In today’s hybrid work environment, where physical proximity is no longer guaranteed, project management has become indispensable, especially in the creative industry. I realise this doesn’t sound very exciting, or creative for that matter, but when approached in the right way boring old project management can transform both working experiences and the outcomes generated.
While it can be tempting to allow creatives to run free, it is important that we don’t let them fall down the rabbit hole or else the creative process can descend into chaos. Project management helps maintain order by adhering to golden rules, such as knowing your team, allowing them the creative space they need, conducting regular actions calls, and streamlining communication. These rules ensure everyone stays both on track and aligned with the client briefs that come through. Staying on track is obviously important, but that alignment piece is just as vital and much easier to overlook.
Hybrid working arrangements have reshaped the way creative teams operate. Creating work for brands globally, with team members often working remotely or in diverse locations, traditional methods of managing creative projects have evolved. At Rankin Creative, we understand and embrace a world where you might not see your colleagues face-to-face every day and have adapted accordingly. Implementing a strategic approach is vital to maintaining productivity and allowing creativity to thrive.
Knowing Your Team and Streamlining Communication
The first golden rule is knowing your team and their styles of working. In a remote or hybrid work environment, understanding each team member’s preferences and working styles is paramount. Some thrive on platforms like Slack or a task management tool, while others prefer personalised to do lists or status updates and some need that in person face time. Adapt where you can, and everyone benefits.
If you’re a small team like us, you can be nimble in approaches and avoid getting bogged down in complex tools and processes. Another critical component is conducting regular action calls, either daily or weekly depending on the need. Schedule these check ins,stick to them and keep them focused with clear updates and actions. Otherwise, you risk falling into a creative wormhole where team members veer off course, working on the wrong tasks, or the right tasks at the wrong time.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t these multiple streams of communication get overwhelming, or even inhibit the creative process? Of course they do, sometimes. There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution. Managers need to adapt to each project’s unique needs, choosing the most suitable communication channels and tools for that project and that team.
When you know your team individually, how they like to work and how to get the best out of them, the goals are clear. You know when to leave them to focus, when close task management is needed, and when you just need to call everyone together to regroup and realign on priorities.
Balancing Creativity and Structure
Project managers play a pivotal role in striking a balance between creativity and structure. The creative process thrives on freedom and innovation, but without some level of structure, it can become unwieldy. In a world without project management, creatives might find themselves bogged down in excessive processes or missing crucial project milestones.
Creatives don’t need to be present in every meeting or be ensnared by excessive processes. A good project manager understands their team’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing creatives the freedom they need while maintaining a structured workflow. With the rise of global creative partnerships, organisation and time zone management become paramount. Allowing creatives the flexibility to manage their time ensures they can deliver their best work, regardless of their location.
What happens when creativity runs wild without structure? The risks are real, and they vary depending on factors like the project’s budget and objectives. Unchecked creativity can lead to a lack of direction and focus. Project managers can set high-level parameters to provide a roadmap for the creative team while allowing room for wild, innovative ideas that can then be kept in the back pocket for the right moment.
The final piece of the puzzle is understanding how the absence of project management might affect client relationships. If you have a predominantly client facing team, it’s important to ensure creatives own their work and present to clients, wherever they are. This helps grow trust, ensures they understand client goals and challenges, and helps accountability outside of the great creative ideas.
Clients expect a level of predictability and accountability. When creativity runs wild without structure, it becomes challenging to meet client expectations. Therefore, setting clear boundaries and maintaining transparency are essential to preserving client trust.
A creative agency without project management would be a chaotic, unpredictable place. Probably fun, but also probably not very effective. Creativity needs structure and guidance to flourish. And clients need transparency and reassurance. Project managers play a pivotal role in navigating the creative minefield and ensuring the agency’s creative endeavours stay on track. It’s a challenging yet rewarding role, and with the right approach, it can lead to the creation of exceptional work that leaves a lasting impact.
Hannah Shanks is Head of Project Management at Rankin Creative.