Harmonious collaboration produces the best work from your agencies, but getting everyone to be on the same page can be a challenge. How do you ensure that everyone’s doing their part? How can you work effectively and efficiently when there are multiple players, multiple meetings and – more than likely – a multitude of perspectives to consider? Productivity and accountability are within reach if you set the right tone and structure for your teams. Here’s how to do it, along with pitfalls to avoid.
1. Start with a RACI. It’s important to clarify roles up front. Ask your agencies to collaborate on a RACI — RACI identifies specific roles in terms of who is “responsible, accountable, consulted or informed.” Once approved, this document becomes your collaboration rulebook in that it sets expectations and identifies accountabilities like who’s responsible for the legal/medical/regulatory submission of a shared project; who makes changes if they’re needed after submission, and so on.
Appoint a leader at each agency to ensure the RACI is followed by their company. If you notice the lines between roles are becoming blurry, address it.
2. Streamline meetings. Of course, you’ll need to make time for status updates and in-depth discussions with your agencies on some topics. But when possible, hold one comprehensive, cross-agency call that concludes with the expectation of a quick-turn-around follow-up document with next steps. The agency responsible for this should be identified on the RACI.
3. Keep it positive. Competition is healthy and can keep agencies on their toes, but too much could negatively impact a project or relationships. It’s true: once an agency has your business, they’ll naturally want to earn more of it. Assume good intentions but watch for any behind-the-scenes tension that could upset the balance. If you’d like to give one agency some of the work another has been doing, be explicit in your direction and expectation of why, how and when the transition should happen and what is appropriate behavior. One agency delaying the transfer of assets to another agency, for example, can cause unwanted bottlenecks.
4. Spend time together. Set aside some budget to regularly get key people in the same room. Despite all the advances technology has given us, nothing beats face-to-face collaboration for making decisions and getting things done. Set expectations for when you’d like to have cross-agency, in-person meetings (monthly, quarterly, before milestones, etc.). Also set clear budget parameters for the meeting and how many people you want to attend. If the meeting centers on an area of expertise held by one agency, ask them to co-lead with you so they can help with the heavy lifting.
5. Stay engaged. It’s easy to get caught up in other parts of the business and miss agency status meetings or other communications. You shouldn’t be expected to micromanage but maintaining a consistent presence will minimize challenges like the ones mentioned above.
Staying engaged also makes for easier course correction. Address concerns or mistakes immediately and be sure that kind of feedback comes directly from you, not another agency passing your message along. By continually letting your voice be heard and staying involved as the project leader, things will go far more smoothly and efficiently.
Most agencies have the best of intentions, are proud of their professionalism, and want to prove their value to you and the business. They’ll do whatever they need to when it comes to “playing well together in the sandbox” — keeping you focused and productive in the process.