What Does Creative Management Mean By “Excellence”

So creative leaders, instead of just demanding “excellence immediately” and marching down the hall with the Darth Vadar theme echoing around you, try clearly defining for your team what excellence is, as if YOU were performing the execution. Next be ready to defend this method and then, most importantly, be flexible enough to change when and if reason dictates.

So @stop ( Doug Bowman, Creative Director at Twitter ) one of those designers and creative leaders I really look up to tweeted this out the other day.

“A deadline should not limit expectations of excellence. Rather, it defines the length of time you have to achieve excellence.”

And I (a little harshly I admit) tweeted back: “@stop Sorry, but that sounds like unrealistic management BS.”

His response: “@vanshea Initially, I thought of them working against each other. But ultimately, excellence can’t be compromised.”

And my response: “@stop Excellence ultimately defined by quality of deliverable, quality is subjective-this issue is a moving target w mgmt moving the target.”

I believe creative leaders should define “excellence”, not just demand good work, great work-the BEST work!! But to literally define what tangible execution accomplishes their idea of excellence.

As an example: While once reviewing an accomplished designer’s work, I gave this feedback:

“.. I love the main call to action button, but I’m not sure if our demographic will read it as a button quickly enough. My assumption is that they probably need a little bit of glossiness on a button for a quicker read. I know WE don’t like that treatment, but sadly we aren’t the primary audience.”

Eventually in this example, a more “buttony” button was made and it made sense to us. If creative leaders, me included, are trying to focus a team on producing “excellence”, it is up to us to clearly define our idea of excellence. Most importantly it is up to us to allow that idea also to be challenged. Creatives thrive on questioning authority and challenging The Rules. If there are tangible guidelines to work from, a structure is available to create against and/or rebel against or in the best case.. completely redefine!

In a recent visual design project I laid out some detailed ground rules for myself:

  • Drop shadows only on photos of people, none around other content boxes
  • Content boxes would stand out because of border color against background texture
  • Most buttons would recede by adding same texture as the background then highlight by losing texture on mouse hover
  • Uppercase titles would be used in substitution for a heading bar to ground the page
The product, Sitesimon, is aimed at an “early adopter” demographic and I wanted to give the audience a unique, comfortable, and clean content exploring experience, while not making the front end development too arduous.
These are only a few of the guidelines I gave myself and I’m sure over time some of these will change or be even thrown out. This boundary setting really helped me define the goals in this project and outlined my own expectations.
So creative leaders, instead of just demanding “excellence immediately” and marching down the hall with the Darth Vadar theme echoing around you, try clearly defining for your team what excellence is, as if YOU were performing the execution. Next be ready to defend this method and then, most importantly, be flexible enough to change when and if reason dictates.
Funny thing happened as I finished this post: I browsed Twitter and saw @motivatquotes had posted this:
“Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time.They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.” ~ David Allen
Well said Mr. Allen.
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Van

Author: Van

Accomplished human-centered designer, impassioned leader, enthusiastic educator and perennial learner. Versatile craftsman and thinker, facilitating solutions for positive change through empathy-driven ideas.

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