5S Lean: standardization in the creative project

Task harmonization in creative agency projects

Mention the word standardization in the creative agency an you are likely to see an abrupt change in the countenance of your audience. The two terms, at face value, seem at odds with one another. How can you standardize something as intrinsically unique as creativity? Skilled project management professionals within the creative agency should be able to find the fundamental basics of project work-flow the that can be standardized across what would seem vastly different project types.

In my last post I deconstructed a task in the schedule of a creative project using a component of Six Sigma called SIPOC. In this post I want to review an aspect of 5S Lean Manufacturing that lends itself to our industry: seiketsu. In Japanese, seiketsu loosely translates to cleanliness or “to tidy”. The common adaptation of this concept (1of 5 in 5S Lean) is standardization. I want to look at how the project management professional in the creative agency can employ seiketsu to the series of tasks across their project portfolio to create value through standardization.

Looking for opportunities to standardize tasks across project types, agnostic of their functional areas, can bear many fruits:

Tracking budgets across multiple projects

  • How much effort do we expend doing X in the firm?
  • Is that the best we can do?
  • Standardizing the naming allows for meaningful measurement that can address both questions.

Trafficking projects by milestones and deliverables

  • How many projects are in the planning stages today?
  • How many internal reviews are due for proofreading today?
  • Adding standard naming conventions makes it easier to report on project status across multiple projects types.

On the contrary, treating every project like a completely unique beast:

  1. Doesn’t offer tremendous value internally or externally
  2. Can be confusing for assigned resources
  3. Misses essential reporting opportunities

When authoring a new brochure project for example, are you 100% certain that you cannot borrow tasks from a Power Point project, or an HTML E-mail? In the graphic above, different project types are calling the quality assurance task by different names. Renaming the task to harmonize across these projects can effectively “brand” the process in the agency.

Again, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this topic!

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