology (Dalim Twist and Xinet); Monday Status meetings, and CSR-quality relationship with Pubs and Vendors. There is so much control in your hands when dealing with print production, you know exactly what to expect because everything has been previously scheduled, and having Print Producers that know how to manage their projects (upstream, creatives and account) is an absolute godsend.

On the other hand, the Creative Development process is a bit more complicated. This is where you find the personal-agenda kind of deadlines ("My friends are waiting for me at the Pub"); the "I forgot to send you the new copy" (Really?! Just if they're honest enough to admit it), or the classic "The creatives are still working on the files." And instead of bringing the material on time, it comes to the Studio an hour after, and to top it off, the requester asks you candidly if they can make FedEx or have everything ready for their 8:30 AM presentation, after we've already discussed how much time the Studio needs for turnaround. It is as if the Studio can break the laws of Physics and expand time and space at our will.

In conclusion, it is everyone's responsibility to make sure deadlines are met. We all must be aware of the consequences of missing an ad insertion or not sending a PDF to the client on time; there should be accountability in every step of the process. In a nutshell, communication is the key to accomplishing a smooth operation between departments and like my ex-boss used to say, "First we need to fix our own problems. We need to be 'buttoned-up' before we can demand or complain about another unit's problems."


If you've made it to this point it means you read this article. Awesome!! Your opinion is greatly appreciated and if you like it, please use the share buttons to spread the word and subscribe.
Ernie Arias