I’ve been working with companies for nearly three decades. I’ve seen a lot of marketing programs succeed, and I’ve seen a lot crash and burn. Many different factors play roles in that success or failure, but you might be surprised at the one element that always seems to be part of successful efforts.

It’s organization. Something as simple as a rigid schedule often spells the difference between success and failure. Whether it’s trying to sustain a monthly newsletter, produce an annual report, or stretch a marketing budget across a full year, the discipline of some sort of schedule is critical.

Making a schedule work takes three simple things. First, you have to be realistic. The schedule has to be attainable. Second, you have to stick to it. Finally, you need to have someone with some degree of authority become the champion and drive it. If nobody plays an active role in enforcing it you might as well abandon the project, because it won’t go anywhere.

Creative people aren’t supposed to like structure, but those who succeed in the business world know that structure actually strengthens creativity and makes its application more successful. The next time you’re ready to start a project, keep that in mind.