Having worked on both client and agency sides, I have been able to experience first hand the challenges that invariably arise over time.
While all professional party working relationships commence formalities through what should be a comprehensive, mutually agreed-upon service contract, incidences eventually arise that cause friction. As with all new relationships, tolerance and forgiveness are high at first, and any process-related shortcomings should be identified, recorded in the Campaign Review Document (or PIR) and used as a lesson for future performance improvement.
The value of making the time to conduct PIRs can't be overstated, for it is only through this process that both client and agency are able to step back from the heat of the work furnace and look at what worked, what didn't and what can be done better next time.
From experience, and leaving aside the highly subjective area of 'the creative', the 3 areas of the relationship that cause most angst and frustration are usually based around:
Briefing - the process (verbal vs written, reverse briefing), inconsistencies, lack of detail, unclear objectives;
Approvals/Sign-offs - the number of parties, time delays due to unavailability, 'new' requirements;
Timing - late/incomplete briefing, lack of reasonable priority management (everything is due tomorrow), continual changes post scheduled sign-off date.
Naturally, the above are expected to, and out of market pressures etc, do happen, from time to time. That's business.
However, when it becomes obvious that a trend is beginning to occur, and the expected exception is rapidly becoming the norm, it's time for strategic intervention.
That's where the Progress Through Partnership review comes in. And from experience, I have had to utilise this strategy as early as six months into a new working relationship as the challenges had continued to mount to such an extent that staff were already questioning their sanity! And nothing ruins a good relationship more than choosing to ignore issues and hoping they will simply go away.
Happily, the PTP saved the day on this occasion. Both parties had time to prepare for the PTP meeting, and as a result of using real examples, objectively and unemotionally, we were able to resolve some unproductive and frustrating process and attitudinal challenges and get back to working much better together.
The beauty of incorporating the Progress Through Partnership tactic as a key element of the client-agency relationship management process is that it provides a valuable roadmap of how today's strengths and weaknesses can be developed, redefined and built upon to ensure tomorrow's mutually rewarding success. It is much like a Scorecard, but it is done both ways, with objectivity through demonstrable examples the cornerstone of its effectiveness.
'Perfect' working relationships are as rare as hens teeth. In fact, the same can be said about all forms of relationships. However, there are always measures that can be taken to facilitate early identification of issues and implement corrective intervention before a relationship becomes toxic.
If you don't currently employ a mechanism such as the Progress Through Partnership review as part of your strategic business model, you may be jeopardising a potentially beneficial partnership based on something as subjective as one person's prejudices or misconceptions.