Successful creative project management is often a mix of many facets: tried and true processes; creativity; a bit of luck; lessons learned from past successes and failures; and of course the input from a great team and a willing and excited client. If you want to achieve ongoing success on your creative projects, it's always best to keep that “luck” element to a minimum. It will always be there, though, whether for good or for bad, and you just need to try to focus on those elements you can regularly control rather than expect luck to help you out every time.
I have a long list of what I consider to be project management best practices. But for the purposes of this article, I will narrow it down to my top 5 – in no particular order. Please consider your own top list and let's share and discuss.
Engage your team. You may not have all or even any of the creative project team assigned at the beginning of the project engagement. But as soon as you do have at least a few, get them involved in that early project schedule and strategy planning. Let the help define the tasks and take ownership of those groups of tasks to which they will be assigned. It helps breed accountability, ownership, and awareness. You'll end up with a team that will be fully engaged and focused on the goals of the creative project.
Conduct regular client status meetings. Project client meetings need to be held at least once a week to keep everyone engaged and on the same page. Your client is likely busy, but you want to keep them engaged and available to you even if they are booked on their real day job. Assign them a few tasks to manage and ritually conduct weekly project status calls... you won't be sorry.
Conduct regular team meetings. Just as you need to conduct regular weekly “formal” status calls with your client, you also need to conduct team meetings on the same weekly basis. This is to ensure you have all task status information up to date and can produce an up to date revised project schedule for the status call with your client. The last thing you want is to present a status report and schedule that doesn't match what you are discussing. Plus, it's a great opportunity to discuss any issues, thoughts or concerns on the creative project as a team and make decisions that need to be hashed out.
Don't forget formal weekly status reporting – schedule and issues. The status meeting with the client needs something to drive it. And what's better to center the discussion around than the revised project schedule, the project status report identifying all creative project issues and what's coming up next on the creative project? Formal weekly reporting like this provides a basis for productive weekly discussions and planning for the project manager, team and project client.
Oversee the budget. Finally, manage the budget well and manage it often. Never let more than a week go by without revising the project financials with actual charges from the previous week. The key is to know at any given time whether you are on track with the budget or not. And if not, then how far off are you? If you are, say, less than 10% over, you can usually take corrective action to make that up and get back on track. If you let it get too far out of hand, you might never recover.
Summary / call for input
Nothing guarantees creative project success. Nothing. But by sticking to sound project management practices, by having your entire team use a collaborative software to help manage the creative project, and by keeping the team and client well-engaged throughout, your project will always have a fighting chance.
What about our readers – what are your favorite best practices on the creative projects you lead every day, every year? What has worked well for you and what would you change on my list?