Literally translated from Japanese to English, Kaizen means “Good Change”. The inference in business terms becomes improvement, or the process of continuing improvement. Kaizen’s history in the business world began with manufacturing and is closely associated with 5S Lean, but like any simple theory based in the scientific method, it can be applied to broad range of industry. I would argue that holding the principles of Kaizen as a core value is especially imperative for the Creative Agency Project Manager.
Today marks an important day for me personally. After my third 5 Boro Bike Tour, I can happily say that I am not sore or fatigued. I can boast these claims due to one thing, training. In preparation for the ride I worked a strength training routine to combat patellar tendentious, I rode regularly to build my endurance, and I ate a diet that would support a six-hour expenditure of energy. On my first ride, I did none of these things and I paid for it as a consequence. On my second 5 Boro ride, I did some of these things and reaped the rewards of my hard work. On my next 5 Boro in 2014, I can work toward a new goal now that I have this base to jump from. At the risk of sounding too self-helpy, there are few things in life that cannot be viewed as a project, and even less that wouldn’t benefit from a systematic quest for continuous improvement.
The Creative Agency Project manager must have a Kaizen mindset, or be forever relegated to the role of a reactive coordinator and firefighter.
The Creative Agency Project Manager, with cross-functional teams and increasingly diversified service offerings becoming the norm, is responsible for managing a big hairy mess of ever changing sets of data. Trying to oversee these disparaging inputs and outputs can be a daunting task to say the least. At best, most PMs settle for being able to detect the ticking time bombs and quickly put out the fires that arise in any given day. When called upon to do so, they hobble together reports for executives with spotty details on status and commitments. Not unlike the Little Dutch Boy plugging up holes as they come, they are stuck in a reactive cycle that overburdens their workday with unproductive, menial tasks.
In other posts I have discussed the tools of Kaizen–spaghetti mapping, swim lane diagraming, Kanban, Six Sigma, and 5S Lean methodologies–but the the most important core value of the Creative Agency Project Manager to posses is the spirit of continual improvement. This is a key personality trait that must be engrained into the Creative PM, the upbeat attitude of seeking make the processes of the agency better. The cornerstone to Kaizen is the reality that the quest is never over, the journey to can never be completed. As such, the Creative PM needs to have a fire in their belly to review, revise, and implement innovative approaches to process, procedure and policy. That, or they are resigned to a career of reacting to the stimuli directly before them.