Manage with Measurement / Create with Feeling

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on Monday, 24 March 2014 in Blog Posts

Yin-Yang-200Examples of yin-yang, the notion of opposites being interdependent, are all around us.  Examples include dark / light, north / south, and Iron Man / Iron Lady (I’m not too sure about that last example, though).

Creative businesses regularly have an interesting example of yin-yang to accommodate; the often opposite concepts of business management and creation.

“Management by measurement” is not a new concept, but it’s one in which I strongly believe.  Businesses, especially those experiencing change or growth, generally find it beneficial to follow key business indicators, and the more objective these indicators, the better.  In other words, measurements of hard data such as margin, return rates, and debt to equity ratio offer companies the ability to quantitatively answer the “How are we doing?” question.

In contrast, creative businesses are also dependent on entirely subjective measurements.  The costumes for a theatre’s new production may be described as “pretty”, “sexy”, or “Elizabethan” and the lead track on a band’s album may be called “dark”, “upbeat”, or “baroque”.  It’s critical for a creative business to design their product by subjective means.

Where creative businesses often experience difficulty, though, is in the balance between objective and subjective measurements.  For instance, I think we can all agree that describing a theatre company’s debt to equity ratio as “sexy” would be neither an objective or helpful business measurement technique.

Here are some suggestions for balancing objective measurement, and subjective creation, for creative businesses:

1.Mutual Respect

Foster a work environment in which all appropriate parties respect both the business and creative aspects of your business.  Singers don’t have to understand double-entry bookkeeping, and accountants need not understand solfège, but it’s important for your business’s singers and accountants to respect each other’s disciplines.

2.Separation of Duties

Where possible, separate business management and creativity.  If your business is large enough, clearly define roles and responsibilities so that creative and management duties are divided amongst different people.  If your business is smaller, you may benefit from defining times or places for both creative and management tasks.  In all cases, however, try to avoid falling into the “everybody does everything” method of running your business.  Henry Ford, in developing the assembly-line method, found that specialization benefits productivity.

3.Encourage Trust

Engage both creative and managerial personnel that are both competent and trustworthy.  If you cannot trust your management team to independently attend to the different aspects of your business, then it’s time to make changes.  Remember, business owners cannot expect their company to grow if they do not delegate to, and trust their team.

Ensuring the appropriate balance between “management by measurement” and “creation with feeling” can seem overwhelming, however, creative businesses succeed best when these apparently opposite concepts are kept in balance.

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