If you're to the point where you are considering building a Project Management team within your organization you are, most likely, experiencing the high-class problem of organizational growth.

Typically project managers are needed when there's too much of a good thing--sales are booming and the account people can't handle business development and oversee project requirements; your creatives are doing what they're supposed to be doing--creating--and they don't have the time or skills to handle Project Management either. And, of course, operations needs someone to help them hound the studio about tracking time so you can collect all the dollars that should be flowing into your shop.

This is usually the time when Project Management begins to seem like THE SOLUTION TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS. And you are right--an effective Project Management team can be key to department's success: Clients are happier, deadlines are met, and projects come in on budget... This is a happy place!

However (there's always a however), the effective PM team can also be elusive... a strong PM function requires a strategy around process. And, in the history of time, no creative shop has ever started with the idea that "we're going to have the best process ever!"

Enter the Project Management SOLUTION... surely you have a few people on your staff who seem to be good at organizing. Maybe an admin with higher aspirations, maybe a creative who tends to be more organizationally minded than great at design, maybe an account person who isn't so hot at business development but sure makes his or her customers happy! It is easy to fall into the trap of promoting someone into a PM role solely because they have a slight case of OCD and "know our shop" or have "great people skills" These are valid thoughts when hiring a successful PM, you need organizational intelligence (either your own or to hire someone with similar experience) and you need people with great emotional intelligence to juggle the needs of a creative team, client needs, deadlines and all the other elements that add to the pressure of life in a creative organization.

So you work on an org chart to carve out a Project Management person or team that fits your budget and announce it to the organization. Everyone sees the logic of what you're saying (you are the boss after all) and heads nod as the idea of a PM team sinks in. Undoubtedly the person, or persons, you put in the position of PM already have some ideas of how things can run smoother. How the account people should provide more up-front info, how the creatives should design less for design sake and more on-target (to meet client demands, of course, not because the new PM is playing art director). And so your new team will sequester themselves and work out a process flow, share it with you then roll out to the team with great trumpets and fanfare (over pizza at a meeting where half the studio doesn't show up because they "have a deadline"). And... nothing will happen other than the PMs being frustrated because nobody is following "their" process and everyone else feels like their job got harder, not easier.

If the first process attempt atrophies away the PMs may resort to dividing and conquering with their teammates in what I call "waitress Project Management" which puts them in a subordinate position to most of the studio (except maybe the receptionist) and they become studio lackeys. Some adjust to this life better than others, some are perpetually frazzled and/or bribing people with donuts and pizza to get things done on time and on budget. A strong personality (and bribes) can go a long way toward charming a creative studio. But personality alone, without process and support, creates burnout and we all know what that leads to: your star PM quitting.

Are these situations familiar to you? Hopefully I haven't depressed you on your quest for an effective Project Management team. You can get there. The two scenarios I've outlined are actually components to a successful team--you do need a process and you do need strong emotional intelligence with your project managers.

But what you need most of all is buy-in from the entire studio on the Project Management process from the intern all the way to the head of the creative department.. A strong process, which the PMs work within, can't be a necessary evil or a menu where teammates can pick the parts that work best for them--it needs to be the hinge on which the studio operates.

So have a donut, hope your star PM isn't sending her resume out and we'll talk about how to develop an effective Project Management process in my next post.