Overseeing and leading creative teams towards meeting a project’s end goal is much different than managing a project with software developers or a manufacturing crew. It is a specific group that invests much more than manual labor each workday– its creativity. Keeping it flowing on a regular basis is not an easy task, and requires a lot of engagement and proper leadership. For project managers, it can be a true test for both personal managing and people skills. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that can guide you towards successful creative project planning.
Making a project plan is a base of successful creative project planning
After your project proposal is approved, it’s time for developing a project plan. It has to be thorough and to outline the course of work for each team member while keeping the triple constraint of scope, schedule, and budget in mind. Basically, the project plan describes the entire process of accomplishing the project’s goals.
A good project plan has to have 5 phases:
- Rounding out details and determining the best project management strategies which will lead to meeting the end goal
- Defining and prioritizing tasks, as well as setting deadlines and budget for each of them
- Allocation of tasks and resources
- Monitoring and ensuring that project progress is aligning with predictions made early on
- Securing client approvals on the completed project alongside payment delivery to contractors, vendors, and project team members
Take advantage of project management tools
With the progress of technology, project management has become much more effective. There are apps and software that allow you to make project management milestones, final goals, deadlines, and manage your whole creative team on just one platform. You can delegate tasks more effectively and set deadlines for each of them. Also, there are many communication apps that allow a much faster exchange of information, concerns, and ideas. All of the project management software and tools are very easy to use and don’t require any special training of your creative team members. They are a lifesaver when you are managing remote teams, especially ones in different time zones. Take advantage of project management apps since they can make your job easier, enable better team communication, clarify presentation of tasks and responsibilities and increase the overall success of project progress.
Keep in mind that creative project planning requires empathy
The age of tyrant management is a thing of history, fortunately. Good leaders always knew that the power of every company lies in its employees. When you acknowledge that they are real people with real problems that can affect their productivity, you will be able to find a better approach and find solutions that won’t affect the project’s end goal.
On the contrary, if you shepherd the project to completion while trampling over your creative team’s personal needs, you can end up with really poor results. Ask yourself what is more effective – constantly replacing creative team members or changing your attitude in a more empathic manner?
Oh, and that will happen, especially when creative thinkers are in question because nowadays, they have many different work options. Why would they work under management who doesn’t respect them and force results when they can find a much more pleasant work environment in another place.
People who are expected to be creative on a daily basis need more support, space, and understanding. It is the only way that they can produce quality content or product.
There are a lot of things to consider in project management. One of your tasks will be proper people management. Since you’re dealing with passionate creators, you have to get to know them and see what makes them tick. It will require a bit of psychology assessment to determine how to best use each team member – not to manipulate them, but to navigate them correctly towards meeting deadlines and goals. You will always have a better effect when acting as a motivating and compassionate leader rather than a whip-wielding taskmaster.
Act as a filter between creators and clients
In creative project planning, communication goes hand in hand with empathy for both your team members and your clients. In fact, as a creative project manager, you will be a kind of buffer zone between your team and your clients. There’s no need for them to communicate directly – you are there to translate the client’s need to your creators.
When passing along feedback from clients to creators, you will have to learn how to express opinions as actionable items, meaning you will have to transform the client’s requirements into concrete tasks your creative team can execute.
You will have to make sense of the multitude of opinions and communicate them to the team. And vice versa – you will also need to manage the expectations of clients regarding the team’s output.
Many creative project management tools allow feedback to go straight from the client to team members. Open communication with everyone might seem like a good idea, but it can also be counterproductive.
People tend to keep their opinions to themselves when they aren’t sure about their idea. When you ask for input, you will receive many more suggestions if the communication is limited only to project managers and team members. When clients or stakeholders are also in the mix, the flow of ideas might not go as smoothly. It is often a better use of time for everyone if one person – you, as the project manager – is assigned as the liaison or filter who decides which feedback should be implemented, and which can be ignored or deferred. It will keep misunderstandings to a minimum, and everybody will have a clear task in front of them.
Realistic deadlines are crucial for successful creative project planning
Never assume how much time your creative team requires to accomplish some task. Even if you had a similar project in the past, it doesn’t mean that the new one can progress at the same pace. There are just too many variables and making assumptions when setting deadlines can lead to project failure.
Before setting deadlines, discuss what might be a realistic time for the task’s completion with your creative team.
To determine that more precisely, you will have to gather all crucial information about the project requirements. This is another important aspect of communication between you and the client.
When you pass all the information to your team and notify them about desirable deadlines, they will let you know they can meet them. If the client has a deadline in mind which your creative team tells you isn’t doable, it will be up to you to make your client understand. Forcing and rushing your team towards the completion of impossible timelines is counterproductive for all included in this process.
The final result will probably be of poor quality. Even if an unrealistic deadline is met with good results, your team will be overworked and overwhelmed. It is almost impossible to be creative or productive in this state which can reflect badly on another project.
So, take a stand and set realistic deadlines for each project. The “Customer is always right” shouldn’t be your mantra if it will have negative consequences and put a successful creative project planning process in jeopardy.