Being reactive CAN make you inactive
I have had the opportunity to work for one of the UK’s top 10 national tabloid newspapers; managing projects for their digital and print campaigns. The aim was to drive increase in subscription sales for their various packages.
The immense pressure across teams and stakeholders to complete a campaign within timescale were overwhelming; often, marginally close to deadline. The team’s effort and dedication at times, working until 9:00pm on a weekly basis with an aim to complete tasks and gain approval after several revisions were remarkable.
Although, noticeably tired and de-motivated, the team was resilient in their performance due to high demands added to what was an already compromised schedule. I was feeling drained and my coping mechanism began to wane, this left me feeling exhausted both physically and mentally stemming from a hectic schedule, high demands and long hours.
Undoubtedly, such demanding schedules impacted on my family/personal life, for example, during the campaign, my mother-in-law became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital. However, due to my work schedule and the demands of the job to meet deadlines, I could not complete my scheduled tasks until after hospital visiting times, this meant I was unable to visit my mother-in-law in hospital and to my dismay she passed away. I was devastated and felt guilty for not having had an opportunity to see her before she died.
How did this impact me
Due to dedication and the drive to succeed in my responsibilities I overlooked the impact this was having on my mental and physical health as well as my family life. I made the decision that I would no longer work after my contracted hours and informed management, clients and the team in this regard.
So what changed?
1. My perspective changed. I took a step back from the chaotic work schedules and reassessed the situation in its entirety, namely work, health, family and recreational pursuits and found that for too long I was following the momentum of being reactive in delivering each demand at the fast pace it was given without question. My reassessment of the whole picture helped in my decision in saying ‘Enough is enough!
2. I also decided to view the situation from a different standpoint to see the workflow from stakeholder to client, to myself, creative, client approval and then back to stakeholder and so the cycle continued.
3. I realised that although there was some communication there weren’t any real plan of action or visibility for individuals to take responsibility for their role in a project and how their actions, or lack of, could impact the team or deadlines.
I implemented an improved workflow that listed all the upcoming and regular work with daily or weekly deadlines, special campaigns, with an option to add last minute requests too. Included in this workflow were the names of all my clients.
Each morning I sat with my clients to discuss the status of their projects and confirm the allocated time slots agreed for them to approve or make amends. If adhoc jobs were required, we would then review all live work collectively and prioritised the more pressing projects, alternatively, decide not to work on unscheduled request at all.
As a result, this improved workflow re-adjustment identified what the creative teams were working on, also ensured alignment across marketing for digital, email and print campaigns, the brand, tone of voice and all messaging were correlated.
I was determined in my decision to leave work at my contracted time, 5:30pm, suffice it to say, so did the rest of the team and my clients. The fast turnaround continued, but at a less reactive pace. Communication improved and there was now much more visibility, accountability and definitely more energy.
Conclusively, this shift was achieved by simply making adjustments to a process that effected minimal changes to the project and the team (including stakeholders).
The desired outcome was to increase morale, decrease the high turnover of staff, meet deadlines early and not at the ‘11th hour’. Furthermore, to ensure all leave the workplace at the allotted time, and as a result, everyone was able to enjoy their evenings which ultimately would enable a better work/life balance.
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