The Workamajig Blog
You wonder why I chose project management as a career path? There are many reasons, but direct management of resources is not one them, and neither is daily personnel responsibilities. In fact, the position screams responsibility and leadership while promising to not bog down the project manager with the daily chores associated with management and oversight of direct reporting resources. In other words, project managers are not department managers.
Ensuring you have the right resources available at the right time is one of the most critical aspects in project management. Resource management requires attention in detail throughout a project. It requires attention in the beginning of the project for planning purposes and throughout the project in order to stay on top and to ensure that you have the right resources available when you need them.
Ok, you have the project, you have an idea of what the goal is, who the client is, and a basic awareness of what it is going to take to get to the finish line with the client. Now it's time to settle in and start putting everything in place to actually deliver: the structure, the team, the strategy and the processes. Where do you start? All this can be a bit convoluted by other projects you're working on – especially if any are running full steam at the moment demanding 110% of your time and efforts. That never happens, right? Right.
We hope and pray that things will always go smoothly on our creative projects. Big egos often prevail, especially on creative projects because of their nature. The project manager overseeing the team is often less of a resource manager and more of a “facilitator of forward progress". In the matrix organization or professional services type environment where resources are “borrowed” for each project, the hope is that the real “resource management” is left to the team member's direct report managers. That's where the performance reviews happen, the training happens, the career advancement happens and, hopefully, the conflict resolution happens.
Every project has different needs. Some may seem the same, but no two projects are the same. You may be able to get away with using the same project schedule template 90% of the way on two very similar projects as we all try to start projects using a project schedule shell / template from a similar project. It helps to ensure we don't overlook a common key deliverable or just lose time trying to reinvent the wheel on every project. Go with what you know - how got you there successfully before. But you won't be able to go 100% on something like this. You use it to help get you there. And it may get you 90% of the way there. But not all the way, as no two projects are the same.
Communication. It's the straw that stirs the drink in the world of project management – and in really successful business and client management in general. Poor communicators don't last long in the daily rat race. Even the loud screamers and the squeaky wheels know how to communicate well... albeit in a whiny and manipulative way... but it seems to work for them.
Letting go is never easy. It's your baby, your creative juggernaut. You built the schedule, hopefully with some helpful tweaking by your creative team. You introduced yourself to the customer and kicked off the engagement. Up to a certain early point, you may have literally done everything on the project so far. It's all been your leadership, your effort to get it to the point of starting the “real work” on the project, the work that is going to create the creative solution or output that is turned over to the client. But unless you are prepared to do everything on the project – which you are not– you will need to begin delegating tasks to the team.
Creative agency management is just like managing anything else, isn't it? Umm... no. Creative talent is called creative talent for a reason. It's the ability to have interesting and innovative ideas and to be quick, outside the box thinkers. The average executive may have no idea what to do with that line of thinking. The quickest way to fail in this management role is to fail to understand the business you are running and the talented staff you are leading. What they need to be productive and effective may not match up well with what you were used to in your last organization.
Managing the project financials is probably the most critical task that the project manager or creative manager performs on any engagement – after Job One which is effective and efficient communication.
Resource management is a critical aspect of any project. It simply cannot be taken too lightly, though we often take the scheduling and availability of our project and creative resources for granted. Now's not the time to tell you which resource management software tool to use or which project management tool with great resource tracking to use. What needs to be established is the importance of actually tracking resources and planning, forecasting and re-forecasting throughout the project or creative initiative.