We have recently been through an exciting exercise to re-define our business. As part of this process we have been interrogating exactly what we do, and why we do it.
With years of industry experience and expertise behind us, we started our own design consultancy six years ago, and we assumed, frankly, that this would be a relatively straightforward exercise.
It was anything but straightforward.
The process revealed that, as Project Managers, we were far too modest about what we do. We were trying to hide behind the, commonly perceived, more exciting roles the industry has to offer, because, somehow, working within the creative industry, we felt that we needed to be talking about the ‘creating’ in order to gain respect, rather than the process and delivery.
Yet the role of Project Manager within the design industry is, and always has been, a critical one. To ensure a successful result, be it an event campaign, an annual report, a website or a cereal packet — all projects we have successfully delivered — there needs to be a rigorous level of organisation and co-ordination. There are inevitably multiple work streams and numerous people working on even the simplest of commercial design projects, and without a professional overseeing the entire process this can and frequently does go wrong
So, what is the problem and why is project management so often seen as an inferior part of the design process?
We have started to identify at least two strong possibilities why. Firstly, we may be failing to explain our role to the creative team as persuasively as we should. Maybe we need to educate our teams better on what our roles really involve in order for them to view us as critical members of the team, not just bag carriers and note takers!
We, too, are qualified design professionals in our own right. Our area of expertise is working between the client, who sometimes has little design knowledge, and the creative team. We are critical communicators and facilitators throughout the process as well as constantly managing expectations, budgets and timings.
This brings me to a possible second explanation for misconception of the role. The design industry itself. So many larger agencies relegate the Project Manager to a relatively low position internally and under promoted externally. A role generally, under a Project Director, typically fulfilled by someone with less experience in the Industry. In most agencies I have worked, it doesn’t pay well to stay as a Project Manager for too long. Yet, we get better and more meticulous with age and experience.
Having started this definition process, we feel this is just the start and there is a lot more we can do to really raise the profile of the Project Manager.
At The Langtons, our only management positions are Project Managers, we fully embrace the importance and seniority of this role. Our business model is to bring together bespoke teams for each creative project. We have always respected the value our design partners bring, however, the exercise of re-defining what we do has lead us to realise that we need to ensure the entire team values our process led approach and the concept that the delivery process is as valuable as the end product.
We believe that the journey of the design process should be as much of a valued deliverable to our clients as the end product. At the outset of a large and complex project, such as an annual report, we want them to feel reassured that whatever the journey throws at them, they will be guided through a meticulously managed and organised process to get to the final project delivery.