Process Is Circular—And It Keeps Us Moving Forward!
Jeri McMacken, Operations Guru
Process helps us meet what seem to be impossible deadlines in the crazy, fast-paced work world. Process is our friend. It helps us to avoid errors and supports efficient time management, both of which control costs. Our Medical Minds process, honed over the past almost 20 years, is what keeps us sane!
Clients sometimes ask how we can deliver to their impossible deadlines, and the answer is: process. It begins at the start of a project. We create one big circle that includes everyone involved. Then, to support efficient time management, we create smaller circles that include just the people with the skills needed at different stages.
Team communication in the big circle
Project input initially comes from client contacts, as well as agency account services, strategic directors, scientific directors, writers, creative directors, studio, and editors. Then, the program manager keeps everyone in the loop with weekly status reports and meetings. If all team members understand their roles, they don’t feel left out if they’re not included in a meeting or discussion—and that’s very important for morale, especially when we’re in a time crunch.
This diagram illustrates our standard process for an educational project:
The first circle involves an agency team, with the writer creating a first draft based on input from account services, scientific directors, and others as appropriate for the project. Then the manuscript is circulated to each agency team member for comments and edits. When everyone has signed off on the first draft manuscript, we send it to our client. We circulate around the circle until we have a clean, client-approved manuscript.
It’s very important to have a clean, approved manuscript before moving to the layout or programming circle. It’s easy to make changes to a Word document, but it takes a lot more time and costs more money to make multiple edits in layout or programmed materials.
The second circle also starts with an agency team. The creative director and/or interactive director develop the first draft layout or interactive program. That’s circulated to each agency team member for comments and edits. Following agency team signoff, we send the project to our clients for comments and again circulate around the circle until we have approval for final production.
What happens if we don’t follow process?
Errors can occur when we lose version control or get out of process. Sometimes, clients need to talk directly with writers, programmers, or creative staff, which is fine as long as the program manager knows what’s happening and keeps control of iterative versions.
Also, without process, time and costs rise. For example, if changes are made to an approved manuscript after it’s moved into layout or programming, it takes more time and therefore costs more to implement those changes.
We may be tempted to skip steps in a crunch, either within Medical Minds or within the client’s internal process. For example, if we have a hard deadline, maybe clients sign off but we skip editorial. Or, on the client side, response from reviewers outside the US may be slow because everyone in Europe is on vacation, so we produce a program without their final approval. Editors or location-specific reviewers may then find errors that others don’t catch, adding time and costs to the project.
In the long run, sticking to process saves time and money. By adhering to our process, we get things right the first time. We’re serious about process because it makes everything run so much more smoothly—not only for us internally, but also by helping to avoid time and cost overruns for our clients.