How One Simple Process Mistake Risk Destroying Your Best Work
The deadline was in four days and I had never been so excited about anything I’d made before. The process had been painless. The animations were gorgeous, the attention to detail unmatched, the story entertaining. Everything was coherent and matched the soundtrack down to every little detail. Even the project handoff went great. In short, a great product that matched spec perfectly, something I was proud of. Can you imagine why I had to do it over again?

The shocking message came after they had shown our product to their boss for the first time. Turns out she hated it.

She hadn’t been part of the process. No one had thought about that part somehow. The person sitting on the bag of money wasn’t informed while the project progressed. Sure, the boss had given the project managers full authority to manage the project after we had agreed on the budget. But when she saw the result, it wasn’t what she had imagined. It’s not that she thought it was bad – it just didn’t match her own image of what she was buying. Who can blame her, really?

A Great Process With One Cardinal Sin

We had all done our part, everything in writing, every step of the process. But we still had one unhappy paying client. What could we do? We delivered everything we had agreed upon and had successful sign-offs. Enthusiastic sign-offs even. But the project managers didn’t have the authority they thought they had, so it didn’t matter.

How could we please the boss? We had to make some changes and the client was willing to compensate us (a little) for the extra work. They understood after all that it was a mistake on their part not having gone through the proper channels.

But the changes didn’t improve the end result. They made it different, something other than it was. But they made the CEO feel as if she had played an instrumental part in making it. She mattered. Her opinions changed the outcome. And so when she got the new hybrid, lifeless and anemic product, a shadow of its former self, with more corporate music, more generic titles and less edge, she was happy.

“Do you want a new logo? How many people has to say “yes” to the new logo? If it’s “I don’t know” then don’t even start.”
Seth Godin

Define the Real Authority, Early

What did we set out to do? Make something magical for our portfolio and make our client happy. We failed at both. Not because we didn’t communicate clearly enough, nor because we didn’t get everything in writing. Not because we didn’t deliver something outstanding. We failed because we didn’t talk with the real decision-maker, and decision-makers want to make decisions. Many believe they can delegate tasks, but only to a certain point. When they see something that’s supposed to represent their company, something the public will witness and respond to — they won’t let it go without having had their say.

I had some of my greatest work turn into something less than mediocre as a result. A great portfolio piece that I’ll hide away instead. Next time, I’ll make sure I’m dealing with the real authority and not her minions.

Have you ever lived the same story? Do you have the antidote for these situations? Please leave a comment below or read about why stupid people are smarter than you.

I write about personal growth, psychology, leadership, relationships and soft skills at The Neural Grind.