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Projects – creating an environment where work succeeds

  • Update: 13/03/2021

Project management exists in different guises across multiple industry sectors – but it’s not always obvious. In some places, it’s a key skill and role; elsewhere, it’s not a defined approach but the activity contains significant elements of it.

An old adage says that a good project manager can manage anything; but it makes a big difference if you have the specific, sector skills to know what’s going on around you.

For example, publishing employs commissioning editors whose work has elements of project management coupled with industry specific knowledge; in the film industry, production managers and producers share project management responsibilities and, indeed, events management is almost classic project management.

However, many people in such roles wouldn’t necessarily identify what they do as project management, so why would they need project management training and certification in methods like PRINCE2®?

Getting things done – and doing them well

The job of project management is, broadly, to get stuff done. If you’re good at this, you’re already doing a lot of things present in project management, based not on training but experience.

But if you have less experience in getting things done, methods such as PRINCE2 have distilled the core project management skills that enable you to organize your work effectively, whatever your role or industry. PRINCE2 provides a generic approach to getting things done and, importantly, done well.

However, it would be useful to agree what a “project” is.

For example, events managers “do events”; media professionals create performances, films, episodes, plays, etc. They might not refer to their work as projects, but – in essence – that’s what they are.

People working in such sectors might consider the idea of project management training and methods as strange; rather seeing the skills they need as part and parcel of their job and environment.

But when you recognize that your work really fits the definition of a project, having a best practice method gives shape and structure to what you do.

Key project management approaches that work

Project management techniques have a universal application and here are a few that can really help you succeed. To frame this for the creative industries, let’s take the example of a book signing event:

  • Identifying success criteria

When starting a piece of work, if you’re experienced you understand generally what’s expected of you. However, if you’re delegating that work to someone less experienced, there’s a risk you might not get what you want. By identifying success criteria as the start of a project you’re answering the question: “what does success look like?” Having this conversation with a less experienced person can be the difference between success and failure.

For a book signing event, your success criteria might be book sales, generating publicity through journalists attending or showing a particular bookshop how much it’s valued by the publisher. If the main criterion is achieving sales, then footfall is vital; publicity will hinge on getting specific correspondents there, etc. The key is agreeing on what success means.

Therefore, project management ensures everyone is clear on the work’s outputs, outcomes and benefits.

  • Control by design

How can you ensure your work takes you to a clear outcome? PRINCE2’s framework breaks it down into stages with differing levels of controls, governance and reporting. The frequency and rigour of this give you different levels of control and, in between stages, it offers tolerances that let people know when to escalate an issue or not.

For example, you might consider it important to confirm the number of attendees for your book signing event before finalising the venue.

  • Project shape

Professional project management does not dictate the shape of your project; you can still approach your work based on your knowledge and experience. In fact, you can tailor a method like PRINCE2 to complement your approach, provide clear and effective governance, track what you value, enable what you need and demonstrate results.

An excellent example of this is the adoption of Agile working practices in recent years.

Adapting project management 

Every sector has its core ways of working. These can co-exist happily with project management, because the latter is adaptable and is not saying “you must do things my way”.

A concept like project management carries pre-conceived perceptions (i.e., “baggage”) but it doesn’t need to if professionals in any sector view it as offering generic and valuable techniques to help work succeed.

News by Duncan Wade – Director, The Human Interface Consultancy

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