Being a project manager at a creative company like IDEAS has been referred to as “herding cats” which I have to say is a pretty good description. Creative team members can be extremely independent and often work on their own schedules. The one thing I’ve learned as a project manager is that you “can’t schedule creativity”. Sometimes your best thoughts come in the middle of the night, or as you drive home after a long day of meetings. Collaboration is also important to a creative company as none of us likes to think our ideas are the only ideas. A creative thought might get you started, but it takes the entire team to provide the spark for that one moment when everyone knows “this is the good one”.
Scheduling creative is more of an art than a science. Clients in today’s world want everything in days instead of weeks, minutes instead of hours. First I have to get the entire team together, and with a small company, that can be a challenge, as we all wear many hats and share numerous responsibilities and projects. And like cats, creative team members can easily be distracted by more glamorous projects or more immediate deliverables that demand their attention. Like with my cat at home, I know that she is going to do things on her own time and on her own schedule so I use that knowledge when working with our creative team. I introduce them to the objectives of the project, explain the deliverables and timeline, and let the team tell me when it can get done. That gives them the control that they desire. For me, I now have a commitment from them, and a timeline for completion. Managing a client’s expectations is the most important part of the process. I don’t want to be the contractor that keeps promising you the electrician will be there tomorrow knowing that it may be several days before there is even a chance. Knowing the process and the time it takes can go a long way to making your client happy with the wait. Herding cats isn’t real difficult, as long as you know where you are heading, and what your boundaries are.