Art Creative Ltd

4 Ways to Streamline Your Agency’s Creative Workflow

Martin Castilla            No comments            Jul, 14

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Creativity and productivity can sometimes seem like diametrically opposed principles.

Many creative professionals and freelancers fall into unstructured workflows that are attuned to their own process but falls out of step with other team members.

In this article, we’ll outline four ways to bring order to a chaotic team and achieve success as a creative business.

1. Create a Structured Process

A mountain of books has been written about how to make teams efficient. There are lots of factors involved – from project management tools and optimized business operations, all the way to the less palpable factors like company culture.

There are a few points that apply to most projects that creative teams can put to use.

Adapting them to fit your team’s talent and specializations can lead to better customer satisfaction and a financially healthier business.

Project Kickoff

It’s important that a project starts on the right foot with good communication established between team members who’ll work closely together.

Use the kickoff meeting to cover the key milestones and deliverables the team will need to achieve.

If the team hasn’t worked together before or has several new members, the project kickoff gives you a chance to break the ice between them.

Task Management

A project that requires the input and cooperation of a team of creators should be formally broken into individual tasks. Each task’s time and expense can be estimated at the outset.

Track each team member’s progress and reassess time to delivery continuously. If the project falls behind schedule, find ways to finish lagging tasks quicker.

Formal Review Process

The review and approval process for the content that each member creates might lag behind with creative teams.

If you find that disputes are common that drag out final approvals, create a formal review process that focuses on objectivity and collaboration.

2. Set Clear Responsibilities

Creative professionals can be anti-hierarchical, and that can make it tempting to dismantle your lines of management and control.

Small, close-knit teams can function this way, but the larger the team becomes and more complex the project is, the more that setting clear responsibilities will help you succeed.

Define Roles and Set Boundaries

Defining roles becomes a clear need as a team grows. Coordinating the tasks of more than a handful of creative workers requires a team leader to track progress and make decisions about priorities.

It’s also a good idea to limit client communication to an account manager. Define these roles formally and set clear guidelines and boundaries. It will prevent responsibilities from overlapping and confusing other team members.

Create Formal Lines of Leadership

Formal lines of leadership become important when teams become large or projects involve multiple teams working in concert.

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Set a line of leadership for each project at its outset so everyone knows where final decisions will be made.

If you have two or more managers who are co-equals in the company’s hierarchy, it can lead to unnecessary politics and stalemates when making key decisions.

Control The Lines of Communication

One way that leadership becomes unclear and responsibilities overlap is involving team members in discussions that aren’t part of their role.

For example, a manager might email the entire team to debate which tasks should have priority when a project is behind schedule. This effectively delegates decisions to their creative workers.

Loop in only the team members whose input is needed, and don’t keep them in the loop longer than is needed.

3. Parkinson’s Law: Schedule Projects Wisely

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the amount of time remaining to complete it.

What this means is that setting appropriate deadlines is important to keeping a team efficient.

If a task’s time to complete is overestimated, it’ll be a natural inclination of the team to make it take as long as the deadline to complete.

Hold Regular Work Estimate Meetings

A practice in agile software development method is to hold meetings for estimating the time each task will take. Each team member is surveyed, and a consensus is reached about the amount of labor needed for each task.

These meetings are held frequently so the team can correct its estimates and come to a better consensus as the project advances.

Reassess Project Schedules Honestly

By the same token, team leaders should be honest with themselves and the team when the initial project schedules turn out to be inadequate.

When the project begins to fall behind schedule or tasks are completed out of order, create a new schedule given the situation that will correct problems before they become insurmountable.

4. Collaborative Software Tools

Software has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years. If you haven’t explored the tools and services recently, now’s a good time to review your process and how it could be enhanced by the tools that are available.

One of the most important advances in the past decade is the advent of cloud technology.

Software-as-a-service products deployed on the cloud bring new capabilities to businesses with more flexibility and lower costs.

Video Conference Tools

Projects with often dispersed and remote teams demand more and more communication and collaborative meetings.

It can take up more of their time than actual creative work, especially if a team is juggling multiple projects.

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Video conference tools have advanced to the point that in-person meetings are not always necessary.

Check out some of the tools available and reduce the time you spend waiting for a meeting room to free up.

Project Management Tools

Complex projects with many dependencies can become difficult to manage without advanced task tracking and scheduling tools.

Look into equipping your team leaders with professional project management software, especially if they’re swamped with multiple projects that they are corralling to success.

Conclusion

If you manage team projects with both technical and creative workers, these issues can snowball into missed deadlines and cost overruns.

The above-mentioned tools can help you bring all of them into one streamlined workflow without disrupting their own process.

Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.

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