Monday, August 20, 2007

Free-agency: planning without a net

In response to my post below about challenges some of us have faced recruiting talent, I received an interesting email from Nancy Villa, an experienced planner who has worked at a wide variety of agencies and is now working independently. While sensitive to the trade-offs of her current role, her note suggests that we (as managers, agencies, businesses) need to be more flexible about how we define the role of planning. In the context of the larger conversation with Mark, Gareth and Mark about co-creativity, teamwork and playing outside your position, Nancy's desire for a more fluid working style suggests one reason why some talented planners have left the company-man fold:

In reading your blog, I was taken by your comment about talent in the marketplace.... As I bounced from Gareth K to Mark Lewis and other's commentary, I was struck by the notion that, in fact, the industry seems stuck in a surprising rut. We have been sharp to notice the increasingly complex, dialogue-based communication model and to urge clients to be more fluid, more unexpected, and more aware of whats happening on the fringes of culture. Yet we are not thinking about talent in the same fluid manner. Much of the planning talent, quite frankly, has already moved on to more innovative and fluid working styles. They seek more control over the type of work and balance of work they are doing and they are finding partners in clients who want problems solved in innovative ways without draining overhead....

As a consultant, I have been fortunate to encounter many smart people and assist in solving discreet problems for them - profiling an audience, building a client work session for an upcoming effort, helping to crack the code on how to create a planning department within a small shop with limited resources. The work supports a goal for clients, but is structured in a very static way - with a distinct beginning and end. On the other hand, when I have worked with agencies that embrace a more fluid partnership model - we have all realized far greater benefits.

This is the age of the soloist, the co-creator, the contributor - yet agencies still seek the company man. The assumption remains that a salaried contract must be signed in order to fulfill the need for ever elusive talent and client support. Ironically, we are in an industry that carves people into many percentages and doles them out to various and sundry responsibilities, yet our staffing model for open requisitions remains an all or nothing proposition. I would argue the model of the future involves many more dynamic, targeted business relationships built on mutual benefit and reciprocity. Such are thoughts from the freelance realm. It is a topic about which I feel passionate and so wanted to contribute to the dialogue.

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