Balancing Creativity and Efficiency: Operational Strategies for Design Excellence
As operators we desire to implement the most effective solutions to meet our goals and continue to grow our businesses. However, effective solutions are not just about how amazing the solution is. We must keep our budget and timelines just as high of a priority. This balance between service excellence and cost and time restrictions is not easily attained.
At creative agencies achieving this balance comes down to 3 key factors:
- First and most important, is fostering cross-functional collaboration between the creative and operations team.
- Second, is empowering individual team members to implement solutions.
- Third, is bringing it all together in the creative process.
Building Team Collaboration Through Shared Goals
Before we develop our creative process and talk about implementing new solutions, the entire organization needs to be aligned with our business goals. Our organization consists of two distinct teams. First, our creative team who provides the best design strategies and solutions for our clients' brands. The second is our operations team whose goal is to stay within set timelines and budgets. To achieve operational excellence, both teams need to work in harmony balancing their distinct goals.
Communication and collaboration are paramount to reach harmony. We prioritize cross-functional team meetings each week and have implemented an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) initiative that defines individual goals and how they contribute to the organization's main objectives. We define success as all teams reaching their goals, and encourage operations and creative team members to collaborate with one another regularly.
A cross-functional environment may seem less optimal at first, it takes time to reach a consensus among team members who may be unfamiliar with issues beyond their initial expertise. However, over time these meetings empower the team to reach stronger solutions in half the time and reduce the number of follow-up meetings on identifying limiting factors when it comes to solutions.
Staying Agile by Empowering Individual Team Members
Now that collaboration between the two teams has been established, we must not forget the importance of empowering the right team members to act and make decisions. This allows a business to be agile and solve problems quickly and works best when the individual team member considers solutions with both their goals, as well as the goals of the other team in mind.
Operationally, when we identify solutions, we cannot afford to only consider the cost and timeliness of the solution, but its impact on our creative team as well. For example if our creative team’s goal is to provide a new web design service, the cheapest and simplest solution might not be the best to meet their needs. We must consider which options would work best for their needs while remaining on budget. In addition, hiring a new team member with the desired skills may not be an option, but we could contract an expert or purchase learning materials and acquire the tools for our creative team. If the creative team’s goal is to focus on upskilling the latter option would be better, or if the creative team’s goal is to protect their bandwidth the former may be the right choice. The best answer is the one that most aligns with each team’s goals.
The Intersection of Creativity and Operations – The Creative Process
As a business-to-business branding and design firm our creative process is at the core of our values. Our process implements the three key fundamentals mentioned in the introduction:
- The design excellence of our creative team.
- The timeline and budget of our operations team.
- And most importantly, the expectations of our clients.
First, knowing the full scope of our design team's abilities empowers us to deliver high quality work for each project we take on. Our designers are always learning new skills and bringing in new experts to solve more complex problems.
Second, our team’s budget and timeline for the project is a crucial part of our process. Each phase requires a specific amount of time and effort, which means proper term considerations per project and the cost needed to deliver the highest quality results.
Third, our client’s goals and expectations define our success. Design plays a critical role in our client’s branding needs and we understand how effective design can be in securing their success. We don’t simply make logos; we create the aesthetic foundations of a brand that will become recognized, known, and loved.
By utilizing all three of these fundamentals our creative process drives success for our clients’ brands. Our creative process is a framework that is flexible and continues to grow with us. It is our foundation and guide for all new services and solutions that we implement.
There is no simple answer to balancing creativity and efficiency in operations, and each organization must find the flow that works best for them. The most effective components include team cross-functional collaboration to align goals, an agile problem-solving process that empowers the individual to implement new solutions, and a well-developed creative process that acts as the framework to achieve design and operational excellence.
Next time we will discuss one of the most common problems encountered by growing businesses, scope creep.