Quickly or high quality? Both!

#3 in my series of Lessons Learned blog posts
Some of our best work didn’t take a lot of time or planning.

One goal I have for any team I work with is to be able to respond quickly to a great idea. In my former IT world, we did this. In fact, the former web services team had a reputation as the team that could be flexible and aptly respond to a new requirement or an unexpected project. It’s kinda how we ended up running re.web at William & Mary.

Fast forward to year one of Creative Services. Yikes, there are a lot of super ideas to respond to in the “we’re now all about communications” world. All in all, I think we did a decent job of nimbly taking on the unexpected. And recent team meetings are an indicator that we’re all on board with making ourselves available for the ideas we just can’t pass up in 2011.

Yes, there’s a lesson learned in here somewhere. Don’t mean to bury the lead.

We had interesting conversations this year about being nimble, responding to ideas that come along, etc. I started out thinking that, at least initially, we’d have to sacrifice a bit of quality. There is even less time to produce the product in a world where communication can be instantaneous. I forced the issue somewhat last May. Every year, William & Mary seniors ring the Wren bell on the last day of classes. There is a high level of response whenever we Facebook or tweet about this day and for a couple of years I’d wanted to offer a sound bite, a way to let alumni hear the bell ringing. So I trotted around and talked to a couple of folks on our team about the idea. As is nearly always the case, the doing it was more complicated than the dreaming about it. Turns out you can’t hear the bell if you’re inside the Wren filming the seniors pull the bell’s rope. Regardless, we got it done. The resulting YouTube video, A Senior Moment: you finally get to ring the Wren bell, was enthusiastically received.

I saved an email from Joel Pattison and he nailed it when he wrote,

I’d like us to keep talking about this idea of getting certain things done quickly on the creative/visual side. I completely agree that quick turn around is crucial for alumni and students, particularly for certain events. While I was shooting photos of the Wren bell I noticed dozens of students shooting pictures and video with their iPhones… stuff that will be on the web in minutes. So if we take 6 hours (or 3 days) to finish something, there’s a real danger of missing the moment.

However, I’m uncomfortable with the conclusion that to get stuff turned around quickly we must sacrifice technical or artistic quality. It is possible to do good work fast, and I think that’s what we need to get better at. I’m not talking about perfection, because a perfectionist attitude is not helpful in these situations. But I don’t think low quality photos and video make our CS office look good.

This is probably just a matter of finding that sweet spot between good quality and good timing, so let’s keep discussing this.

More than once, we had an idea, we quickly assigned a small team to get it done, and we avoided our natural tendency to over think the effort. Here are a couple of additional examples – W&M Holiday Greeting and Freshmen Move In by the Numbers.

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