Creatives And Project Managers

November 23, 2013

Project Management


Calendar of Work Hard, Training, Beer

Illustration courtesy of Jeremy Price

Yesterday, two Art Directors and I had a brief discussion about how to plan for regular training for our art teams. Do we enter it as a task in our production management software? Or do we ensure we have enough slack in our schedule and let the artists self-organize for the training time? One Art Director responded with an illustration of the planning for his team… and gave me permission to blog about it.

If creatives think of their schedule as shown in the illustration, why do project managers present schedules like this?

Man peering over long Gantt chart

Photo Credit: Drift Words / CC BY-NC-SA

No wonder eyes gloss over when project plans and schedules are presented to the team! I admit I have been guilty of doing the same thing – repeatedly. I am often asked detail-oriented questions so I feel pressured to provide detailed answers, even though I know eyes will gloss over before I am finished.

An important part of a project manager’s role is to keep the team organized so they can move forward and get done what needs to get done. Plans detailed down to tasks that take less than a day are only useful if the team actually works and thinks that way. So, how do you keep a team of creatives organized?

Rather than obsess about small tasks, provide clear and manageable goals and mutually agree on reasonable time-boxes in which to achieve them. Be transparent about business constraints (budget, team, client expectations, etc.) and make sure dependencies are understood. Enforce those time-boxes and constraints, but be open to making tradeoffs to pursue an unexpected opportunity or deal with an unexpected problem. Together we should evaluate the work that needs to be done and the time left to do it and ensure we keep enough flexibility to deal with what comes up. For activities like regular weekly training, set the goals and time-boxes so they completed in four days a week, leaving the fifth day open for stuff that comes up and doing the training.

If this all sounds too fast and loose, a detailed plan can still be the behind-the-scenes support that helps you understand the constraints, define the goals and negotiate the time-boxes. Just don’t expect many other people to read it.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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