Cooperation is when you have a group of people who are working together to accomplish a task. Collaboration takes cooperation and moves it a step further. With ad agency project management, collaboration is absolutely crucial. You need the involvement of everyone on a project in order to work together toward a common goal.
But how do you go from cooperation to collaboration? Furthermore, how do we take collaboration and use it to the fullest within ad agency project management? Here are four tips that can help you keep things moving, whether before, during, or after your projects:
1. Communicate the Goal Clearly Before the Project Starts
An often overlooked part of any project is the success metric. We’re all working together on the project, but what’s the defining characteristic of success? Oftentimes, everyone on the team can recognize when progress is being made, but it’s hard to collaborate fully when there isn’t a clearly defined goal in place. If you’re moving towards a hazy destination, how do you know that you’re moving ahead and not just sliding sideways?
The sooner you define the end goal, the better. Ideally, this should happen well in advance of any of the work starting. The team will thus begin work united, with the success of the project as a well-defined endpoint. Whether the team members have been working together for years or this is their first time on the same project, they can all come together to work toward that common goal. When you don’t communicate the goal clearly, ad agency project management can lose much of its effectiveness.
2. Continue to Encourage Good Behavior Throughout the Project
When you see your team members collaborating well, be sure to encourage them! It’s easy to take hard work for granted, so it could be useful to set an alarm or reminder for yourself to periodically to make sure that you’re outspoken in your encouragement. Of course, don’t wait until the chime dings to say something encouraging. Show your appreciation when it happens, and if you realize that your reminder went off without any praise for your team, start looking for things that can be recognized.
This works in two ways. First, you’re giving your team members some positive words to keep them moving in the right direction. If they’re struggling with a deliverable, it might be the encouragement that they need to persevere and push through the mental roadblocks. Second, you’re reinforcing good behavior. Your team members hear that they’re doing a good job when they’re doing the right job. If they realize that by doing things correctly they’ll receive a positive comment, it’s more likely they’ll continue down the same path.
3. Redirect When Necessary and Use the Power of Suggestion Instead of Anger
Have you heard the adage “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? It’s one worth remembering as a team leader. Your team will have more respect for you if you don’t lead with fear or anger and instead lead by example while providing positive direction.
What if your team members have their own thoughts on an issue? If you think their ideas have merit, then let them run with it and provide guidance when necessary. If it pans out, great! If it doesn’t, don’t thumb your nose at them and say “I told you so,” but rather direct them back to the original path.
Let’s take it a step further. What happens when you have a direct and specific method for a task, and they refuse to follow it? You might actually be angry, but make sure you keep your emotions in check. Be kind, yet firm. Be firm when you direct them to your methods, reminding them who the project manager is, while simultaneously, complementing their alternative and free-thinking ideas.. Being kind yet firm keeps you in control of your project and will keep your team receptive to your leadership.
4. Host a Debrief to Discuss Where Everyone Could Improve Next Time
No project is without drawbacks. When your agency projects conclude, host a debrief that allows everyone to vent and to provide feedback on opportunities for improvement. By wrapping up the project, you give everyone a bit of ownership of the ad agency project management, even though you’re still the one making the decisions.
The worst that can come of a debrief meeting is that you’ll have a handful of disenchanted employees and don’t have any positive suggestions to move forward on. On the other end of the spectrum, you may have a meeting that will give you many ideas to capitalize on for your future projects. Most wrap-up meetings will probably reside somewhere in between. You’re not going to light the world on fire with your newfound ideas, but you're going to leave the meeting with some well-crafted constructive criticism. Keep debrief discussions as a regular facet for your projects, and you’ll find that over time your small and consistent tweaks can make a big difference.
Collaboration is a two-way street. It requires everyone involved to be receptive to working together and compromising at times to attain the clearly defined end goal. Collaboration is essential to ad agency project management.