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
It’s important that a project starts on
the right foot with good communication
established between team members
who’ll work closely together.
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.
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.
each team member’s progress and reassess time to delivery continuously. If the project falls behind schedule, find ways to finish lagging
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
Formal lines of leadership become
important when teams become large or projects involve multiple teams working in
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
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
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
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
Reassess Project Schedules
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
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
It can take up more of their time than
actual creative work, especially if a team is juggling multiple projects.
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.
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.