Very often in the project management world, I find that we are reactive on our creative projects. Issues come up and we fight them. Decisions need to be made and we set everything aside to gather the team and choose the best path. The client calls about a concern or a new functionality that needs to be included, or a new twist in the marketing campaign we are tediously preparing for them and we react with a fix, a plan, or a change order.
Sometimes it seems like the actual daily running of the project is an afterthought, doesn't it? The stuff we must be doing to keep a good handle on the project gets pushed aside or relegated to second tier tasks. The project status reporting, managing the budget, and even meeting with the team and planning rather than reacting gets moved around to the point of being wedged in where it can just fit into the schedule. These tasks are likely given far less than half the attention, time and priority they otherwise should be given because we are often fighting fires. There just aren't enough hours in the day, resources in the pool or dollars in the bucket to get it all done. Sound all too familiar?
So how do we stop the madness? How do YOU stop the madness? Or are you still figuring that out? Wait... don’t tell me. Read through this and let’s discuss at the end. Consider these challenges... how you do react and how you would rather react. What do you do to keep the project running in front of you while remaining more of the proactive project manager rather than the reactive type? For me, it comes down to three key concepts or practices that I try to stick to throughout an engagement to at least minimize these reactive needs. Let me expound on them:
Always stick with best practices. Whatever "best practices" mean to you and however they are defined within your organization and PM infrastructure, stick to them. Remember; slow and steady wins the race. If your project delivery remains consistent, your management will be able to jump in and understand your needs better at any given point in time, as needed. Your client will have more confidence in your ability to deliver if you are consistently using best practices to deliver on that project, no matter what issues or fires you are fighting… reactively or proactively. This may mean – and it should, at a minimum – weekly creative team and client status meetings, weekly status reports for your creative project, and weekly oversight of your creative project’s budget and resource plan. Stick to those practices no matter what. You may do some reacting, but by following those ongoing practices, you should be more in control and less reactive.
Maintain frequent client contact. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I’ve had happy clients and I’ve had frustrated clients. Sometimes things don't go so well on the project – issues come up left and right. But when the client is in the loop the whole way through, feels like you are communicating everything, and feels like you have their best interests in mind, they are rarely unhappy. They are willing to work with you, not contact your CEO and complain about you.
Collaborate with your creative team - often. Sure, assign tasks and turn them loose. They are professionals – good, ethical, talented professionals. But stay in touch. Weekly project team meetings at a minimum are necessary. The last thing you want is for them to start acting as an island unto themselves…and they will if you lose contact with them. Gather them at least once a week for a formal team meeting, and communicate with them daily if possible. Check in – make sure that everyone is still on the same creative page. It’s good for the schedule, it’s good for the budget, and it will help to minimize those times when you need to turn into a reactive project manager. Trust me on this one.
Reacting to issues is a way of PM life. It has happened on every single project since the beginning of time. Often, it’s how we start out managing the creative client and creative engagement and how we maintain that consistency throughout the project that dictates how much we have to react to and how much we can just avoid or manage through with consistent, best practices project management. Slow and steady really does win the race more often than not.