Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, our small team arrived at Momentum’s head office in Centurion. Onboarding was unlike anything we’ve experienced at other clients. It was warm, well-rehearsed, and effortless, as if we had been invited into an old friend’s home.
The rarity of a brand-new project had us all so excited that we overlooked the small, cramped table where the 5 of us sat. We were going to build a new platform from scratch and we all looked at the blank canvas in front of us with Sharpies raised, anxious to make our mark.
We came into the project with high hopes and even higher standards. We recognised what a great outcome would look like and had realistic expectations of how much hard work would be needed to achieve this. It was the perfect combination of idealism and realism. It was necessary to manage client expectations.
We hadn’t been there that long but already our team started growing. We began implementing processes that assisted in growing the office space and the organisation. Momentum could see the value we added and welcomed the change of pace. Team spirit was high, and with every quick win and milestone reached, we gained more and more trust.
We successfully pitched a new brand strategy and the creation of a design system, and won over the Brand Manager (who, by the way, has worked within Momentum for over 29 years). Decisions were made quickly because of the trust we had gained, and the organisation was open to change. We were all working together towards the same goal.
This growth was important because we were dealing with an organisation rooted in long-serving employees and very traditional values. Their openness to change was encouraging.
We’d spent the last few months scrambling, our heads reeling from all the structural and leadership changes that hit us like a ton of bricks.
The pressure to deliver sent the organisation into panic mode, and instead of pushing ahead and creating diamonds, the business receded back into the dark mines of its former self. Old habits resurfaced, and team members were overworked. The quality of the work suffered as the team scaled too quickly. Scope creep was a major reality in the last-minute attempt to deliver something, anything, by the (already extended) deadline date.
They say when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. To start moving forward again, our first step would be not taking a step. We needed to rest, reflect, and refocus. We licked our wounds and set our sights on the tasks at hand. It was time to slow down – to do one thing at a time and to do it properly.
It was only when we started accepting the reality of our situation that we could start looking for opportunities. Our team grew again and with that growth came fresh perspective. We grounded ourselves by going back to our Freethinking values. We had an excellent team that collaborated well together, blending their creative and critical thinking to solve problems. No matter how small each team member’s task was, they made the best of it and new opportunities were born.
After taking it slow, we’ve been on a steady incline and progressing well. Now that we know what we know, it’s easier to identify opportunities and to know which battles to fight. We’re more careful now. We’ve been inspired by the success of Freethinkers at other clients and have drawn from their determination. We’ve created a space in which to grow, learn, build great products, and ultimately change an organisation from the inside out. This requires us to be proactive and to show the business what needs to happen, not just tell them.
We now know that slow decision-making and unclear processes force teams to rush their work when the deadline looms and produce sub-par results that take too long. The same thing happens in filmmaking when processes aren’t followed properly. Scenes have to be rewritten and reshot; actors and crew and equipment dragged back on location causing chaos and frustration. You’re left with a hyped-up yet mediocre film that performs poorly and ultimately leaves customers with a bitter taste in their mouths.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” – Jeff Bezos
We’ve learnt how important it is to have a design system, especially when designers work in teams across the organisation. It gives designers the means to keep the design language consistent and everyone can work together towards achieving the same goal.
We’ve learnt that being satisfied is the fastest way to stop innovating and delighting users. We needed to assist the organisation in raising their standards and understanding the true scope of the project by giving it enough time while still making brave, bold decisions.
A lot can happen in a year, but we all need to foster a Day 1 attitude and never stop starting.