20/20 Hindsight

Cella_slant_header20/20 Hindsight
By Jackie Schaffer

None of us do everything right the first time around. Being able to reflect on what you would do differently is a healthy exercise. Doing so allows you to course correct, help others learn from your missteps and demonstrate professional growth.

Across the past three years that I have been with Cella, I have had the good fortune of being exposed to how hundreds of creative teams operate, which has lead me to consider what I would do differently in my former role.

  1. Exercise more flexibility with the staff
    I practiced what I was taught and never sought to change that. Our creative team, like most, was often asked to work late, come in early and work weekends. The 40-hour week was an anomaly. While we had in place loaner laptops so folks could work from home during non-standard business hours, we didn’t typically extend the opportunity to work from home on a consistent basis. In addition, we were pretty insistent that folks were at their desks between 9am and 5pm. I would like to have found a way for staff to enjoy a more flexible schedule that would not have unfairly impacted their colleagues, clients or projects.
  2. Implement a Project Manager for tier 1 multimedia and print design projects
    Often these projects were project managed by the Creative Director, a design team manager, the lead designer or myself. Our clients, the projects and each of us would have benefited from moving this piece of our jobs to a dedicated Project Manager. Like many heads of creative teams, I was challenged to trade off 1600 hours of design time from a Designer for a Project Manager. But I have witnessed the incredible change and progress adding traffic manager, project manager and/or account manager roles have made for creative teams. At the very least, I should have piloted the Project Manager role for 3+ months to evaluate the impact.
  3. Utilize the title Creative Director
    Like many organizations, the “Creative Director” title was challenging because the “Creative Director” wasn’t necessarily director level. But implementing that title, regardless of the individual’s actual level within the corporate hierarchy, would have helped the “creative directors” gain credibility and establish authority more quickly.
  4. Start our offshore team with at least three designers
    I was very cautious in only hiring two designers during the pilot phase. But given the higher turnover the India office was experiencing and the more challenging recruiting and hiring landscape, three team members would have been much better. The first team member I hired in India is still with the company and was a stellar hire and performer. But her first teammate lasted two weeks, and his replacement lasted two days. Luckily the third person we hired for that role stuck around for a few years. A third position would have provided a wider safety net.
  5. Purchase an off-the-shelf project/agency management system
    We had a great FileMaker Pro system, but we were outgrowing the system. I’ve detailed why I would do this differently in a past blog which is available here: http://www.cellaconsulting.com/blog/reflecting-on-2011-what-ive-learned/

The good news is there are many things our leadership did really well either from the get-go, or via course correction. We were very open to updating our org chart annually, revising roles to meet the changing needs of our clients, and growing our services and team to be ahead of our clients’ requests. But there was always room for improvement.

Please share what you would have done differently and what you advise others on!


InHOWse Managers Conference
Did you know there’s a 3-day conference devoted solely to helping in-house design managers succeed and thrive and the author of this column is one of the conference speakers? Come hear more insights from Jackie Schaffer at the InHOWse Managers Conference. Attending will help you take your career to the next level and get you face to face with other creatives just like you. Don’t miss this unique experience!


Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.