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.
I always told the creatives who worked for me I wanted three things.
A lot of work.
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.
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.”