5 ways to transform the way you run your creative projects

by Anna Willatt.

17 August 2020.

Delivering creative projects is the bane of some people’s working lives. Those who enjoy them claim to have an innate ability to magically deliver without breaking a sweat. Let’s be honest, managing any matrix team is not easy. When you throw in the subjective nature of design things can get very complicated.

At MYWW™ we don’t do complicated. Our model gets us into the weeds to detangle them and make all projects as simple as possible. Not to do me out of a job as our Account Lead but managing creative projects is not an innate ability – it’s a skill that can be learnt and honed.

We like to think that our ways of working leave clients better than we found them. Let’s see if these 5 ideas can leave you better than you are right now. Here goes.

Skip the briefing form

Let me explain. Getting the right brief is critical at the start of every project. However, a standardised Word form isn’t going to be the right way for everyone to brief. Our Creative Director, Katie wrote a great article about this here.

When it comes to a briefing, you need to be true to what you want to say. We don’t want copied and pasted chunks from your pre-COVID strategy if it doesn’t ring true now. We don’t want you to fill in a Word doc just before midnight as you haven’t had time to think about it during the day.

We know briefing can be challenging and time-consuming. Sometimes you know exactly what you want – often, it’s more complicated. We encourage our clients to share what they have – on a phone call, through a voice note or even a scribbled diagram. We then follow our rigorous Inside Out Process™ to uncover the real brief and the one that will have an impact.

Are you feeling brave, punk?

This step has a terrible title. What’s more terrible is when you deliver a creative project and then discover that a stakeholder is unhappy about it. Having open conversations about expectations for a project can be tricky. We’ve found that quantifying how ‘brave’ everyone involved is feeling about the project can really help. Perhaps you want to push the boundaries of your brand for a new campaign but your senior stakeholder isn’t feeling so brave. Have that conversation now and avoid wasting time and budget. More on bravery scales here.

Who cares?

Project management 101 is all about mapping your stakeholders. Yes, this sounds dull but stick with me. We’ve all had that project that was derailed by 11th hour feedback from someone you didn’t even know cared. Spending time upfront to create a RASCI, which involves mapping out who will be involved in the project and how (Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted and Informed), is key. Get this agreed in writing in an early meeting. Having this recorded will give you backup if you need to push back on feedback late in the day. We’ve all been there.

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

Bruce Tuckman came up with these stages of team development back in the 60s. While the model still works today, we are no longer working with fixed teams that can spend years getting to productivity. We need to corral people and deliver within days. Our Creative Community model means that we handpick the best people for a client project, based on their experience and skills. We need to get those talented individuals to perform as a team, fast.

Communication and organisation tools such as Slack, Monday.com, FileStage hold matrix teams together but aren’t enough on their own. Establishing quick trust with a new team is key. We’ve all improved in communicating virtually during the pandemic but we hear that many companies are still struggling to have authentic conversations online. In truth, one of the main components of my role as an Account Lead is to foster those authentic conversations so no team member is left behind. I swear by:

  • Getting the basics in place before a project kicks off – written brief, reference files, project plans. We give all team members time to digest the basics, meaning they come to a kick-off meeting clued-up and on equal footing.
  • Facilitating introductions between team members and setting up communication channels. A dedicated Slack channel for a project is helpful but short group check-in calls cement a team and make people accountable to one another.
  • Being honest. Seems a simple ask but there’s a tendency for project managers to act like they have everything under control without input from others. There will be times when you’ll need to ask something extra from a team member that wasn’t in the original scope. By respecting all team members and being honest throughout the project, that extra ask is something logical to do for the greater good, not a barked order.

Uncover the secret meanings

Ah, unusual feedback, the email notification that strikes fear into all project managers. While it’s normal to feel frustrated when feedback seems to contradict the brief, it’s important to dig into where it’s come from. As humans, we’re not great at saying what we mean and, when it comes to design, our initial subjective reactions are often not helpful. As awkward as it can be, scheduling a conversation to ask pointed questions about feedback is incredibly important. Uncovering the meanings behind a gut reaction to a piece of creative work moves feedback from negative to constructive and from directive to supportive.

We find it helpful to revisit the brief with the person who gave the feedback – and also talk through any previous design iterations (a good reason to keep these documents on file and to hand, platforms like FileStage are useful for this). Often, less-than-glowing feedback can suggest that something has changed within the brief and it’s necessary to address that before going round in circles of amends.

So, there you have it – some of our trade secrets. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, we like to encourage our clients to improve their ways of working which in turn gives us less work to do. You might even call us the laziest agency you’ll ever work with. More on that here.

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