Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creating A Process That Allows Business To Flow AND Creativity To Flourish

Business Processes Shouldn’t Make Creative Organizations Feel Like A Grid
Project Management at first blush can be seen as a four-letter word to designers and creative directors, mainly because it represents the necessity of bringing "non-creative" and the darn client into the creative process. 

Project management has a perception of process, paperwork, tracking, budgeting and deadlines - which are perceived as the complete opposite of the creative process.

In a past life I had the opportunity to work for a Fortune 200 company, in the adverting and product communications area. I'll never forget the meeting where my boss told me and the creative design team:  "Be as creative as you like, get wild, push the market and dump the old look!" Everyone in the room sat up and started smiling. As the big cheese walked out of the room he turned and said, "Oh, and it needs to be on green 8 1/2 by 11 paper, fit in a number ten envelope and cost no more than 15 cents a unit..." The whole team just crumbled.

But this was a great learning for me on the front of why project management belongs in a creative process, as much as in the building of a waste water treatment plant. What project management does, is allow the requirements gathering to take place, the "what you want to do and with what result," before the creative team gets going. It sets up a mindset of getting all the facts before the fun starts. What project management can mean, in its simplest terms to a creative organization is fully understanding the requirements and desired outcome a client is looking for - beyond the old "knock their socks off" talk. It allows a creative organization to understand the budget issues, the timings, the level of creativity, how and where it fits in with everything else the client is doing. Then as the project rolls out, Project Management allows the creative team to talk regularly with the client to make sure everything is on track and things haven't changed.  Project management in a creative environment is about clarity of direction and results. It is about meeting deadlines and surpassing the client’s expectations.

Good project management is about communications between different areas. It removes "disconnects" from the creative process. How many times has a creative organization done a super job up front with a client, and missed the boat at the production point? Many times one area, let's say the account management function within a creative organization, has a ton of upfront and ongoing communications with the client. Then the creative directors, the designers, the production artists, the traffic managers, etc. have lessening degrees of communications. And by the point the deliverable is at the printer’s there could be a total disconnection between the client and the desired outcome.

Solid project management within a creative environment allows for not one time or limited communications, but a constant and undiluted communications line between the client and all the touch points in the creative process. Project management in a creative environment is about continual communications. It is less about “freestyle writing” and more like a sonnet. Structure to creativity, a target for the results.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great and important point – that without the right forethought and management, even the most creative work can get off track. For our marketing communication firm, the process of project management is often started with a creative platform or ‘brief’ – a written document that spells out the marketing goals and communication objectives of the campaign; the competitive advantages; key selling point; additional selling points; target audiences, definite in demographic and psychographic terms; and a creative strategy statement. It serves the “requirements gathering process,” you describe. While a written document may seem like anathema to the creative process, it enables you to measure all creative executions to ensure that they are on message and will achieve the goals set forth by the client.