Home Page

Lifvendahl & Associates

Veteran Research  Project


Communication Service

Quotes to Think About


Pictures and Paintings






In order to help clients better communicate I employ a variety of media (still photography, tailored graphics, PowerPoint ™ slide shows, etc.) to create specialized presentations designed to document complex processes.  I believe that significant communication problems arise because managers and followers fail to clearly articulate ill-defined processes.   

An example I often use in my teaching and consulting practice is the experience I had as Print Production Manager for Quaker Oats in-house ad agency, Adcom in the early 1970's.  The agency no longer exists but I believe that the case problem I cite is still relevant.   

Quaker Oats had a practice of hiring its new Brand Managers directly out of graduate school.  These newly minted MBA’s were well versed in standard business practices and held responsibility for overseeing the expenditure of significant sums of money used to support brand advertising.  My job was to produce the “separation materials” printers used to publish that message.   

The process of print production to this day remains complex.  It involves the creative talents of professional writers, artists, photographers, and vendor graphic art specialists.  Implicit is the need for all stakeholders to agree on desired outcome(s) before incurring any cost.  Logically, changing processes adversely impacts all stakeholders and can negatively inflate anticipated budgeting.  

New brand managers typically had insignificant educational exposure to the complexity of print production.  They periodically requested changes in layout and design late in the production process.  The basis for requesting this change was a personal aesthetic and the manager had little understanding of the consequences of their action. The classic answer agency production people tend to give is to quote added costs and resist the change.  Both parties come away from the experience with negative feelings.  Managers are seen by agency people as “idiots” and agency people are seen by management as “obstructionists”. Neither party benefits from the experience.  

I concluded that a rational approach to solving this on-going problem was to educate brand managers about the print production process.  I was given permission by the agency to document all stages of advertising production (from the initial inception of an ad by a writer/artist team to the final printing of a magazine at the printing plant).  This project involved gaining the cooperation of a number of businesses and photographing each stage of the production process in their respective plants.  I then converted the material into a comprehensive presentation.   

Over three years I periodically presented my “Print Production Seminar” to new Quaker Oats brand managers and we worked together to decrease needless conflict over changed advertising art.  I was also invited to present this same seminar to fine art students at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This experience has led to a recurring practice in my consulting business to provide answers to client problems with customized presentations delineating complex processes.