If you’ve worked on collaborative creative projects for any amount of time, you’re almost certainly familiar with an immutable law of management: demand for your team’s services will eventually exceed the work your team can produce.
The better you perform, the more your work is in demand, and the harder it is to manage. When this happens, requests too often get bounced along to whoever’s available in the moment, regardless of how much that person already has on their plate. As a result, work falls through the cracks or gets completed way past deadline. Team members burn out. Work quality suffers. Soon enough the demand dies off — but not in the way you hoped it would. You go out of business. Let’s look at what you can do to prevent this problem right from the start.
Before you commit to a campaign, estimate your timeline. Then add a 50% buffer
From the Scottish Parliament building to Wembley Stadium to the Channel Tunnel, large-scale construction projects are notorious for going way over deadline. The same thing happens with digital creative projects. You think you’ve got everything settled, and then a coworker is out sick for a week. Or project expectations shift wildly. Or you find that a team member missed a key piece of communication, resulting in serious delays.
The only thing you can anticipate with certainty is that each campaign will hold an element of uncertainty. Because of this, it’s wise to add a 50% buffer to your campaign at the outset. This means that if you think a project will take two weeks, make it three. If you think a project will take a month, add two extra weeks.
Doing this will force your team to start earlier than they think they should. Initially, this may be painful, but over time you will establish a firm expectation for never going over deadlines. Even better, your team will have plenty of room to know whether you need to hire new team members long before things get too stressful.
Ask every team member to define at the outset what success looks like
If you ask your team members to define what success on a project looks like, you might find half a dozen different answers. The designer wants to create something that wows other designers. The copywriter wants to be noted for something cheeky. The finance team just wants something that’s under budget. And the project manager just wants to get it done on time.
Is this the case for your team? If so, it might be a sign you’re starting off on the wrong foot before you even start the first lick of work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen. Teams get an assignment and start running with it, only to find at the end that they missed the mark completely.
To fix this, start each project with a clearly defined statement about what success looks like. Does success correspond to page views? Conversions? Revenue-generated? All of the above? If so, what are the exact metrics you will be measured on to determine success?
Once you have a clearly defined statement about what success looks like, ask each team member to demonstrate how they will contribute. For instance, if you’ve determined that your project will be considered a success if you can get 2% of prospects who view your project to convert to the next stage of the market funnel, your team members might say the following:
Designer: “I will help us get a 2% conversion rate by creating three design options and testing to see which performs best.”
Copywriter: “I will help us get a 2% conversion rate by making sure my writing is genuinely helpful — especially as it relates to the call to action.”
Project manager: “I will help us get a 2% conversion rate by making sure we’ve carved out enough time in the project to properly A/B test our ideas.”
You might even have each team member add this sentence — which clarifies what success looks like — directly in the initial project document itself.
Above all, you can see that this approach still leverages the strengths of each individual team player while inviting them to put the priorities of the project above their individual priorities.
Have a single point of request intake
Key to managing your resources is knowing how much work is flowing into your team. Unfortunately, the typical team’s routine for receiving work requests – through sticky notes, emails, watercooler chats, etc. – can make it impossible to say at any given moment what your team is working on. If you can’t see your request flow, you can’t control it or align your resources to it.
To win at resource management, narrow down your channels for request intake down to one, whether an email alias (Ex: firstname.lastname@example.org), a simple ticketing system, or a feature in your work management software.
Having a single view will make all the difference, especially as your team grows. You won’t have to worry about people missing tasks, or not being able to work remotely. It’s all right there, in one place.
As the novelist Arnold Bennett said, “The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life.” You and your team have the capacity to exceed expectations. By adding a 50% buffer, defining what success looks like and having a single point of request, you’ll do just that.
Jada Balster is Vice President Marketing at Workfront