April 12, 2013
Industry Insight: Project Management

46c5e3a3cd1c45db8e1fd3ccdba0be5bBelinda Naylor-Stables writes about her project experience in the multimedia and web design sectors. Currently a project manager and coach based in Hertfordshire, Belinda enjoys writing about business and creativity.  In this, her first blog post for us, she draws upon her project experience to pass on a few important tips.   Whatever creative industry you’re in projects of all shapes and sizes have a lot in common. In the past I’ve come home having worked on a multimedia project all day to find that my architect husband has had exactly the same issues. Here are a few hard-won lessons… Know the team 1ae5c332eb2348b28df8ff13799d7b09If you are the usual project manager or coordinator type, it’s most likely that you are not a people person. You are process driven with a preference for completing Gantt charts and spreadsheets at your desk. Yet to successfully get the team on board you need to seize a slice of the leadership cake. That means providing a vision and a purpose as well as using people skills. So avoid thinking about the team as one email group. Instead, leave your desk regularly to get to know each team member. If your office is some distance away pick up the phone or Skype. Initially, find out how each individual likes to be briefed, what information they need, whether they are happier left alone to get on or whether they prefer regular meetings. Ongoing, it might be tempting to think that your position means team members have to do what you tell them. In reality things work better if you regularly revisit each person’s needs and pull out all the stops to help them get down to work in their own way.   2) Share information about the client Quite often managers share information about the client on a need-to-know basis – often keeping the team out of the loop. However, any member of the team may need to step in and deal with the client – perhaps even visit them sometimes. So make sure the team knows what services you or other managers have promised the client. The whole team also need to know other client details - personalities involved, tips about the work culture including dress code, plus any particular foibles you have noticed from previous projects. If you see the client on a regular basis, let the team know as they may have questions for the client too. Perhaps you could take one or two of the team along to the next client meeting. This all helps maintain the quality service the client will be happy to buy again.   3) Keep upbeat Sometimes projects go pear-shaped. When facing the client reassure them without laying blame on any of your team. If a client finds something or someone to complain about, project leaders often decide not to tell the team member concerned, thinking it might de-motivate them. I think differently. Let the individual know in a face-to-face meeting. Avoid that pitying look! You are on the same team so you are in this together. Be supportive and find out your team member’s side of the story so that you can really understand it. “What did you do?” and “How?” are good questions whereas “Why?” can seem like an accusation. Client issues can be misunderstandings – alternatively they can often be traced back to broader process or work culture attitudes that need fixing in your organisation. Sometimes the team member in the spotlight is just the messenger. Take some of the flack if appropriate and agree a way forward. See the bright side too: every issue is an opportunity to learn, a step nearer to success – and if handled right will strengthen client and team relationships.   Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from Belinda in future industry insight blogs. With an MA in Design specialising in Applied Imagination, we suspect she has more tips and tricks up her sleeve. You can follow Belinda on Twitter @BelStables.  

  • Lauren

    Hey Belinda, I really loved your blog. For someone very interested in the process of Project Management, it has really given me some tips for the future – would like to read more from yourself! Lauren

  • Brian

    Great blog Belinda. I know that being able to alter your communication style according to the preferred communication style of the people in your team pays dividends. I think this really applies across creative projects where ensuring that every one is ‘on the same page’ is critical to ensuring the project is delivered consistent with the original objectives.