A few months ago, I was working with a group of seasoned in-house managers on designing an in-house event. We had just begun determining what topics would be covered when one of the team, who has extensive design business experience, quickly jumped in and suggested that workload management and prioritization should be included. It was more of a plea than a request and, as we delved into the topic, I came to realize just what an “elephant in the room” issue this really is for the in-house design community.
It seems the challenge typically faced by most internal creative teams is one where these teams have multiple clients all with multiple projects that have competing deadlines. The groups don’t have the capacity to complete all the projects in their queue on time and they don’t have a manager who has the skill, will or authority to prioritize the projects and manage the blowback from clients who might have to accept revised deadlines.
This scenario doesn’t leave design departments with many options and none of the options they do have are beneficial to the creative teams or their companies. Often, when confronted with this situation, it’s all hands on deck and everyone involved deals with the chaos with a triage-like mindset. Priorities are then determined by which client is the most assertive, important or nicest; not exactly the best criteria for prioritizing projects.
There is no silver bullet for this problem but there is a first step and that is to acknowledge the problem, make management aware of the problem and it’s detrimental effect on the design team, the clients and the company as a whole and to proactively define and then implement policies, processes and procedures to tame this particular beast. This is an extremely difficult task given that different stakeholders will probably have competing interests, but until everyone is engaged in finding a solution, the creatives will always be left suffering through the stress, demoralization and ambiguity of endless priority conflicts, missed deadlines and perceived failure.