KPIs for creative design teams

“KPIs are great! But not for creative teams.” It is a pushback that we hear quite often. Heavenly creations cannot be captured in something worldly as metrics. Right? Wrong!

Creative teams could be exempt from KPIs if they lived in isolation. Which is never true in today’s business world. The existence of budgets, deadlines and internal and external customer expectations dictate the need for KPIs.

KPIs are Kept Promise Indicators. A KPI is about what each member promises his or her team to contribute. KPIs are crucial for growing a business. They make growth transparent and is the foundation for a learning culture. With KPIs every business and team can continuously improve.

The paradox for creative teams is a gorgeous design in a practical worldly context. Gorgeous designs require creative skills, inspiration and tender loving care. Neither are easily measurable. But this may never the reason to allow the creative team to work without KPIs. So which KPIs could be meaningful and practical to measure the performance?

Some sample KPIs that describe the performance of a creative team include:

project onboarding and delivery

  • for the project manager: lead time per project, the number of days it takes from request to final delivery.
  • also for the project manager: estimated vs. actual, this can apply to project time or project budget. Is the project on track?

team health

  • for the team manager: team morale (measure daily ?, ? or ? and be surprised how much information this will give you.
  • for the project manager: smiled vs. unsmiled projects. This is a subjective KPI that worked very well in our team. Every weekly meeting the project manager classified each project as smiled (going well) or unsmiled (potentially problematic or just plainly a mess).  E.g. 16 out of 18, that is 16 out of the 18 projects where ‘smiled’.

successful output

  • for the project manager: percentage of projects delivered within financial budget and before or on the deadline.
  • for the team: customer satisfaction (e.g. NPS), regardless whether it is an internal or external customer.

Some practical tips and tricks when using KPIs:

  • always measure success, never measure failure. E.g. 96% of projects delivered on time is better than 4% of projects delivered late. You will get what you measure.
  • assign one accountable person to every KPI you measure.
  • cascade KPIs if you wish to delegate responsibility.
  • use six consecutive KPIs to spot  a trend. Six consecutive measurements of any KPIs displays an underlying trend (example: when you measure the # of sales-qualified leads for 6 consecutive months).
  • use ‘fast’ KPIs. Fast KPIs are metrics that change frequently and thus provide a lot of information. Measuring team occupancy per week is better than per month.
  • keep it simple. Measure only what is meaningful and important for the growth stage you’re in.

KPIs are an inmportant component of the Scaling Up business framework for fast growing companies. My experience with creative teams is that the creative quality increased signifcantly when we used KPIs. Sounds paradoxical? Not when you believe that discipline sets you free. Discipline improves creativity instead of destroying it. Try it! Start with KPIs for creative design teams.

ScaleUp Company