When it comes to change during the creative process, there are typically two camps: "Hate It" and "Will Tolerate It."

Developing a creative product requires change. Departmental staff may have different motivations when reacting to change. Creative staff may be concerned with maintaining the creative integrity of the project, while Account Managers may be concerned with clearly communicating client revisions to the team and assuring they are completed to client standards. For a project manager there are two critical project elements that change may impact: timing and budget. Typically two rounds of revisions are built into schedules and cost estimates. When projects exceed 2-3 rounds of client revisions, it may be necessary to revisit the scope document or creative brief to see where things went off track. If estimates are necessary, incremental fees may be required.

Sounds cut and dry, right? Actually, keeping up can be difficult when managing multiple clients and 30+ projects simultaneously. If team members are confused on direction, due dates are missed or clients are averaging 5+ revisions on each project, it may be time to establish a change management system. A change management system has many benefits:

    • Documents all the necessary project details to share with the team
      • Due Dates
      • Next Steps
      • Client Revisions
      • Schedule Delays
      • Additional Costs
    • Encourages team and client accountability
      • Organizes all project revisions by client and project number--no more sifting through emails to recreate history
      • Provides a project summary to discuss with an out-of-hand client
      • Indicates areas of need for managing resources
      • Can be a fairly automated process (with a tool in place)

There are a few suggestions when implementing a change management system:

  • Assure the process is documented with the approval and support of all department leaders
  • Introduce the process to staff and clients well ahead of time with FAQs and samples to review
  • Allow a few weeks for the process to become a habit

You may think that because your team is not a chargeback team that change orders and a change management system are not in scope or are unnecessary for your team, but this is not the case. In fact, you may be even more successful at implementing a change management system. Affecting client behaviors is one of the most significant challenges in-house leaders face. Leaders in chargeback organizations often hear, "I'm paying for it, I don't care what it costs; just get it done" (or hopefully something a lot nicer than that). In a non-chargeback department, you don't have the "whip" of additional costs. Instead your "whip" is appropriate use of internal resources. When clients regularly make considerable changes to projects already in progress, this negatively impacts the progress of all of your other projects. Documenting and reporting consistent "offenders" will help to change these behaviors. Of course there are times when strategy changes mid-project or an event occurs that causes a need for the change, but other times the change is necessary due to a lack of enough upfront planning and strategizing. Ideally, stressing the impact of the change across the team and to other clients within the organization will coach repeat offenders to better behavior in the future.. It will also create a paper trail for the team to remember these clients and potentially treat them differently during the intake process to help them provide better briefs and more realistic timelines given their history.

With a change management system in place, the "haters" will move toward tolerating and everyone--maybe even clients--will appreciate a consistent process that allows the focus to return to creating amazing work.