So you got the brief from the partner, shared the relevant costings and agreed on a schedule to produce the creative work for their intended use. From the prior meetings, you have established a deep understanding of the project needs and an inkling of the wants of the stakeholders.
You have an intervention plan if your partner suddenly becomes doubtful (for whatever reason!) and starts behaving like a client. You understand that there will be problems and come what may, you are ready for the tidal wave. Everything is in place and you feel ready to start production! But should you?
Before jumping into it, it is advisable to add another step; anticipate the potential problems that might arise. Tedious right? But this proactive approach is certainly worth the time and effort in ensuring the production flows as smoothly as possible. Imagine being able to recall multiple plans and solutions at your disposal!
Expecting the Unexpected
Whether you are pitching for a potential job or thinking of starting production, being able to anticipate the possible problems helps to increase the odds of achieving the desired outcomes that you want. There is not a single version of the future. So logically, we need to think of multiple possible situations to plan contingencies that can develop and influence the projects that we lead.
So comes the next question; how do we start? There are two basic methods that I would recommend:
Method One: Scenario Planning
This strategy, which also calls for some imagination, I found to be fairly effective in a creative setting. Shell has been using the technique since the early 1970s, so their application of it is very thorough and extensive. But even a basic version will be helpful to the majority of businesses/studios.
I favour this strategy because it allows me to maintain control by identifying assumptions and determining how to react.
On a fundamental level, scenario planning allows participants to anticipate problems by visualizing potential risks and opportunities based on certain assumptions. It helps stakeholders understand possible outcomes and impacts, craft responses, and manage positive and negative possibilities.
Unlike the traditional scenario planning (can refer to this good resource: https://www.smestrategy.net/blog/what-is-scenario-planning-and-how-to-use-it), our version has been modified to cater to the creative industry:
- Understand the brief; needs and wants
- It is super important to get a good grasp of the brief (needs vs wants) to make a proper assessment of the entire project and the full set of information that you need to start production.
- Identify the critical uncertainties
- Once you have a firm understanding of the brief, start making a list of missing information, unconfirmed points of discussion, floating/debatable topics and potential red flags. Go as wide as possible. For example, two common uncertainties that we often faced are the approval process for partners and scope creep.
- Develop a range of possible scenarios
- The idea here is to visualize the various scenarios that can play out based on the above list. Some of them can interweave into one or a few other points but ultimately, ensure that they remain realistic.
- Discuss and plan the course of actions
- The final step is to decide on the course of actions to be taken to overcome and prevent the possible scenarios. It is best to have an in-depth discussion with the planning team so that comprehensive feedback can be provided before making the final decisions. Consider the feasibility of the actions based on resources (machines and artists), budget and time.
Example of Scenario Planning
Consider a creative studio called ‘CREATIVE XYZ’ that is seeking to remain the leader of innovation in the animation industry. The studio then decided to use scenario planning to anticipate possible problems and carve opportunities.
Firstly, CREATIVE XYZ needs to form a multidisciplinary team to identify the scope and objectives of the scenario planning exercise. The goal here is to study potential future scenarios that might have an influence on the animation business, comprehend their ramifications and devise methods to succeed in each situation.
The team then conducts in-depth research to pinpoint the major technology developments influencing the 3D animation sector. This includes topics like real-time rendering, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and generative animation approaches.
The next step is to produce a set of potential scenarios based on the gathered information. Each scenario can present different pictures of the future of 3D animation. For example, one scenario would imagine an industry dominated by real-time rendering and virtual reality experiences. Another scenario might imagine a future in which AI-powered animation tools revolutionise the production process.
The team then assesses the possible implications and risks of each scenario. This includes analyzing risks, opportunities, challenges, and potential disruptions. From here on, CREATIVE XYZ can plan strategies and solutions that can work for different scenarios. For example, acquiring new hardware and software, working with technological partners or educating the workforce on cutting-edge methods. In the event that a particular scenario unfolds, CREATIVE XYZ will already be prepared with the appropriate course of action.
Method Two: Progress Tracking
This approach is rather different because it depends a lot on the studio/company and the vast experience of its employees. As the saying goes ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’. It is best to gather the important learning points and reapply them to future projects. This continuous learning process helps to create a communal library of accessible information.
Having the right mid-level to senior team members can help complement and reinforce the progress-tracking methodology. These individuals have accumulated experience working at various organizations and are most likely to have gone through numerous scenarios. The diverse pool of talents can share insights and help craft solutions at different stages of the project.
The historical information about the company and the employees’ collective past experiences combine to create a range of potential outcomes. The best part of this is that it allows you to cross-reference them and begin conceptualising new ones. Because they don’t have to start from scratch and have a variety of references to discuss, this gives members a vantage point when planning scenarios or solving problems.
Preparation is Key
It can be quite exciting to start on a project after getting confirmation from your partner. But it might be wiser to spend a bit of time trying to map out and anticipate the possible problems that can arise. You can rally your team and start playing out the permutations that can occur. Or get each other to share insights on the different problems that may happen.
In either case, there is a win-win situation where everyone is aware of the potential causes and repercussions. This reduces the chances of a problem catching you off-guard and increases the likelihood of success because knowing is half the battle!
Graphics by: Deemei Ong (https://www.instagram.com/deeeemei/)
Need some visual inspo? We collaborated with Hegen to produce an animation for their All-Rounder Cup: https://www.behance.net/gallery/162808857/Hegen-All-Rounder-Cup