We extolled the virtues of small earlier, but one of the consequences of our decision is that there is less body to absorb the blows when changes hit our studio. No matter how meticulous our planning, it’s inevitable that things will shift and we’ll have to retool on the fly to adapt to the new parameters we’re working within. While it would be nice at times to have extra resources at our disposal to ease the pressure of compressed timelines, new deliverables or shifts in direction, we have learned to live without and even thrive.
Central to this is what we call Aggressive Productivity. Rather than a defined process for each project we take on, we rely on a general approach and attitude that allows us to be nimble and flexible while still hitting our objectives, standards and timelines. In order to keep pace, trust and communication across team members is essential.
1. Know Where You’re Going
While defining the long-term goal at the outset is crucial to the success of a project, productivity is achieved in the short-term milestones and deliverables. Understanding how each these short-term objectives fit into the larger whole make it possible to quickly identify the consequences of a change and how it waterfalls throughout the entire project. What seems small in the context of one deliverable can have a huge repercussions on the overall goal and the ability to foresee the greater impact is crucial to ensuring our efforts are productive in moving the ball forward.
2. Know How to Get There
Planning for project focus and task clarity is critical to agility. We lean on the strategic backgrounds of our team to map a clear path of deliverables and tasks, large or small, to ensure everyone understands the short-term objectives and long-term vision. Part of this mapping is managing schedules to allow for concentrated blocks of uninterrupted work time. Focus is crucial to productivity and we do our best to plan so that team members avoid the tiny changes and interruptions during the day that kill flow and waste time. If small changes/tweaks are necessary, they are fit into preexisting gaps in the day or used as breaks to help our team come back to the larger task with fresh eyes and renewed energy.
3. Know When to Ask for Directions
Getting stuck is natural. Staying stuck is a killer. Recognizing the need for help or a fresh perspective is vital to maintaining forward momentum. Being small, there is an intensity and intimacy to our environment that quickly breaks down barriers and boundaries between our team members. We have all recognized that we’re in it together and have to lean on each other in order to deal with the ups and downs of a constantly shifting landscape. And, by fostering casual but decisive conversations, it keeps our team calm and collaborative in stressful moments. In an industry famous for “churn and burn”, it’s how we mitigate simple mistakes and keep our work on-target.
4. Create Without Fear
While we don’t follow the “no answer is wrong” motto, we believe there are multiple ways to solve a problem. To generate this multitude of options, we work hard to ensure the studio is a place where everyone – regardless of role –feels safe to bring a new idea to the table. This opens and trust in each other makes us fiercely loyal to our team and the work, an increasingly elusive engagement metric. And, when put into a situation where we must quickly change direction or adjust course, it allows us to collaborate and collectively explore creative solutions to find the best path forward.
5. Know when to stop and laugh
We set the bar high for ourselves and push each other to surpass it. And while there is an intensity to how we work, we also spend a good part of each day laughing. Maintaining perspective is vital to staying engaged and productive. And, in a working world where an estimated 80% of doctor visits are due to stress, stopping to laugh at ourselves and others is literally a life-saver. Many workplaces move in ping-pong tables, bean bags and kegs to synthesize “culture”, whereas we believe in keeping it simple. Good people, great work and the occasional breakfast taco.
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6. Always look for a better route
Working with rapid-fire tech innovators in Austin has helped us create and recreate our process as-needed, maintaining a strong foundation while staying as agile as possible. Course correcting early, often and without hesitation allows us to, simply put, produce better work, faster. Every brand is different, every client is different, and therefore process is not one-size-fits-all. An open mindset, versus a rigid process, helps us adapt to deliver the best solution for our clients, especially when the details or objectives change midstream.
For the unprepared and uninitiated, it can feel a lot like chaos, more akin to crisis management than a creative process. But, to us, it’s a carefully orchestrated flow of communication that allows us to maintain our pace and productivity while accounting for the course corrections change necessitates. At least most days.