The Evolution of Production
March 15th | 2017

As a business, we’re growing and evolving. And, as these changes have started taking shape at Zeus Jones, we’ve recognized a need to evolve our disciplines as well.

One of the ways we’re approaching the evolution of our disciplines is by introducing specializations. We see them as a way to start honing in and focusing on different skill sets and expertise, which exist on a continuum that stretches from business operations to creative production.

I tend to think about things through the lens of production because, well, I’m a producer. So, when I started thinking about what this evolution means for production at Zeus Jones, I got excited about all the opportunities this presented for growth. To be honest, I’m sure I have a spreadsheet saved somewhere that organizes my thoughts on all of this (just kidding… I know exactly where that spreadsheet is saved).

Producers now have four specializations:

Program Management:
This specialization is all about understanding our clients’ business, and how we engage with them and identify opportunities. How do we structure our work in a way that meets clients’ internal needs? How do we break down complex projects in ways that make sense for us and our clients? 

Creative Production:
This specialization obsesses over how we bring our creative ideas to life in the best possible way. How do we stay innovative across areas like tech, digital, film, photography, experiences and content? How are we pushing ourselves to try something new rather than relying on what’s worked before? How do we continue to strengthen our internal capabilities in these areas, or find the best partners out there to help us bring these ideas to life?

Innovation Management:
This specialization focuses on leading processes that foster better collaboration across teams to identify and test opportunities for product, service and brand innovation. How do we better understand team dynamics to help project teams and clients work better, together? How do we stay agile and apply appropriate components of test and learn methodology and design thinking to everything we do? 

Product Management:
This specialization is all about facilitating the most efficient and effective ways to design, build, test, launch and sustain new products and services. How do we apply appropriate test and learn methods to our work to get the best possible solution? How do we expand our capabilities across product and service design, and test and learn as we go?

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While these specializations are only in their first iteration, it’s an exciting stage because it allows everyone to pursue individual interests and establish a career path in a way that makes sense for them. Some are choosing to major in one area and minor in another, while others are focusing on one specialization. And, in true Zeus Jones style, there’s no pre-determined path to get there, so we are all charting our own way.

Aside from these new specializations, there are a lot of other ways production has evolved in the 3½ years I’ve been at Zeus Jones. So I decided to bring a crew of producers together for a collaborative take on the current and future states of production.

What do you think is the most important role of a producer? 

Keeping everyone honest, motivated and focused on the original goals of the project, maintaining constant momentum and being able to adjust and react to changes as they come up. Also, keep everyone smiling.

To dig deeply into our clients’ business problems and needs, figure out what needs to be done, and to rally teams, partners, and client teams to get whatever that thing is done in an efficient, constructive, (often) creative, and strategic way.

I agree! To do that, we need to remain adaptable, so that as things inevitably evolve and shift throughout the life of a project as new opportunities are uncovered (which is a good thing), we can help our teams navigate and make sure the decisions we’re making are always based on what’s best for the individual project and client.

I also think the most important part of the role is to forge a path ahead. If it feels impossible and daunting, that’s awesome and should motivate the producer. There’s always a way to work through it, and it’s usually not a clear process or list of steps that we’ve used before. It’s creative problem-solving every day. 

How do you think the role has changed from one, three or five years ago? Or, has it changed at all?

The role has changed over the last five years by moving away from a more project/account management position to being much more of a “doer” role, and hitting all the spots on the spectrum in between.

In some ways it’s the same, but as our work has changed, the role has evolved. I think the shift towards constantly challenging ourselves to take on more complex problems has created an environment where the producer role has become more integrated into the entire project process – not just at the end when it’s time to step in and make stuff.

We’ve also realized that some people are actually better suited to do exactly that – the making – while others are more skilled at managing an overall client or business enterprise relationship. Assigning roles by specific area of specialty and ability has helped us become more efficient as a department, but I think also makes people more energized and excited to do their jobs, since projects are assigned less arbitrarily.

I completely agree. The role has definitely evolved since I started at Zeus Jones. We’re at a place now where we’re taking on bigger, messier and overall more complex projects that require us to constantly evolve the way we approach each project in order to arrive at a plan that makes sense for both the project and client. We’re also a company that is constantly pushing ourselves to evolve our thinking and do more in a better way, which bleeds into everything we do.

The basics of the role are very much the same, but the problems we are solving are much different. They are more complex, involve many more stakeholders and our solutions are constantly evaluated, tested and tweaked. But because the problems are so different, they require a different set of tools and skills. Technical expertise is valuable, but the ability to understand people, team dynamics, businesses and operations is increasingly important.

What do you all think production will look like in three or five years?

There’s a lot to be excited about with new areas of expertise. I can see lines getting blurred even further between departments and producers being able to specialize in certain areas and allow us to deepen our offerings.

I hope as we continue to embody our new “mission” – transform, innovate, grow – that the producer role continues to flex and grow to fill those needs. The most exciting thing about working at ZJ is that the future is unknown. I hope that producers continue to play a big role in this regard, especially in innovation, but, by definition, I have no idea what that will mean moving forward, and I am excited to find out!

I have no idea. The only guarantee I think is that it will always include some aspect of making, and that it will always require the ability to find the best idea, bring together the right people and create something awesome.