Last Minute Projects…Accepting the Reality

By Jackie Schaffer

Most in-house creative teams suffer from 80% of the same challenges—just some suffer these challenges more so than others. Some of those common challenges are:

  • Projects that never reach completion
  • Unreasonable rounds of revision
  • Projects with questionable business impact
  • Ill-defined or short career paths
  • Not enough staff
  • “Hurry up and wait” periods
  • Little or no notice on when to expect projects

There are ways to minimize many of these challenges, some easier than others. In regards to “haste projects” (those projects that creative teams receive with little to no notice and those where a quick-turnaround is required), an account management approach can greatly reduce the frequency of these requests. This doesn’t necessarily require a full account management team, as many in-house teams are too small to allocate headcount toward account management. Someone or several people on the team needs to take time to review the annual cadence of projects submitted by clients and discuss upcoming projects with clients.

Many client groups have projects they do each year and typically these projects fall around the same time of the year—so shame on us, the creative team, if we can’t figure out this cadence and work with the client to back out deadlines in advance of our team learning of the project.

In addition, rarely are substantial projects dreamed up on Monday and enter the creative team’s queue on Tuesday—I did mention rarely, but it can happen—especially at the executive level. But for most creative teams this is a small percentage of their total haste projects. Instead many projects are being budgeted, researched and planned for in advance, but it doesn’t occur to our clients to tell us early. The creative team needs to create an occasion for clients to tell them about upcoming projects. One approach is a quarterly meeting between one member of the creative team and one (senior) member of the client group.

But no false promises or pie-in-the-sky theories from me—haste projects are going to happen. Our goal is to minimize haste projects by adapting our practices to get ahead of them. Our reality is accepting that haste projects will always exist and part of our value proposition as an in-house group is our ability to be agile and deliver against these last-minute requests.

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.

Cella is a co-author of the In-House Creative Services Industry Report and authors weekly blogs on business operations topics pertinent to the role of creative leaders.