PLAN – always good advice, but not when it stands for Plan Loads, Achieve Nothing. It’s a phenomenon I’ve never totally understood, but I fear it’s more prevalent than you think. Clients so wedded to internal reporting cycles that they spend their lives planning and not doing. Spot these people and spot them early. Don’t get dragged into a dog of a cycle making you equally unproductive.
When I’ve witnessed it, it’s been from large, well known organisations over-layered with structures and competitive internally.
You could excuse the folks in charge client-side for the pressures of following internal procedures where perhaps all the disciplines have to be aligned, but why have an agency to deliver a job and then not let it?
Sometimes the real reason is that they are scared for their position. They jump about, seemingly doing lots, making noise, considering this, mulling that, but always avoiding sign-off on anything concrete or positively fresh. If they don’t do anything or take a risk or stick their head up, they can’t get it wrong. So they don’t go forward, are constipated by fear and then someone says: "What is your agency achieving?"
So what to do? For starters tell them that their rivals will act and leave them behind, making them exposed. Make your work easy to buy. You have to cajole, support, demonstrate, even remonstrate, but minimise the risk for them. Test your ideas and quantify everything in advance – show them there’s lots to gain and doing little is often more dangerous. You may have to go around them – beware.
As a consultant your job is to guide, inspire, motivate, hand-hold and make them look good, but try to draw the line at being an HR person, a comfort blanket or worst of all… a scapegoat.