A Guide to Managing Creative Teams
Creativity is a funny thing. Creative people need the freedom to be able to come up with concepts and develop their ideas. But too much freedom can be a bad thing. The truth is that even the most out-of-the-box creative projects require firm and structured management if you want to get the most from the team responsible.
In this blog post, we’re going to deep dive into the why’s, wherefores, and how-tos of creative team management. We’ll explore what project management should look like for creatives and discuss its benefits for your team.
What Does a Creative Project Manager Do?
The essence of a creative project manager’s role is simple: It’s their job to enable teams of creative people, such as art directors, designers, and copywriters, to work together effectively to meet the objectives and timeline of a project. In that sense, it’s very similar to a project manager’s role in construction, software development, engineering, or any other field.
However, getting a team of creatives to sing in perfect harmony poses different challenges from these other sectors. Most projects follow a strict timeline, with every task assigned a specific amount of time and resources to complete. In creative projects, good designs and concepts are seen as the result of inspiration, not time. There’s no telling whether that creative spark will arrive in minutes or hours, which is why creative project managers must build far more flexibility into their timelines.
That’s one of the primary reasons why it can be so difficult to navigate project management for creatives. The team must be managed in such a way that their milestones are met and deadlines are adhered to, while still having the freedom to approach their ideas from every angle they need to.
What are the Benefits of Creative Project Management?
According to one report, 82% of creative teams use project management software. That shows that most businesses feel it’s important to impose a certain level of structure on the creative process. But what are the benefits of using a project management tool?
Efficiency is essential when managing creative teams. Most creative businesses have several projects running simultaneously, which could easily lead to confusion. That’s why it’s essential to have a framework in place that maintains an overview of the project at all times. This keeps track of when projects start, how they are progressing, what tasks need to be completed in what order, and who is working on them.
While this can be done by a project manager, most marketing agencies use project management software like Scoro to gain oversight and enable the project team to collaborate and stay on track. Most importantly, creative work management software must be flexible, customizable, and easy to adapt so that it can meet the needs of diverse project teams.
Goals and processes are clearly defined
Projects can’t succeed unless individuals and teams know what their goals are. Without clear targets, even creatives can struggle for motivation. That’s why defining and communicating these goals up front is such an important part of project management. Once everyone is aligned, steps can be taken to optimize the processes to achieve those goals and to prevent team members from getting lost in unnecessary tasks.
Setting clear goals also makes it much easier to measure the success of a project once it has been completed. For example, if the KPI of a social media advertising campaign is to drive a 20% increase in engagement, then it’s pretty easy to assess whether that goal has been achieved and adjust your plans accordingly if there’s a risk it may not be met.
Employees feel recognized for their work
Clearly defining everyone’s role in a project not only helps to remove confusion and avoid tasks being dropped, it also helps employees feel recognized for the part they have played in the project’s completion.
When employees feel appreciated and recognized at work, they are more likely to be engaged. Recognition also drives productivity, with employees able to claim ownership over certain tasks within a project and be held accountable for the timeliness and quality of the outcome.
Creatives can work without distraction
According to research by the University of California, a typical office worker is distracted every 11 minutes, but takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task afterwards. Every time an employee shifts their attention away from the task at hand, they lose momentum – and that can take a huge toll on creative teams.
An important part of project management for creatives is eliminating those distractions. Scheduling time that’s reserved exclusively for creative thinking and problem-solving allows employees to immerse themselves in the creative process and work on their projects without distraction.
How Do You Structure a Creative Team?
A successful creative team should enable free thinking and innovation without taking over floor space or making life too difficult for other teams within earshot. While budgets and resources will dictate its exact makeup, an ideal creative team structure would typically look something like this:
- Creative director – This is the respected and experienced creative who is responsible for leading the team. They will want to get their hands dirty but must also oversee the overall quality of the output.
- Senior creatives – Senior copywriters, designers, and art directors will manage the work of the creative teams below them, offering advice and assistance to the creative director when required.
- Creative executives – These are the creative thinkers responsible for coming up with the high-level conceptualizations across all channels. These creative teams will be made up of designers, copywriters, art workers, and developers, depending on the scope of the project.
How Do You Manage Creative Teams?
Now we know what a creative team structure might look like, it’s time to think about the techniques and best practices you can apply to manage them effectively.
- Give them enough time for creativity
Creativity takes time. Austin Kleon of the New York Times once infamously wrote that “creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing,” but that’s not strictly true. Stanford researchers have found that walking can improve creative thinking by up to 60%. Creative teams certainly need time, but what they do with that time depends on their own individual processes. To give your creative teams the time they need to be inspired, shield them from as much administrative work as possible. That means no unnecessary status update meetings, generating reports, or estimating time spent on specific tasks. Instead, let them completely focus on the creative tasks where they provide the most value.
- Avoid micromanaging
If there’s one thing that’s sure to hinder the creative process, it’s micromanagement. While you can dictate the budgets, output, and timings of your team, you cannot dictate how the work gets done – you need to have full faith in the creatives to get that done on their own.An important part of project management for creatives is trust. You have to relinquish control and trust in the ability and talent of your team. We’ve already discussed how setting clear goals is key when managing creative projects. Once those goals are set, however, take a step back and defer to the superior knowledge of your team.
- Communicate openly
An open line of communication is crucial, not just with your team members but with all of the project’s stakeholders. This includes the client, who should be kept in the loop and asked to validate every step of the project. That will reduce the risk of scope creep – every project manager’s worst nightmare – and help to create realistic expectations. Open communication between team members should also be encouraged so that information, ideas, and progress can be easily shared. While it’s important to give your team plenty of creative freedom, they also need guidance and feedback to achieve the best results. Scheduling frequent catch-ups will help to keep everyone on the same page.
- Understand their needs
Empathy is a helpful trait to have when managing creative projects. You have to understand that the creatives you are working with may not think or operate in the same way as you – or each other. They are likely to be more visual, emotional, and intuitive, and have a harder time following stringent rules and deadlines. That’s why you need to have compassion and give your team the time and space they require to execute their ideas, while being open and approachable so they know you are there when they need you. If you’re curious to learn more tactics for keeping your creative team in line, we recently canvassed nine industry experts for their creative project management tips.
Providing Structure for Creativity
As we’ve seen, managing creative teams takes a certain amount of creativity in itself. You may have to think outside the box to allow your team to work in a way that suits them, all while sticking to the budget and timeline.
Scoro can help you with that. We can centralize the function of many existing tools into a single solution to remove distractions and help you plan, manage, and sell your time effectively. Schedule a free demo or sign up for a free trial today and get ready to achieve the impossible: a simplified creative process.