Project Planning for Creative People

Project planning for creative people needs to be completely different to traditional planning.
Most existing project management and planning tools have been created by technical minds driven by logical, structured though processes and where numbers and results are the keys to success. When the same approach is applied to the creative world full of colours, images and ideas there is an immediate clash of orthodoxies.
The creative mind tends to work in alternative ways, often non-linear, and although the desired outcome is essentially the same, project management in the creative arena needs to adapt to accommodate the needs of the creative user.

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Visual project plans work well for creative people – this plan was created with The MAPP online planning tool

There is often a natural conflict between those that run agencies and those that work in the studio, with the former focused on delivering profit and the latter on delivering design excellence – often at whatever the cost.
So in order to deliver successful project outcomes in these creative environments some changes to traditional project planning techniques are needed. It will usually require more conversation, potentially a template plan that is clear from the outset and keeps everyone on track, but most importantly a project management system that doesn’t look like it’s going to launch the next Space Shuttle. Using an easy project management tool that is a visual pleasure to use will go a long way to consistent engagement.
Some things remain the same such as defining the goals, business and creative, of the project at the outset. Using a proven template can then help to keep the scope within a manageable area of flexibility, while still allowing for some risk-managed deviation from the central plan.
Some things will be different however, especially in the world of collaboration which is an accepted, even required norm for most creative projects so the approach can never appear to be too ‘top-down’ or imposed. Even though a template may form the basis of the project there must be room for opinion, emotion and deviation.
The project manager themselves may have to take on an extended role, ensuring that the team of varying talents and skills can work together to the focused goal without forcing the creative soul to spend hours filling in forms or developing budget numbers.
In all cases empathy will be essential for project planning with a range of characters across an agency. It also requires less rigidity than you’d see in the logical world. With these organic solutions, it’s very hard to predict the problems that will come up.
Ultimately, project planning for creative people demands the existence of a few key elements: a simple template system, an open attitude and an empathetic focus on the goal. With these in hand, they will stand the project manager in good stead and minimise the chances of project failure.

A project planning tool for creative people

You don’t need a sophisticated tool to get started with planning with a group of creative people. A large whiteboard, some sticky notes, are a perfectly good starting point.
However, as the size of a team grows, or you have people working together from different locations, it can be helpful to have an online, collaborative planning tool. That way you can easily save your work, share it with colleagues, and add to your plan over time as your plans evolve, without creating a huge mess of sticky notes each time.
We’ve created a tool to do just that. It’s called TheMAPP and it’s designed to make planning simple, fast and effective. It doesn’t assume any background knowledge in project management so you (or Sue from marketing) can create your first project plan in minutes. Sign up for a free trial here and tell me what you think:
Create an online plan for creative people


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