by Kat Grider
I was inspired by a recent 37 Signals post on formality, "We’re breaking down the stranglehold of formality everywhere. No more personal secretaries, memos on official letterhead, meetings that must happen in person. There’s never been less mental mask switching between work and play. We wear the same clothes, use the same technology. It’s a liberation of the mind and it’s the new world order."
This got me thinking about 2 things:
- People respond to generalizations. Readers got fired up about whether or not wearing a suit is a legit sign of a progressive workplace - there were 63 comments as of today. We'd love that kind of conversation on our blog - so plan on the continued use of opinionated generalizations that you may or may not agree with, by The Brat. For instance, "Texas is the finest country on earth". Now, discuss.
- Agencies have broken the chains of unnecessary formality...until every Monday morning at 10 am. Yep, we are flexible, creative and a bastion of progress until Monday morning when timesheets are due. Finance sends out a note reminding everyone to submit their time. Then employees go back to their calendar and try to remember what they did last week. Inevitably we take a few good guesses, fill in the form and just try to get the thing done so we can get back to our real job.
This feeds the estimating and forecasting machine. The machine sucks.
The machine is archaic (based on the old print/radio/TV days) and a formality based on mistrust (between Employer and Employee and Agency and Client). In sum, the machine should be dismantled, put through a chipper, doused with Aqua Net, lit on fire and then buried in a cement (pronounced See-ment) tomb under the Alamo.
Too much? Okay, how about this - How about we just quit estimating by roles, variable rates, minute tasks and half hours.
Digital is different. Digital is about a team building a malleable piece of software that depends on changing technologies and a rapidly evolving consumer. Digital estimating should be about identifying the right people needed to do the work and then dedicating their time for a set period.
So, let's use a flat rate which creates a set number of hours based on the budget and then have people work against this in short sprints and, gasp, allow for and even encourage responsiveness. Give the client visibility as tasks change and how that impacts the budget and the timeline.
It may sound idealistic. But guess what, it can be done. Bree and I have used this process with clients. Our buddies over at Mode Set operate this way all day long. And while the alternative of sticking with what we know may be more comfortable, remember that formality by definition is: a necessary but insignificant procedure: a procedure that must be followed because it is a rule or custom, but has little significance or effect in itself.
Timesheets are a custom, a formality. They have little significance in generating or driving actual work. It's time to evolve this financial processes. It will look differently for every agency, every organization. But it will look like the future.
Now, personally, I don't care if you are in a 3-piece suit or your birthday suit when you rework this process. Whatever gets you there faster.