How to use Lean principles within a Creative Agency
Each quarter, we challenge ourselves to become more efficient, ensure client satisfaction and prevent employee burnout. In setting challenging goals, we research and test many new methods, one of which is Lean.
Often when we think about Lean, we think about manufacturing. But, what if we try to apply production line thinking to the creative space? Would Lean turn us into a production line or would we find that it allows for our creativity to flourish? As we write this blog post we have yet to find out, but we thought we should share which items we are working towards implementing to help us be more efficient in all we do.
Lean has seven types of waste: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing and Defects. Looking at this list, we quickly see we can easily apply a few of these methods to our own workflow. So we began with our focus on Waiting, Motion and Inventory.
Waiting We were ahead of schedule on a branding project when it quickly came to a halt because we did not have all of the necessary information. We needed to design and produce stickers, but prior to the project starting we did not provide the stakeholder with quantity and pricing options. This resulted in us needing to stop the production of the stickers and meet with the stakeholder to finalize pricing and quantity. Since this was a branding project, we decided to move on to other tasks as we waited for the sticker decision. We found our next available task was a marketing landing page. As we dug into the task, we realized we were also blocked on this because we didn’t have the copy or assets for the page. Much like the stickers, we reached out to our stakeholder and asked for the needed information only to find they had not started thinking about the landing page just yet.
We went from having a project that was ahead of schedule to something that was now completely blocked with a designer waiting on feedback and assets before being able to move on. Wait is identified in Lean as waste. Looking at our current situation we realized if we had taken time at the beginning of the project to ask the right questions, our designer would not be blocked and our stakeholder would not be rushing to make decisions.
Look through your process and identify areas that are causing unnecessary waiting and create a plan to ensure you are getting approval, feedback and assets in a timely way to avoid having your designer wait on decisions.
Motion Thinking about Motion the first thing that comes to mind is individuals within a production line moving from place to place. They aren’t necessarily adding tremendous value by moving, but rather spending time and energy simply migrating to a different station. With the idea in mind of humans moving, we had this thought: what are we always moving and do we need to be constantly in motion? We immediately thought of two things: our task management tool Asana and folder structures. Think about how many times you have gone in to find assets only to find that they were not in the correct folder. Or the countless hours you spend moving tickets within your task management tool between columns and assigning the same person to tasks over and over again. To quickly reduce the amount of Motion, we decided to focus on items we can quickly adjust without impacting our workflow too heavily. Within Asana we made use of every Automed Rule the platform offers, which saved us time moving completed tasks to the Done column or assigning the same designer to each of their project tasks. On a busy day, when you quickly need an asset and you can’t find it, you can spend a lot of time and energy searching. To solve this, we implemented a standardized file structure that is known to all so we can eliminate putting assets in the wrong place.
Inventory The final item we wanted to focus on during our Lean Improvement V1 upgrade was Inventory. In manufacturing terms, Inventory is pretty easy to define. It is the overproduction of goods. We found we could apply Inventory to our cross functional projects that include both design and development. As we work through marketing websites, we find ourselves always designing and building a carousel. We decided to create an inventory of carousels we can choose from to save our team time and allow us to redirect that time to truly wow the client.
We are excited to implement Lean into our current structure and see what the outcome looks like. To give you a peek into our next step, we will focus on Defects and further grow our QA process. If you want to learn more about the Lean philosophy, check out this article.