Operational Excellence

Being Creative at the Wrong Time Can Really Cost the Creative Project

by Brad Egeland, September 25, 2015

There is a time for creativity.
In fact, it can often pay off with a great solution to your client's project - far exceeding their expectations and bringing them back for repeat business for many years.


There can also be a time for shelving some creative license just to get the job done. I've had that personally with clients. The paralysis of analysis sets in - especially when you're trying to "show off" your best creative talents to a new client and you end up overanalyzing, over creating and overthinking to the point of either not anything done or at least missing some serious deadlines along the way. 

The best solution, of course, is to find that happy medium between too much and too little creativity. You want your team thinking outside the box when possible and when practical – especially if the project is more creative by nature. However, there is something to be said for just getting work done and staying on budget and on time rather than starting to go off track. What I’m trying to say is that there is such a thing as “good enough” when we are trying to adhere to a schedule. My son helps me on some creative consulting and project work I do – he is experienced and professional. However, he can get mired in the “paralysis of analysis” and go long periods of time without making forward progress on work – and by that I mean making meaningful forward progress as he may stay at 90% complete on a task because he can’t call himself done… he overthinks the work too much.

If you find that you are at a crossroads between your creative sides, needing to get the project done or on to the next phase, and you are concerned about compromising some quality or delivery satisfaction on the project, I suggest taking one or more of these three actions:

Gather the team. Your project is in jeopardy in terms of schedule, budget or likely both. You’re trying to figure out what you can do to get back on track without sacrificing quality and creativity. But it’s becoming apparent to you and probably to the team – even if you haven’t officially discussed it yet – that you’re going to have to sacrifice something to come in under the wire. What will that be? Gather the team to discuss. Unless the client has said something already, (which they likely haven’t at this early point), then formulate a plan of action with the team, first to take to the client. If you can do so without losing critical time, it’s always better to come to the client with a plan of action or solution rather than just a problem. Trust me on this one.

Take it to the client. Next, contact the client and discuss the problem at hand. This step may be first, depending on the situation, the client, the problem... Do you negotiate out some requirements that will take the solution down a notch but get it completed on time? If they crunch in budget, and time is your fault, they won’t be happy and they'll probably want some compensation. If it’s their fault due to changing requirements but an unmovable end date, they will probably look at removing some creativity, or they will want to do a phased release approach. Either way they will probably happily work with whatever you can jointly come up with. 

Move forward as is. The third approach, which may just be the only real option, is to move forward as is.  For a creative project like an ad campaign, a huge marketing effort, or a product or web design, it’s doubtful the there is much room for change – especially without extensive, costly and time-consuming redesign work. So you may have to plug away and burn through critical time and dollars on the project. Whether it’s a change order or not depends on where the fault lies. Good luck!


Summary / Call for feedback 

Late changes are going to be difficult in any project – especially a creative project where it’s all about the look and feel. But there are options in some projects to make tweaks in order to get the project timeline or budget back on track. Meet and plan. That’s the best you can hope for.

How about our readers – can you think of a time you’ve had to (or tried to) negotiate some creativity in the requirements in order to get the project back on track? Did it work? How did it affect client satisfaction?


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