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? 

Jason Santos

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?

Jason Santos

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?

Jason Santos

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.