There’s always a trade-off between flexibility and punctuality in any creative skill-based business. You know you have to keep things flexible and avoid boring, repeatable processes or else you compromise on your creativity.
Things are easier when you work as an individual – you only have yourself to manage and you are in 100% control of it.
Chaos ensues when you have to replicate that across a team. You start your project and allocate one task each to your members. You allow flexible deadlines, knowing fully well that if there is a very real chance of missing that hard time limit.
Sometimes they may finish early, sometimes they finish on time. But what will you do when your team constantly likes to “push their boundaries”, not only with their work but also with the time allotted to them?
This is why we will be talking about how to be a highly efficient and organized Project Manager for a creative team.
How to stay organized – in the face of a highly elastic creative process
Project Management Institute (PMI) defines it as:
“..the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
So what’s a project?
A project is a time-bound initiative undertaken to produce a product, a service, or the desired result.
We will keep these two definitions in mind as we discuss different ways for project managers to stay organized.
Step 1: Make a Project Plan
A project plan will prevent you from shooting in the blind when you have to make crucial decisions for your team. All feasibility studies are conducted in this step. If your project is building a blog or a website, you might want to check the most optimal web hosting service.
Consider project management as a maze, then project plan is your map that will give you the key to negotiate the unknown corners with ease. It is the “bigger picture” you will need to refer to in order to make informed, rational decisions.
Your project plan will include a lot of details –
- Milestones and deadlines
- Scope of each milestone
- Roles and responsibilities of those actors
Don’t limit your plan to only these things. Add everything you think will be important at different stages. Make it iterative, spend some time in finalizing your plan – any work now will prevent rework later.
I am not saying the project plan needs to have theinputof each and every senior member but it should be comprehensive enough that nothing is left out.
Step 2: Track everything in a project management tool
You won’t go on a treasure hunt just with a map, would you? You would need a bag which helps you keep things organized. The project management tool is THAT bag for project managers.
While email has become set in the processes of many teams. It is not actually meant for coordinating and assigning things to people.
Think about it: Larger the team, more conversations you will have. Searching through large email chains will waste your time. Documents also have to bestored separately in everyone’s system. An additional problem – how to ensure everyone has the same version of each and every document?
A Project Management tool will keep all conversations from everyone in one place. It is visible to all. It keeps all documents in a central dashboard.
Step 3: Keep your deadlines rational
If the client sets an unrealistic deadline, explain the steps your team will take to achieve a high-quality result. Clearly define output at each step – and also the time!
If the client still says the deadline is strict, be honest and open about your expectations from your team.
Keep quality your first focus and explain to the client what kind of quality he can get from you if they give you more time. Compare that with the output they will get for a week’s job.
Don’t forget to factor in costs in these meetings. Or else, you may be giving them last-minute cost overruns and they may never come back to you.
Step 4: Review Progress and Resolve Issues
Things will inevitably change during the course of your project. Make sure you refer to your project plan to know whether that change is acceptable. If it is doable, update your plan accordingly.
A disaster is rarely a sudden event, it is mostly a result of the team ignoring a series of warning signs. Daily team meetings and weekly update meetings with clients can go a long way in detecting these warning signs.
If problems do occur, stay as honest with your client as possible. It is worth having a tough conversation immediately rather than later when it may have caused even more damage. Don’t just give bad news – tell the client how you are dealing with it. Assure them that things are going to be fine.
Step 5: Engage in peer reviews
There’s always going to be some sort of a flaw left; perfection is a myth. The end objective of a review process, therefore, should be as few “improvement” comments as possible.
The way we give feedback largely depends on the culture in our family growing up. It is entirely possible what one member considers “normal” is rude & offensive to the receiver. Therefore, invest time, money, or both in establishing a prejudice-free feedback system.
The focus should be on “improving the work”, not “finding flaws to correct” – that’s the key idea here. This goes a long way in building a healthy culture where everyone feels safe to contribute and gets theopportunity for growth.
Creating a project plan and using a project management tool only makes it easier. Focus on setting rational deadlines and make sure you conduct regular follow-ups within your team and with your clients. This helps nip the problems in their buds.
Finally, a constructive review process can help you raise the quality of work. Just make sure the reviews are for work, not based on prejudice.
Catherrine Garcia is a passionate blogger and a freelance Web Developer. She along with her group of freelance developers, are experts of creating Websites on CMS.