Want to change it? Measure it!

Ineffective work often stems from bad behaviours. To change things, you need to measure where it’s all going wrong, says WDC’s John Owen


“You get what you measure,” as the old adage goes. If you want to drive sales leads, for example, you have to measure sales leads – and this will incentivise the sort of creative messaging and media placements that do precisely that. Over time, the fluctuations in results will also help you learn what the most effective messages and placements are.

Of course, measurement of effectiveness is accepted best practice in the world of marketing. But what’s less widespread is the measurement of efficiency within the strategic and creative process.

All in-house agencies are under increasing pressure to be efficient. It’s often one of the reasons for setting up or expanding in-house teams – with the expectation that their proximity to the marketing department will enable quicker turnaround, while their understanding of the brand should mean the work is right first time.

But it doesn’t always work out that way. IHALC meetings are full of smart people who’ve been trying to iron out inefficiencies. They’ve often come up with lots of good ideas for how to do so, but, too often, they don’t seem to be working.

How do they know this? Well, their evidence tends to be anecdotal – project X is three weeks late going into production, or the team had to work the weekend on project Y after a crazy amount of late feedback. Rarely is the response quantitative – citing how the number of rebriefs, reworks or reshoots has increased over time, for example.

So they know what they want to change, but they’re not measuring it – and not much is changing. It’s a strikingly different story when you come across those who have put internal efficiency KPIs in place.



One client of my consultancy WDC provides a case in point. Not so long ago, they put in place four headline efficiency KPIs with the overall aim of reducing wastage. These related to the punctual delivery of briefs, creative concept sign-off, production green light and final assets. They also tracked a fifth KPI – the number of rounds of amends required at each stage. Critically, they agreed all of this with their marketing colleagues and agreed to use the data to improve ways of working, rather than allocate blame.

It quickly became apparent that lateness was a function of too many rounds of amends, so they put in place a kick-off meeting to crystallise the expectations upfront of who was giving feedback; and tried to limit the number of ‘approvers’ to a minimum, identifying a single, final approver for each project. They also made a rule that this person should be involved at every stage.

The smartest thing they did, though, was to add a couple more KPIs to keep track of whether these changes were having an effect. For each project, they registered answers to the following questions:

  1. Was the brief successfully assigned to a single approver (yes/no)?
  2. Was that person able to exercise final approval (yes/no)?

By correlating the data over a relatively short period time, the team was able to make the case for respecting the rules. They showed how briefs where approvals worked as planned were delivered on time and on budget; and how those where this did not happen generated considerable wastage. They were even able to quantify the wastage in monetary terms – based on hours worked as well as freelance and third-party costs.

Just as importantly, when they lined up the creative outputs across all recent briefs, it was clear that those projects which followed the rules produced the best work. And those which didn’t produced muddled, unsatisfactory campaigns.

Work is ongoing to improve things, but this data is a game-changer within their organisation. It’s hard evidence that appraises senior executives of the knock-on effects of their interventions. Where previously they may have thought they were doing the right thing, they are now fully aware of the need to rein themselves in. And if they don’t, it’s clear where the accountability lies.

So, yes, you get what you measure. And there’s a flipside to this too: you don’t get what you don’t measure. Which means that, for anyone trying to drive operational change, there’s a fresh spin on the old adage that you could do with printing out and sticking on the wall above your desk.

Namely: if you want to change it, you need to measure it.


John Owen is a partner at creative operations consultancy WDC

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