The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

It’s Only A Mistake If You Don’t Learn From It …

One of the things I find amazing about adland is their inability to review what they just did … whether that was a pitch, a big meeting or just a campaign.

Basically, it things have gone well, they act like they are invincible.

And if things have gone less well, they either ignore it or blame it all on the client.

Look, I get that we have too many meetings.

I get no one wants to be the person who brings the energy of positivity down or make a bad situation worse, but reviews are super useful.

Not just for what you did wrong, but what you did right.

And yet so few agencies seem to do it …

Maybe part of it is that it can quickly turn into a blame game.

Maybe part of it is because people feel they can’t be honest, either for fear or reprisal or fear of hurting egos.

Or maybe it’s just because ‘reviews’ are so closely associated the ‘annual review’, people feel they can’t do it without masses of paperwork and 360 degree feedback.

But in my experience, an honest, objective review can make a huge difference – not just in personal performance but in terms of giving confidence to the team moving forward.

For me, there are a few key rules to do it well.

1. It can not be more than 30 minutes in length.

2. It has to happen within 48 hours of the event that justifies the review.

3. It has to involve all the people involved, not just the key players.

4. No comment can be personal, you win as a team and you fail as a team.

5. Everyone gets to say 1 thing they liked [about the process/pitch/work] 1 thing they’d change [about their approach to the process/pitch/work] and 1 thing they’ve learned [about how to improve the process/pitch/work]

That’s it.

Now I am not denying that a key element to it’s success is the tone of the meeting.

Too serious and it makes people nervous to say anything valuable.

Too light and no one takes it seriously.

But if you ensure there is an air of inclusion, positivity and the sense it’s being done to help everyone become even better, I find it is 30 minutes that people find genuinely valuable.

Of course it’s not just something for show.

All comments must be noted, distributed and then reviewed prior to the next situation where a post-review is likely … but once you get in the habit of it, those 30 minutes can have a lifetime of positive effect.

I wish more people did it … if not for the agencies benefit, but their own.

I promise I won’t write any more serious posts like this in the future. Sorry.

20 Comments so far
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Fantastically useful Robert. More posts like this please.

Comment by Lee Hill

he isnt capable of doing it.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’ve been writing this blog for over 10 years and now you decide to start to be useful!?

Comment by DH

For what it’s worth, those post pitch reviews were good. Hated them at first but did get their value then I saw them as a way to end pitch exhaustion on a positive. This will be the last compliment I give on here too.

Comment by DH

thats because it was always the fucking planners fault.

Comment by andy@cynic

and dont fret dave, it will never fucking last. bet its back to big cocks and queen tshirts tomorrow.

Comment by andy@cynic

Actually you’re wrong Andy. Well, wrongish. OK, you’re right. Damnit.

Comment by Rob

I still do this. I know people find it painful when it pops up in their calendar, but by the time it’s over, they feel it was useful.

Comment by George

Funny how that is always the case isn’t it.

Comment by Rob

Always the case.

Comment by George

Doing a review sounds like a very useful meeting.

But then you distribute all the comments to all the people who had already heard them in the meeting and that sounds a bit like duplication.

And then you review the review?

Comment by John

It was never a duplication of the meeting, but the key points to remember for next time.

Comment by George

Maybe I didn’t make myself clear.

Yes, we distributed the notes, but they were the key findings rather than a verbatim because we wanted to make sure the things discussed were clear in everyones mind. And sure, we went through them again prior to another big meeting/pitch … to ensure the way we went into it, took on the learnings of what we discovered after the last situation. Why do you find that strange?

Comment by Rob

It was a language confusion. Now, I understand that you distribute the key lessons rather than all the comments and you revisit those rather than the process of the review. Not being snarky, just genuinely confused at what sounded like repetition.

Comment by John

now you know how his fucking clients feel.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think you miss a lot when you’re pitching, John. I know that I tended to go into a kind of Pitch-Tunnel. Have something repeated that I may have missed amongst the madness is helpful I think.

Comment by Marcus Brown

That makes sense Marcus. Good afternoon.

Comment by John

A very good afternoon to you, John.

Comment by Marcus Brown

I tried to get this to happen in several agencies. It always petered out, despite my persistence. Seems for most there’s no desperate desire for honesty, instead we’d rather continue to believe in ourselves and blame others. And that’s a shame. Good luck.

Comment by Ian Gee

as a small addendum, 1 thing I’ve found useful, is to do this exercise prior to the pitch/meeting.. Kahneman calls it a pre-mortem.

That way you build in time to spot things that in hindsight might have caused you to have a bad outcomes.

“put yourself ahead of time and look back. why did you not get the result you thought you would get.”.

Great post..

Comment by Niko

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