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7 Key Elements to Balancing Good Project Management With Creative Freedom
By Michelle Symonds

If you work in a creative industry, or have creative elements within your project team, you might find it hard to lead these highly creative professionals effectively without stifling their freedom. Striking a good balance between creative flair and robust management is critical if you are to achieve the innovations you need, but it is certainly no mean feat to achieve this.

Inspiring creativity whilst still keeping your finger on the pulse of day to day activities is challenging, but not impossible. Project managers can help themselves to achieve this balance by considering these seven key elements.

  1. Understand the creative personality: By working to understand what makes and maintains a creative personality, you will be better equipped to manage these people without being overbearing. Conflict can be rife within a creative project team, so ensure you embrace and learn to manage this element of the workplace.
  2. Give them their wings: If you have truly brilliant creatives under your management, let them have their wings and watch how they do. Learn to take a step back, and allow them to go off at minor tangents to explore their creativity, but be there to rein them back in if you feel they are deviating too far from the project aims.

  3. Create inspirational values: To truly liberate creativity yet still remain a leader, you need to live and breathe the values that your team and organisation represent. Leading by example is essential, and by demonstrating that it is still possible to be creative whilst maintaining control, you’ll be teaching your team how to do this too.

  4. Demand excellence: Requiring excellence from your project team is not about striving for perfection. Rather it is about instilling a spirit of high performance in everyone and everything you do.

  5. Create a culture of innovation: Focus on creating a culture where innovation and bright ideas are praised and rewarded. Maintain one eye on the overall goal, and make sure you are sticking to your milestones and timescales, but make sure everyone knows they have the freedom to find a better way of doing things if they can.

  6. Put a robust structure in place: Creative types are not against structure and organisation, but if these elements are not clear, then they will struggle to conform. Make roles, responsibilities and structures of your project team crystal clear from the outset, otherwise you risk having people wandering off task and into other peoples’ domains.

  7. Be real: Being an authentic project manager is critical in any team, and even more important when you are surrounded by creative personalities. Being able to admit, to share and to learn from your mistakes will help them to see you as a real person, and encourage them to do the same which will foster an atmosphere of trust and understanding.

Learning to manage a project in a creative industry is no different to any other project environment. The fundamentals of project management still apply, but by considering these additional elements you can ensure you are creating the best environment for ideas to be born and innovation encouraged.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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