It's a new year. Company leaders have communicated their mandate(s) and chances are you and your team created a document that outlined your objectives (or maybe these things are in progress). Maybe you've titled these objectives the Go Forward Plan or 2013 Goals. You probably identified designated owners and deadlines. This fantastic document is an excellent detailed description of the initiatives and goals, but it can be cumbersome to refer to daily. As a result, people go back to doing what's in front of them such as the "fires" or the juicy projects that come from above. The less glamorous projects fall to the black hole of "I'll get to that as soon as I finish this..."

But here's the thing. In order to have a thriving and healthy department that is recognized as a necessity, as well as valuable, within a company, there needs to be a continuous focus on both the immediate get-it-done and the long-term strategy, simultaneously.

Black hole projects fall into the long-term category. For example: analyzing data to justify your existence, a Brand Visual Audit to ensure consistent customer experience or the search for a more collaborative Project Database system that allows you to truly partner across divisions in a way that an outside agency could never deliver.

I recommend making a 2013 resolution to prioritize these black hole projects. It starts with your commitment - in words and action. And it happens with holding each other mutually accountable. One tool that can help is a big and shiny poster listing the top priorities. I call this The PTP, Prioritize These Projects. But you can name it the Black Hole or some other clever and funny title. Whatever you decide to call it, here are the 3 components:

  • There should be at least 3, and no more than 5, PTP projects listed. Be sure to name the initiative a self-explanatory name.
  • For each project:
    • Write a 2-3 sentence description; the WHAT
    • List 3 benefits; the WHY For example: who it helps within your department, who it helps outside of your department, what skills the team will develop by doing this project or by implementing the results of this project.

    • Here is an example of a PTP project entry:

      Collaborative Project Management Database System
      Research, purchase and implement technology to cultivate greater collaboration within creative and with marketing partners.

      1. Transparent and shared data will result in increased partnership which will likely lead to reduced turnaround times and stronger on-target creative solutions.
      2. One source for all data related to a project will streamline and expedite the search for materials to be multi-purposed across projects.
      3. The team doing this analysis will expand their knowledge of creating a compelling justification and negotiating with vendors and finance.

      However you choose to display the list of the 3-5 projects, give a junior designer the chance to design it beautifully--on brand and extra fun--and then hang it up BIG and visible. Make it shiny and eye catching. Sprinkle it with glitter if you think that will help. Glamorize the unglamorous and stay committed to getting these done.

      Think of these projects as opportunities to fulfill the skills column on your team's IDPs. Your role is to empower, guide and trust. Let them know that they're learning business skills needed to run their own agency, if they should have the inclination.

      As Peter Drucker, the management guru, said, "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."

      Cella Consultant Rena DeLevie's nickname is "COO of the Creative Process." She has 25 years in the creative industry; first as an art director for 8 years, then in Creative Operations for the past 17 years. Rena has, and continues to, provide business coaching and mentoring services throughout her career and has successfully taught creative executives how to partner within and across departments. She works with clients to define specific and actionable steps towards their goals and ensures they're in alignment with the Company mission. Her passion is to help companies and people succeed by listening, analyzing and proposing solutions. She values creativity and business equally.