Making Tough Decisions for Creative Projects

Brad Egeland Oct 2, 2014 2 min read

Being put in the role of primary decision maker when things matter most is definitely not for everyone. It is stressful, time consuming, risky, and career threatening (or advancing….depending on how you perform). It’s not for the faint of heart. And it’s not for those who don’t want the spotlight, either. But it isn’t an impossible situation to be in – and many thrive when this type of responsibility is thrust upon them.

Preparation is key, experience is helpful, common sense is necessary, and the ability to think quickly, react quickly, think out side the box, and to be able to perform without all the information in hand is critical to success in such a role. The creative project manager finds themselves in this type of situation likely many times over during the course of an ad campaign, creative undertaking, design project or other initiative where the project engagement requires creative thinking but may lack all the requirements necessary to ensure that the detailed scope is in place from day one.

How do you do it? How do you perform under such circumstances? How do you make the (hopefully) right call for your project, team and client? Success isn’t a guarantee and no one will make the right decisions every time. But how you do make that right call more often than not? Often times we have less information, time and access to experts than would otherwise be advised. Three steps… Yes, I said three steps. When faced with these poor odds, I follow a three-step process, make the call, and just have confidence that I did the best that I possibly could given the situation at hand.

#1 – Know the situation. First, understand as much as you can about the situation at hand – the situation that requires the decision. Ask questions, review the status, know the info. Without this basic knowledge, the chance of making a good decision is minimal…or will likely fall to dumb luck. And that’s nothing to base a project on – or to leave your career chances to. Seek info…it’s ok to ask more questions.

#2 – Access the experts. If anyone around can assist in making the decision, by all means call on them. You like being sought out as an expert, right? So does everyone else. It isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of preparedness and wise thinking. You may not find any experts, but seek out someone you trust and think is experienced, if necessary, and bounce ideas off of that individual. I realize there are those times when the timing of the decision is critical and this won’t be possible, but use it when you can.

#3 – Run it by the team and client. Finally, before you do anything that you can’t turn back from, run it by your team and client. They may have nothing to offer, but that’s not usually the case. And at least you can get some sort of buy-in from them that will make this all that much easier. And who knows, it may keep you from making a really stupid decision that sounded good to you, but to no one else. It’s like saying something out loud to yourself before you take it public. Does it really make sense? Run it by the team and client – that’s a must.


This may seem oversimplified…but what else can you do? Melt? No. When that’s not an option, the only thing you can do is move forward. Once you’ve lost one job or one big client, you realize that it isn’t the end of the world if it were to happen again. So, you do the best you can with what you have…and that’s all you can do. Besides, you were good enough and responsible enough and important enough to be needed in this role in the first place. So you if you make the wrong call, there WILL be a next time. Trust me. Once you realize that, you’ll gain the composure and confidence to make these types of decisions without constantly questioning yourself…no matter what everyone else may be thinking.

What's your experience in these types of situations? What is your key to get through the difficult decisions?

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