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Everything I know about Project Management I learned from my mother…

I promised in my last post to illuminate the masses how to create an effective Project Management process… not talk about my octogenarian mother. However, before we can get to that step I need you to come to terms with “the squishy stuff”—the attitudes, ideas and perceptions that could be roadblocks on the journey to a successful Project Management function.

Growing up I heard these old sayings so much they make me wince even as an adult, but that’s the way it is with common sense… sometimes it hurts. And moving your studio from where it is today to where you want it to be is all about common sense in the long run (but we’ll get to that shortly.)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

One of the biggest roadblocks encountered when instituting a Project Management process is “time management” (which is really just resistance to change with a decent sounding excuse)… “We’re so busy, we just can’t find the time to make it work”—this comes from every corner of the studio, echoing from the break room to the boardroom. “We’re all so busy with so much work we can’t take time to make a new and effective process work, we know we need it—boy do we NEED it!—but, sorry, clock is ticking… gotta meet that deadline!” Sound familiar?

No time for a new process, but we have lots of time for meetings about frustrated clients, late nights or weekend work to redo projects that went horribly wrong, closed door sessions with the teammates who constantly miss deadlines or late night excel/PowerPoint fests developing endless arguments to convince our bosses we need more help because we just can’t get all the work done. And, meanwhile, the missed deadlines, unhappy clients, unbilled revenue continue like a broken record.

Moral of the story: You know where you’re at and you know where you need your studio to be. You’re convinced that Project Management is the “ounce of prevention” to deal with your studio’s maladies. Take some time to assess your three biggest issues (which should take about 32 seconds because you’re smart and deal with them daily), and put these issues on the hit list for your new process and Project Management team. Have high goals—ERADICATE MISSED DEADLINES! NO MORE BUDGET OVERRUNS! Let everyone know the symptoms and that a studio-wide process and Project Management team is the cure.

Champion your three issues every chance you get—especially when people say they don’t have time for a new process. Have a t-shirt made, put up signs in the bathrooms, write a theme song… whatever it takes, drive your team insane with your three points and, quickly, they will be ready for the Project Management cure.

(And if you make the three key points part of their review and compensation process, accepting a new process will happen even quicker.)

“If a person shows you who they are, believe them.”

If this Project Management thing is going to work, you’re going to need the right people to champion your studio-wide process. The first place you’re going to look for Project Managers is your own team. That’s a natural and logical approach. My guess is you have someone who’s been there a long time, has a lot of institutional intelligence, is diligent and maybe even eager for the next step (except you’ve provided lots of next steps and they usually revert back to what they were good at and/or comfortable with in the first place.) If you find yourself thinking “they’d be great if they only ___________” (fill in the blank): were better with people? Were more strategic? Didn’t want things always done their way? Beware.

Moral of the story: There will be direct reports that truly show potential and initiative and a move into Project Management could be the perfect thing. But don’t staff your new PM team with the “wouldn’t it be great if’s” or the “let’s give him/her one more shot.” You’ll doom your PM effort from the start. Have an “A” Team to champion your new process even if that means hiring from the outside.

“I’d rather see it than hear tell of it…”

Boy, this one made me mad as a kid! Mother would listen patiently as I explained why something did or didn’t happen then she’d throw this bomb out there. I’d sneer, recognize she was right, and wait for the day when I could use it on my kids. (I never ended up having children, so I’m now torturing you with it.)

I’ve seen many in-house agencies talk a lot about Project Management—develop lots of spreadsheets, org charts and PowerPoint decks galore, have lots of high-level meetings about it, work group meetings about it, staff meetings about it and then… crickets chirping or, worse yet, the half-hearted effort I talked about in the first blog on this topic.

Moral of the story: A plan and a commitment to establishing a Project Management function can change your shop for the good. Don’t embark on a process change unless you follow through. Not only will it suck up a lot of valuable time it will erode your credibility with the team. At some point, you need to JUST DO IT (that one’s from Nike, not mother) but make sure you are in 100%.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

That one is from the Bible, not mother, but she sure said it enough times. Perhaps your studio won’t perish if there’s no strategic plan for Project Management, but you will continue to wallow in missed deadlines, budget overruns and unhappy clients.

But here’s the good news! As you’ve suffered through half my moral upbringing you’ve also learned the key points to necessary to succeed on your process-changing journey:

  • Identify the roadblocks (Time!)
  • Develop our mission statement (No Missed Deadlines!)
  • Find the right team
  • Commit to the process and Project Management for the long haul
  • Have a vision

  • And that’s what we’ll talk about in the final blog on this topic (coming July 1)—your vision for a studio-wide process. I know you know this stuff and you can do it—it’s all common sense, right?

    Or, as mother would have said, “If it was a snake, it would have bit you.”

    Learn more at our website. If you have questions regarding Cella’s services or you have specific challenges to address within your organization, please contact Matt Lang.

    Cella Consultant LaManda Minikel brings fifteen years experience in a broad array of business environments from design firm owner to creative leader at the nation’s largest event company. From live events to above-the-line advertising, LaManda has managed projects and teams of all levels of size and complexity while improving productivity, billability and team success.

Laura Berry

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