Case Study 2:
Developing commercial reality in a creative environment

Working in a Sales and Marketing Division of the world’s largest spirits company we were asked to help develop fundamental changes to the way projects were managed. The culture of this division encouraged creativity and innovation to such a degree that commercial reality often got lost in the process, resulting in pressure from the parent company to improve financial performance. One senior manager remarked that it would be innovative for people within the company to “run a marketing campaign that was within budget and resulted in sales targets being achieved.” Therefore, our role was to help develop a process that channelled creative energies and innovative ideas within a framework of commercial reality.

This required a major change not only to the behaviour and attitude of the middle management and senior staff but also at executive level in the way they directed people and projects. We designed a process that facilitated live project teams as they worked on business projects. It provided a structure to ensure effective communication and planning through clarification of goals, individual responsibilities, and working relationships. In the initial stages the sponsoring director/s were involved to open up effective communication channels and ensure detailed clarification of goals and expectations. Teams were coached and supported during planning, in the early stages of project implementation, and at other key stages in the projects.

All projects were reviewed in detail and a summary of learning presented to the Executive team. This established a framework for all project work and established clear roles for the directors in guiding projects across the company. Key learning points were as follows:

  • Working in a more structured way could enhance creativity rather than hampering it.
  • A framework of clearly defined roles and boundaries helped to provide direction and focus. This stopped projects from wandering off at a tangent and getting lost in “marketing speak,” rather than addressing the underlying issues affecting the project.
  • By finding new ways to work together, people from different functions (marketing, finance, production) could enhance one another’s performance rather than block it, as had happened in the past.

The process resulted in the successful completion of a number of key projects: they channelled creative ideas, yet came in on time and within budget; in addition the individuals working on the projects developed a more rigorous commercial approach. This was recognised as a contributory factor in the company’s overall achievement of its business plan targets during the year.