TIGHT TARGETS, LOOSE CONTROLS.

One day I was working at home and I noticed a scuffle in the garden.
I looked out the window and there were two little fox cubs running and jumping all over the lawn.
Then rolling around wrestling on the grass.
Then jumping up and chasing each other again.
It was exactly like watching two children play.
Then I looked at the back of the garden and there was a much bigger fox.
I assume it was the mother.
Just sitting upright, looking around, keeping watch.
Letting the cubs play while she made sure it was safe.
She didn’t watch what they were doing.
She just made sure the garden stayed safe for them.
This was an example of ‘tight-targets, loose-controls’.
She knew the cubs needed exercise, to learn to run and fight.
And ideally they needed to learn it somewhere safe.
So her job was to keep the garden safe for them to learn in.
Learning was their job.
She didn’t micro-manage them.
She didn’t watch every little move they made and criticise it.
If she’d done that she couldn’t have kept watch over the garden.
And it might not have stayed safe.
So she just concentrated on her job, her target.
Another way of saying ‘tight-targets, loose-controls’ is judge the result not the process.
The opposite of this is ‘loose-targets, tight-controls’.
In that case you judge the process, not the result.
You micro-manage people.
Interfere with them at every stage of their job.
Constantly check and fiddle, review and change.
This disempowers and demotivates the people being micro-managed.
They don’t get to use their initiative.
Plus you won’t be able to do your job properly.
Which should be strategic: setting and evaluating targets.
Not tactical: constantly directing individuals.
‘Tight-targets, loose-controls’ has always worked better for me.
Whether I’m taking a brief from a client, or giving a brief to the creative department.
I like to work that way.
But there’s a catch.
If you don’t want someone telling you how to do your job, you have to take responsibility if you fail.
Total freedom means total responsibility.
No excuses.
I always told the creatives who worked for me I wanted three things.
A lot of work.
High quality.
And on time.
That was the ‘tight-target’.
The ‘loose-controls’ was I wouldn’t tell them how to achieve it.
Where to do the work, how to do the work, what hours to do the work in, even who to do the work with.
As long as they hit the target.
High-quality work, on time, and lots of it.
Because, for me, the work is all that matters, not how you get it.
The work.
And the result it got.
That’s what we should all be judged on.

As Bill Bernbach said “You can have everybody coming in on time, everybody leaving on time, all work finished on the due date, and still have a lousy ad and fail.”

  • John W.

    I did that yesterday and my 2 year old fell out of a tree.
    Of course I had clocked how high she had got and the reasonable landing space should such a mishap occur in an instant.
    Short term pain. Long term gain.

  • Grilla Login

    Dave, your garden sounds like a good location to have fun in – the next time u hear a scuffle out there it’ll b me play wrestling with the fox cubs.

  • Martin Thomas

    The NHS is trying to adopt a similar model – their version is described as “High trust … high penalty” i.e. it recognises that the need for agility demands that people are given more responsibility … but that (in what are often literally life or death situations) this responsibility needs to be taken seriously.

  • Dave Trott

    IMHO Churchill was TT,LC whereas Hitler was LT,TC
    Clough was TT,LC whereas Hoddle was LT,TC
    Murdoch is TT,LC whereas the BBC is LT,TC
    The succesfuol ones are usually TT,LC whereas the others are more often LT,TC

  • Chris Worsley

    I need some TLC after reading your response there Dave

  • Kevin Gordon

    You’ll probably find the most famous brands are all TTLC, and that would make it a one horse race.

  • Dave Trott

    Sorry Chris,
    Put simply: TT,LC is “the end justifies the means”.
    LT,TC is “the means justifies the end”.
    Or, in art school terms, TT,LC is ‘Form Follows Function”.
    LT,TC is “style over idea”.
    Phew, hope that’s sorted that out.

  • Grilla Login

    What’s that funny smell? TCP…ha

  • Kevin Gordon

    When you photograph a TCP label it turns green not blue?

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