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A couple years ago I read an article from the Harvard Business Review that really rang true for a me.  I have referenced and referred to its insights on numerous occasions, given much of the work we encounter challenges us to find a balance between control and chaos.

Working in operations within a high paced, innovative environment consisting of a global, world class brand marketing team presents many challenges. Our clients where innately A-type personalities with diverse culture that includes capable, detail oriented, strict project managers as well as those with a creative flair that naturally resists any sort of structure, barriers, rules or requirements that could slow them down; especially when it came to tools for their trade. Solutions to standardize or automate must be done with great efficiency and sensitive care.

“Not only does standardization reduce accountability, but it causes workers to switch to autopilot.”

This article provided some great insights to the fine balance of when it is appropriate to standardize a process, and when to back off of a process that contains a element of creative or artistic freedom in the value it creates.

Retail and Brand Marketing are challenging areas that holds in its arms a mix of unique creative and artistic value and detailed logic and analysis to be successful.  Uniqueness and creativity is critical to reaching an increasingly discerning consumer. Detailed clean data and logic are needed to drive statistics, sales and demographic analysis. These processes requires a great deal of standardization to capture and analyze accurate data to be fed back into the creative marketing machine. It is a perfect storm of art and science.

UnknownIn the past, I have been witness to and a part of teams that have attempted to standardize all the processes in a dynamic business, including the creative processes. These efforts seemed to result in resistance, frustration and confusion.  In some instances, a half-hearted change management approach was partly to blame (that is another article altogether). The trick this article pinpoints, is the importance of finessing our own discernment of what elements can be standardized that has a true value stream. What elements should maintain it’s own creative free-flowing cycle within the greater processes that depends on it? We also must learn how we can support the creative process to provide innovative value and make room for it. Yet, as the article states well – not extend artistic license to all areas of the business that surrounds the creatives either!

“…when evaluating the division between art and science, managers must be wary of “art diffusion”: unwittingly extending artistic freedom to the people who surround and support artists.”

The next exciting challenge then rests in aligning all of the smaller free flowing processes with the structured processes to meet hard deadlines and deliverables. That then becomes the great dance.

Check out the whole article here for yourself: When Should a Process be Art

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