Earlier this month our Cella team members LaManda Minikel and Susan Thompson lead our sold-out inaugural Project Management Boot Camp with almost 40 creative professionals representing companies from higher education, retail, financial services, hospitality and more. Their creative teams ranged in size from less than 10 members to more than 100. While the training was for project managers, attendees ranged in title as some attendees were researching implementing a PM team while others were hybrid project managers, where their core function was design or another function of the creative team.

While the Boot Camp attendees varied greatly in team size, industry, PM experience, and function sophistication, their challenges did not vary. The group's top three challenges were:

  • Enforcing/Managing Deadlines (always firefighting)
  • Managing People/Effective Collaboration (lack of authority)
  • Prioritization (general and the inevitable last-minute requests)

A key takeaway for attendees was to recognize the responsibility of Project Managers to minimize surprises for the overall creative services group and their clients. Many PMs are working without an Account Manager peer, therefore it falls on PMs to learn their clients' historical trends, meet with their clients to learn of upcoming needs and provide clients feedback.

One of the PM's main priorities is to regularly ensure touch points both internally and externally on project details, milestones and resources. In doing so, some key schedule best practices identified at the training session consist of:

  • Don't just include internal creative services milestones in project plans--legal, Brand and other key external milestones will impact the overall project timeline
  • Have project schedule templates and create project-type specific schedule templates; don't want to have too many, select project types that represent the highest volumes of work
  • Actively manage schedules to avoid late notification of delays (determine how often and when to update schedules, distribute and who to include in distribution)
  • Be aware of the (internal and external) team players and how they might impact your schedule (time off, capacity, skill set, tendencies)
  • Adjust schedule detail level based on audience in order to improve receptivity (cc creative team manager and/or client manager as needed)

Less than 40% of the attendees were supported by a project management tool; a critical gap that attendees left energized to address. Tools come in many different sizes, costs, and capabilities. Even the most basic tool will provide considerable support and deliver efficiencies and reporting capabilities to the creative team. The proper use of tools and resources will further support the success of the PM's role.

Other takeaways for attendees included:

  • Past project histories can provide immeasurable insights (time a similar project should take, issues that arose and why, if so, where was the problem: breakdown point, client, creative, etc.)
  • Emotional intelligence is an essential skill set that support PMs with monitoring their own and other's emotions to distinguish the differences and use that information to guide behavior and deliver results
  • The PM role is a unique one that is responsible for everything but doesn't have formal authority. PMs need to establish their own sense of authority through communication, collaboration and proven results
  • Conducting project close-out meetings create opportunity to learn from, best practices are a result of a previous mistake (focus on the what not the who)

For more information on Cella's Project Management Boot Camp and upcoming events in your area, please visit: https://www.cellaconsulting.com/Professional-Development/