Operational Excellence

Can You Manage a Creative Project That You Don't Believe In?

by Brad Egeland, October 7, 2014

I recently saw a discussion thread about a topic similar to this. Though I didn’t dive into the thread – I haven’t even read it yet – it made me think about this topic in terms of project leadership for creative undertakings. Could I lead a creative project for something that I wouldn’t want to be involved with?

It made me start to think about this from different life angles. Could I vote for a candidate I didn’t believe in? No. I’m not very political…and generally if I don’t believe in either candidate I won’t even vote because I figure I’m wasting my vote or potentially backing a bad candidate if I voted just to vote. Could I have children if I didn’t love kids? I’m not a good one to ask on this since I have eleven kids. I can’t envision a life that doesn’t include me being a dad. Could I buy products I didn’t think were good products? No...why would I want to waste my money? I wouldn’t just knowingly buy a bad product – even if it was a friend’s product and I would be supporting him or her by doing so. I try not to waste money like that. Would I work for a company or individual I didn’t respect? Well…maybe…for awhile, but I wouldn’t knowingly enter into a situation like that. I have worked for companies that I later felt weren’t well-managed companies. And I’ve worked for managers that I did not respect – because they did things that caused me to lose my respect for them. But as an independent consultant – with the ability to chose what projects I take on and what companies I become involved with - I can say that I would not do that…and I do not do that.

So back to this conceptual question of leading a campaign or project for something I didn’t believe in. Could I do it? Could you do it? I think it would be very difficult – and generally not a good idea – for the following reasons…

It would likely show in the quality of work. Being the project manager for a project or creative ad campaign just to get the work done is not likely going to yield a quality outcome. Going through the motions on a project is not going to bring out the best in me or likely anyone as a project lead. I find it hard to assign people to project tasks and ask them to do their jobs well for a product or effort I believe is bad or wrong or not in the best interest of the client I am leading the effort for.

I would be a poor spokesperson for the application. Going a little further with the previous topic – I would be a bad “spokesperson” for the application I was leading the project on. If it’s a marketing campaign, then I would find it hard to “sell” it. If it’s a product I think is of poor quality, then I would find it hard to ask a client to buy into it. I think my clients are the most critical piece of the puzzle, and I try to take their best interests into consideration when I’m leading projects and campaigns and engagements or initiatives of any kind. If I can’t buy into it myself, then it would show in how I try to “sell” it to them or to the general public or upper management or whoever I have to “sell” it to.

When I took on my first consulting gig leading projects for a health management online portal organization – I had to really understand and believe in their offering and their team before I would jump in and work with them. And my first assignment was to “save” three projects that were going down the tubes and could mean the end of company. So it was critical that I “sell” the company and their ability to deliver to these upset clients…and I didn’t have a lot of time to turn things around. I got up to speed, I decided what they were offering was a great product, and I brought those three clients in and did a face to face presentation to each of them on why they need to stick with us and let me manage their projects back to health. And it worked. But it would not have worked if I didn’t believe in the product we were selling them.

Money is not good motivator. I like earning money for the hard work I do as much as anyone. But I believe it is a poor motivator. Anytime I’ve followed the dollar and not the head or heart, it has turned out poorly. So it probably sounds sappy to say this, but I need to believe in an organization and the projects they undertake and the products or designs or campaigns they crank out before I can do work for them. Really, the type of company and the products they have mean more to me than the money they are paying.


What about you? Could you take on a project that you didn’t believe in? If you think you could, what would it take for you to do it? I have to clarify on the money aspect…I’m not stupid so there is a dollar amount where I would tell the world that brussel sprouts is my favorite food if I had to. But on a daily basis, money isn’t the consideration. Tell us how you feel about this concept and maybe even give us a real example where you have had to make a hard choice.

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