Process Makes PerfectBY Miles Fonda // Web Developer
When you went to college, the office of admissions had one. When you applied for your passport, you can bet that the Department of State had one. The contractor whom you hired to build your house, they certainly did. Even the local plumber, whom you hired because your sink wouldn’t drain for two weeks probably had one passed down through the family business. What I am referring to is a formal process to complete work.
Imagine, as you prepare to enter your first semester at that college, that you never receive your schedule. You call to figure out who you can talk to in order to sign up for classes and finish registration, but the administrative assistant simply tells you that there is no specific person who would know this.
Maybe after submitting your passport with the required paperwork two months go by. Then two more. Then finally, a year and a half. You contact the appropriate office to inquire about the status and are told that a lot of Americans are applying for passports, and there is no telling when they might get to yours.
What if, while building your new property, the contractor decided to just start doing things willy-nilly and built the parts of your house all out of order? Or if your plumber left the water on while removing a very important pipe?
You can imagine the chaos, frustration, and liability that would result from each of these circumstances without established processes guiding them. It is the same with the creation-development process that guides a major creative construction.
START ON THE SAME PAGE
The first step in having a creation-development process is being organizationally aware that you have one. Before a team of copywriters, designers, and developers can work harmoniously, each must first be on the same page about how that project will unfold. Many freelancers and agencies do have an informal process, but it isn’t clearly defined. Team members have a vague sense of what they need to do in their silo as individually skilled professionals, but it doesn’t always unfold in a consistent, orderly manner.
This can be solved by creating a formal written plan expressing what each role should do, in what order, and what the big picture is. A team working under an informal process may still be quite successful. However, when things do go wrong due to unclear expectations, or a significant change of plans occurs near the end of the project, burnout and difficult explanations with the client will be inevitable results. Just think what a team could accomplish if all members were all on the same page from the start.
Getting on that same page doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful, but it needs to be transparent and collaborative. Establishing some kind of a written document openly shared with all applicable members of the team outlining how they progress from point A to point B is a good start. Since any one person within an organization is not likely to be an expert on every aspect of a given project, input from all team members will be crucial in shaping the items in the document.
IT’S TIME TO GET CREATIVE
Team members who are not “creatives” may find it bewildering when they find their counterparts staring off into space mumbling to themselves for long periods of time, looking through combinations of 600 typefaces that can start to look the same, or filling notebooks with incomprehensible doodles. But rest assured, this is an integral part of the creation-development process. And while it may not immediately make sense why 26-and-a-half versions of a logo need to be created over 10 hours to achieve that perfect design to present to the client, creative time is part of that process – or at least it should be.
The amount of time a team spends fostering creativity has a proportional effect on how creative the result of the project will be. For example, a process that allows a designer to spend just a day imagining, researching, and trying out new creative approaches will force that designer to pick up the most interesting idea he could come up with within just that day and run with it.
However, a creation-development process that reduces pressure and allows for more energy to be spent creatively will allow the designer to ideate and play around with more approaches, with less risk involved in abandoning or beginning each—allowing her to discover a solution with more creative potential. The creative muse can be a fickle and unpredictable thing. While experienced creatives learn to summon it with a more reliable frequency, real creativity remains a valuable and difficult to accomplish objective which is why professionals are invoked to accomplish it.
The bottom line is while some aspects of a project such as development will require far less time for iteration, ideation, and creativity, enabling creative exploration to be an expected part of your process so the team can chase these musings is important.
BURNING OUT IS ONLY FUN IN A CAR
While not always explicitly a primary goal, a good creation-development process can not only ensure smooth collaboration and quality of work delivered, but also protect everyone involved in the project from extreme stress and burnout. Preventing burnout is of course beneficial because it protects work culture, employee effectiveness, and unnecessary turnover.
We all are only finite beings that have limited capacity physically, mentally, and emotionally. If we become overloaded, have unrealistic expectations placed upon us, or are unclear of what we are required to accomplish in a project, we may or may not be able to meet those demands. Success in such a stressful scenario will be accomplished through significant mental drain and emotional fortitude. However, failure would constitute a waste of potential when which could have been effectively utilized. Too much stress is an enemy of creativity—figuratively and biologically.
If your creative-development process sets boundaries for reasonable deadlines as well as clear and realistic goals, the fearful burnout stage can be prevented from the start of any project. Then when the coals actually need to hit the fire, you can ask more of your team and get better results.
“A-S-A-N-A” SPELLS TEAM
There are hosts of software systems and platforms designed for project management purposes, but Levelwing prefers Asana. It allows us to keep communication and task lists centralized and allows us to all collaborate on a shared set of objectives clearly. Others platforms like Monday, BaseCamp, or even FreedCamp work in similar fashion. Whatever tool suits your team, project management software is a crucial piece of the puzzle for collaboration in a creation-development process.
“But we are used to using email!”
You may want to consider getting un-used to it. Email can be a valuable and needed form of communication in the right context but trying to use an inbox as a project management system is like asking your mailman to also be your accountant.
Project management software is designed specifically to solve the problems faced in a creative-development ecosystem and is built for collaboration. The best email can do is work like a long, messy, chain letter where parts of the conversation continually get misplaced. Catching up on tasks or following along can be difficult especially when many voices get involved, whereas a program like Asana can make those points immediately clear with tools like tasks, sub tasks, notifications, asset storage, milestones, and visual cues indicating status.
EVERYONE LOVES A SUMMARY
In conclusion, a clear and robust creative-development process can have profound effects on any organization from the way individuals are able to smoothly collaborate to increase the overall quality and effectiveness of what they create together. The specifics of that process may be different depending on the type of work and individuals in the team, but the following principles will help to make that process a success:
- Identify the need for a creation-development process.
- Transparently create the bones of the process with the individuals who will be doing the work. Formalize this discussion into a document.
- Establish realistic goals and milestones to protect your team from burnout.
- Your creative team needs time to be creative. The amount of productive creative time you can allow into your process will be proportional to the level of creativity you want your project to embody (and possibly budget!)
- Use email for its designed purpose of quick communication. Use project management software to improve projects and processes.