Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Sometimes, I feel caught in that conundrum. Especially when it comes to things like planning meetings, or retrospectives. If we stop to plan better, we lose development time, but we should make up that time by doing the work properly the first time. If we stop to figure out what we did well and what we did not so well, then we lose development time, but we should be making ourselves more efficient by reflecting and improving.

Specifically in an agency environment, where the pressure to deliver MORE ALWAYS MORE AND EVEN MORE NOW AND WHY CAN’T WE JUST SQUEEZE THIS IN TODAY, it can be difficult to prioritize those things. We live or die by happy clients and billable hours.

Sure, we plan. But do we sit down and do nothing but plan and do deep thinking exercises over what really is needed? Not consistently.

It’s a matter of priorities, really. If we don’t feel the meetings are important enough, then they slide by.

So what’s in the way of prioritizing these events?

Constant adjustment of client expectations.
…which can lead to unhappy clients.
The loss of billable hours, potentially.
The lack of staff buy-in, that these things are valuable.
The lack of a process champion to convince the staff to just try it for a while.

It’s all about how much risk we’re willing to take on. Is it more risky to slow down delivery for these clients, understanding the theory that development becomes more effective over time, ultimately (one hopes) leading to happier clients? Or is it more risky to devote as little time as possible to planning and reviewing, only enough for a general understanding, while keeping billable hours and deliveries as frequent and comprehensive as possible?

Can you convince an unseasoned client to value quality over volume? How many meetings will a client tolerate on their invoice before they start to balk at what most clients think is just useless overhead? On a 4 month project, how much client education can you legitimately expect to accomplish?

I suppose there’s only one way to find out!

Being proud of ugly babies

Every once in a while, we finish something we think is awesome. Shiny. Spectacular. Perfect in every way. A tiny little flawless newborn code-baby, clearly demanding your adoration and unbounded love.

And then the client doesn’t like it. “Take that head off,” they say. “Paste it to the stomach, and then put both arms on the same side.” “Can we make it more monochrome? And there’s no reason for five toes on each foot, we only need seven toes, total.”

Agency work can be tough, sometimes. We want to be proud of our work, we want to build awesome things. And sometimes, we have to build what we think are monsters.

That’s okay though. Opinions are like, uhm, belly buttons. Everyone has one. And clients are always going to have their own. They are entitled. It’s their money and time and product, after all.

I do believe we have the obligation to advise when we see clients turning down the road to creating monster babies. We may have expertise, and I believe we have the responsibility to advise and inform. But ultimately, though we are building this thing, it is not ours. It is theirs. It is their right to not agree with us.

Perhaps we can take pride, instead, in our process. In the ability to build a great *anything.* To make happy clients. To enjoy the opportunity to shape a product, even if we are not the final decision makers. To enjoy and welcome the diversity of opinion.

…even if we do think that’s the ugliest baby we’ve ever produced.