Project Management

How to Use Lean Principles Within a Creative Agency

Each quarter, we challenge ourselves to become more efficient, ensure client satisfaction and prevent employee burnout. In setting challenging goals, we research and test many new methods, one of which is Lean.

Often when we think about Lean, we think about manufacturing. But, what if we try to apply production line thinking to the creative space? Would Lean turn us into a production line, or would we find that it allows for our creativity to flourish? As we write this blog post, we have yet to find out, but we thought we should share which items we are implementing to help us be more efficient in all we do.

Lean has seven types of waste: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, and Defects. Looking at this list, we quickly see we can easily apply a few of these methods to our workflow. So we began with our focus on Waiting, Motion, and Inventory.


We were ahead of schedule on a branding project when it quickly came to a halt because we did not have all the necessary information. We needed to design and produce stickers, but we did not provide the stakeholder with quantity and pricing options before starting the project. This mistake resulted in us needing to stop the production of the stickers and meet with the stakeholder to finalize pricing and quantity. Since this was a branding project, we decided to move on to other tasks while waiting for the sticker decision. We found our next available task was a marketing landing page. As we dug into the task, we realized we were also blocked because we didn’t have the copy or assets for the page. Much like the stickers, we reached out to our stakeholders and asked for the needed information only to find they had not started thinking about the landing page just yet.

We went from having a project that was ahead of schedule to something completely blocked with a designer waiting on feedback and assets before moving on. Wait - is identified in Lean as waste. Looking at our current situation, we realized that if we had taken time to ask the right questions at the beginning of the project, our designer would not have a block, and our stakeholders would not be rushing to make decisions.

Look through your process and identify areas that are causing unnecessary waiting. Create a plan to ensure you are getting approval, feedback, and assets in a timely way to avoid having your designer wait on decisions.


Thinking about Motion the first thing that comes to mind is individuals within a production line moving from place to place. They aren’t necessarily adding tremendous value by moving but instead spending time and energy migrating to a different station. With the idea of humans moving, we thought: what are we always moving, and do we need to be constantly in Motion? We immediately thought of two things: our task management tool, Asana, and folder structures. Think about how often you have gone in to find assets only to discover they were not in the correct folder. Or the countless hours you spend moving tickets within your task management tool between columns and assigning the same person to tasks repeatedly. To quickly reduce the amount of Motion, we decided to focus on items we can quickly adjust without impacting our workflow too heavily. Within Asana, we used every Automated Rule the platform offers, which saved us time moving completed tasks to the Done column or assigning the same designer to each of their project tasks. On a busy day, when you quickly need an asset and you can’t find it, you can spend a lot of time and energy searching. To solve this, we implemented a standardized file structure known to all so we can eliminate putting assets in the wrong place.


The final item we wanted to focus on during our Lean Improvement V1 upgrade was Inventory. In manufacturing terms, Inventory is pretty easy to define. It is the overproduction of goods. We found we could apply Inventory to our cross-functional projects, including design and development. As we work through marketing websites, we always design and build a carousel. We decided to create an inventory of carousels we can choose from to save our team time and allow us to redirect that time to indeed wow the client.

We are excited to implement Lean into our current structure and see the outcome. To give you a peek into our next step, we will focus on Defects and further grow our QA process. If you want to learn more about the Lean philosophy, check out this article.

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