CMI report puts management approaches in the spotlight

Some 60 per cent of the workforce in the creative industries believe the prevailing management style is ’negative’, according to a new survey commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute.

The CMI report finds that within the creative industries, 22 per cent describe the management style as ’authoritarian’, and a further 22 per cent find it ’reactive.’ Creatives were among 5000 people quizzed across the British workforce for the survey.

However, while headline-grabbing, these results seem out of kilter with the experiences of design practitioners who have worked for consultancies across the industry.

Jon Davies, who founded consultancy Butterfly Cannon at the beginning of the year after 14 years at Holmes & Marchant, latterly as managing director, says a consensus of methods of practice and a shared vision are essential in establishing a content workforce.

He says ensuring that this vision is shared at the recruitment stage is vital, adding that at Holmes & Marchant all staff were encouraged to take responsibility.

But Davies says that smaller groups are likely to manage responsibly as well. ’When you’re running someone else’s business, you do care about it, but not like it’s your own,’ he explains. ’When it is your own, the staff are people who you want to look after, rather than a bunch of people you go to work with – and that’s more stimulating.’ However, he does point out that having the name of the proprietor above the door can create ’an autocratic situation’.

Robert Tammaro set up consultancy Undercurrent in February, after establishing the branding division at integrated marketing consultancy Meteorite. He also set up consultancy Vallis Tammaro in 2002.

Tammaro says that at smaller consultancies it is easier to engage staff and maintain creative levels. ’It’s important to get the contribution of every member of the team, where everyone is engaged from outset to implementation, instead of a dictatorial approach,’ he explains.

This philosophy can be less suited to a larger consultancy, says Tammaro, where ’more heads involved can ultimately lead to loss of creativity’.
The design industry is dominated by small consultancies, with recent Design Council research showing that almost 90 per cent of consultancies and in-house design teams employ fewer than ten designers.

While this means that, presumably, it is easier to prevent a loss of creativity at smaller groups, it also means people are often promoted to senior positions on creative merit, not through any specific management training. This is something industry bodies are understandably keen to address – for instance, with continuing professional development programmes and mentoring schemes.

Some consultancies are also attempting to tackle this issue themselves, by implementing less traditional management structures. Manchester-based digital consultancy Code Computerlove employs an ’agile’ management approach, rather than the more traditional ’waterfall’ structure, according to managing director Tony Foggett.

While the waterfall approach sees projects proceeding along a production line, from strategic and client-facing managers to creative production and testing teams, the agile approach means picking a multidisciplinary team that stays together during the entire project process from beginning to end.
As well as being inclusive, democratic and better for morale, Foggett says that ’problems are picked up in real time, as people come together, rather then further down the line. There is no hierarchy within the process’.

He adds, ’It’s as though we’re not running a creative business, we’re running a talent business – which includes getting the best people, retaining them and motivating them in the right kind of environment.’

Shopfloor feedback

Percentage of creative industries staff who consider management style in their organisations to be, variously:

Authoritarian 22%
Reactive 22%
Bureaucratic 15%
Risk-averse 2%
Secretive 4.5%
Innovative 6.5%
Accessible 13%
Empowering 11%
Trusting 4%

Source: One Poll, on behalf of Chartered Management Institute

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