Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen…

September 12, 2016

If you are a service provider, do you ask for one point person from the client side of the project? Do you find that sometimes others find their way into weighing in until at some point, there are multiple decision makers?

Once in awhile it is inevitable that you will have a client who has multiple people involved with commenting on the project, providing feedback or asking for changes even AFTER something has been approved. I’ve been there so I know how frustrating that is! The biggest challenge is in obtaining consensus and when there are conflicting opinions, what do you do?

It’s important to recognize that having too many cooks in the kitchen is a problem and can be a serious one. It can have drastic consequences to an established set of processes and throw a streamlined workflow into a churning ocean of mayhem. At the core you cannot afford to have a client’s internal decision-making dysfunction wreak havoc on your team’s efforts.

The “too many cooks” problem ultimately requires a conversation around expectations. In order for you to hit deadlines, generate amazing work product and do those things without wearing yourselves ragged, your client needs to understand the importance of reconciling their feedback BEFORE sharing the consolidated version with you. That way, you only have to act on a single set of instructions, rather than having to figure out how to merge often-conflicting feedback via a maze of email threads, text messages and notes from multiple phone conversations. You don’t want to have to spend unexpected project management time having to review and cross-check an item that ends up with ten iterations of itself. We recently had a project that had over 57 emails back and forth and multiple design and copy changes over one simple document.

Being clear with a client upfront saves billable time for you and them in the long run and preserves the sanity of your team as no one has the time when working under tight deadlines or with rapid-fire turnarounds to be handling things that the client should be ultimately responsible for.

It isn’t an easy conversation to have with clients but avoiding it altogether it is a bad idea. The key is to frame the chat in terms of benefits to your client, as it pertains to budget, timeline, and scope. The most obvious benefit is that it minimizes the possibility of an escalating overage invoice, it could keep timelines from being delayed and would allow your team to focus on the essence of the initial scope of the project. If the client desires changes after an approval or once the wheels are in motion on any piece or part, it is simply going to cost them money, you shouldn’t have to do all of the rework for free.

Do what you can to insure they don’t tinker with your process. You created it for a reason! And, if they expect a work product that resembles the quality of work you put out when your process is followed, do yourself a favor and honor it yourself.