Why successful teams need producers, not just project managers

Linda Zid

October 8, 2018

When it comes to version control issues, sloppy mistakes and deadlines that keep slipping through the cracks during creative projects, Michelle Kinsman, a true producer at heart and an executive director of production and operations, says that you really need to ask the tough questions:

  • Did you really understand what you signed up for?
  • Did you know how to effectively manage client expectations?
  • Were roles clear, and did you really have a handle on how all of the pieces connected?

The resulting chorus of voices around you might say “we did what it took to get it done,” “it was broken from the start” or “we don’t have the right process in place.” But it really might not be a process problem at all, and instead is a “people problem”—to be solved with the right person taking the reins.

“Behind every successful project is a great producer,” Kinsman said, during a webinar cohosted by OpenText Hightail and Adweek. The webinar, “Why You Need Fewer Project Managers and More Producers: Fix Your Broken Workflow,” looked at the core issues behind agency problems, the differences between producing and project management and actions you can take when changing your organization’s workflow mindset to help producers excel.

“A great producer makes the entire team better,” she said, adding that they take pride in combining “art, science and magic in helping the team and the work shine.” And while those producers might have varying titles, including producer and even project manager or program manager, Kinsman said, “It’s not about title, it’s about mindset.”

So how do you know if there is the right mindset on your team? Kinsman suggested several questions to consider to learn if someone on your team has the hallmarks of a great producer, including:

How do they measure success? Kinsman said to figure out if they are cracking the whip with the ultimate success metrics of on time and under budget. Or do they consider themselves part of the creative team, with the ultimate success metric being the quality of the end deliverables? “At the heart of every successful team is a producer who is focused on generating the best work possible,” she said.

How do they respond to change? Are they focused on risk management, or do they expect the unexpected? “At the heart of every successful team is a producer who is a steady force, who knows how to keep a team safe in uncharted territory”

How do they adjust their communication style? Do they have a low tolerance for different workstyles, or do they realize everybody has to work differently? “At the heart of every successful team is a producer who adjusts their approach to serve individual team member needs.”

To help producers be successful, Kinsman also shared actions that can be taken to change the agency mindset, including investing in tools to make everyday transactional work as easy as possible. “At this point, if you’re routing documents via email or hard copy, you just need to stop. … You just need to stop wasting time and resources and make this kind of stuff easy.”

While Kinsman said a great producer, even empowered with the right tools, can’t solve everything, she added, “You can have the most beautifully designed process document, templates, tools, rules whatever. They’re all meaningless without a great producer at the helm.”

Watch the webinar on demand for a better understanding of why you need more producers, and for four more actions to take to change your organization’s mindset. Interested in tools to help producers and creative teams can collaborate better? Sign up for a 14-day trial of Hightail for Business, where you’ll have access to features designed to streamline the creative process, such as sharing large multimedia files, previewing assets, collecting precise comments, approval routing and more.