It’s not easy managing projects on a creative team.

Creativity doesn’t happen in predictable timelines. It requires time and space to come up with unique ideas, and many iterations to perfect them.

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The problem is the client deadlines aren’t flexible. Your team has to deliver when clients expect. Otherwise, your team runs the risk of looking unprofessional and losing their trust.

So how does a project manager ensure that everything gets done on time while giving your creative team the flexibility they need?

Here are 5 strategies you can try:

Centralize requests

When project requests are coming from many different places, it’s impossible to keep track of them.

You may get four separate emails from a client just to understand the scope. Or a design team might get some requests in a messaging app and others by email.

When requests are so spread out, it requires a lot of work to translate and standardize them so the team can get started.

Save time and centralize your requests into one place.

This could be as simple as creating or assigning all incoming requests to a certain email. But if you want to improve efficiency of requests, forms can be a great option. That way you can ensure you get all the information you need upfront without lots of back and forth.

Plan ahead

Even though timelines can be unpredictable, it’s still valuable to lay out a project plan. Not only for the client, but also so team members can understand their role in the project. A clear and detailed project plan can prevent unnecessary status updates and meetings. All anyone needs to do is look at the plan to see what’s coming next.

What makes a good plan?

  1. Lays out all major deadlines and deliverables
  2. Includes clear assumptions that you can refer to if things change (e.g. there will be one iteration, any additional will set back the deadline)
  3. Clear defines responsibilities and dependencies
  4. Has buy-in from all major parties (clients and your team)
  5. Is easy to set up and update

Here’s an example of a design project that follows these rules. As you can see it’s clear who is responsible for what, when they need to complete their task, and how it fits into overall project progress.

Limit administrative tasks

The last thing creatives want to get bogged down with is boring administrative tasks.

It’s the project manager’s job to eliminate as much of that as possible, so creatives can focus on what they do best. This means taking responsibility for communicating progress with the client and translating their feedback to the team. It also means making sure every detail of the project is running smoothly and communicating to the team if anything needs to change. Your job is to make sure the creative process can flow.

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Another tool that can help you is creating templates for certain tasks and deliverables that you can copy into any project. This ensures that your team is always doing work in a consistent way. It eliminates having to monitor each task and it saves you time writing out your project plans.

Just Right Communication

Did you know that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption? And it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.

That’s terrible for productivity.

Especially for creatives who need time to do concentrated work. Your goal is to eliminate the unnecessary interruptions as much as possible, while also preventing miscommunication. Some possible strategies could include:

  • Encourage team members to block off a few hours each day for concentrated work
  • Reserve highly urgent requests to phone calls or in person so team members don’t have to constantly monitor other tools to watch out for important changes.
  • Limit notifications in chat apps to only the most important chat groups

Look to the past, Improve the future

Your work process can always be improved.

It’s the project manager’s job to look out for inefficiencies and find a way to do better. But it’s also helpful for the team as a whole to reflect and think of what they would do differently next time.

You could set up a project reflection meeting where you can analyze key metrics and have a general discussion about team performance. What metrics you use depends on the work your team does. Key metrics could include:

  1. Number of tasks completed in a project
  2. Number of iterations on a specific task or request
  3. Average time to complete a task

Then you iterate and tweak your work process. In no time, every (or most!) projects will be smooth sailing.

Project managing for creative teams comes with unique challenges, but with the right strategies in place, the team can be productive and efficient.

Want to to learn more?

Check out our free webinar: 5 Strategies for Improving Creative Workflow.