CRW Graphics

Successful Project Planning

The communication industry, with the print segment of this industry being no exception, has been going through an ever-accelerating rate of change. Proper project planning, sharing of information and directions for others to collaborate on projects is essential in today’s business environment. Without the proper planning, the communication of specifications and expectations, it is easy for all to move off course, miss deadlines or just fail to meet expectations. The project becomes a flop.

A simplistic way to look at this process is to define the scope of the project, then to clarify the detail. Sounds easy. It is not. It takes a lot of discipline. You can begin by comparing options, pro and con, deciding on the best course of action to follow, assembling your team and then taking a moment to ask yourself “what information would I need to do this job?”; then answer the question and write down the plan, detailed specifications and instructions for the execution. Please don’t assume that someone knows what you want. Be realistic, consider budget, time frame, resources; all the factors that will be key for the task to be completed. Who are the people that you need to involve? What is the method or the tools that are needed to finish the project? What are the results that you are expecting? And in what type of time frame do you expect them to be completed?

Instructions like:  as soon as possible, or make it cheap, or it is already late,  but it has to be great quality are not really helpful. Reasonable planners don’t expect the equivalent of a Rolls Royce manufactured to their specifications delivered to their driveway overnight nor do they expect to pay a dollar for it and neither do professional planners in the communications industry. Good planning needs to begin with effective fact-finding. Under today’s market pressures planners often are pushed by the organizations they work for to go, go, go and they take less time than they should to get accurate, reliable facts in place and even less time to pass on the information that they know.  Emotion and plain old stress can make people focus on the charged environment around them and forget the key process issues. If you haven’t clearly defined the who, what, where, when and how along with all the details surrounding the project, clearly written them out in an overall plan and then broken them down into specific, concise instructions for each collaborator for their specific part of the project, consider going back to the drawing board. First focusing on how to make improvements in the process. Too many times there isn’t enough time or budget to plan the project and do it right the first time but there also seems to be enough time and budget to do it again. The experienced, detail oriented professional is the one who gets it right the first time.


The Gift of Perspective

At a party this weekend I ran into a friend who has retired from the print industry and who has lived through many changes in this industry.  He moved on to a position in the communications industry. He has always been a fascinating person. I had no idea that over a cocktail I would learn a lesson about leadership and the power of a good tale.

The way that the conversation began was with a story that revealed the importance of knowing yourself and knowing your values. This man owned a small printing company not once, but twice, and he finally reached the conclusion after he sold out the first time that he had the soul of an entrepreneur. You could see in the responses of his audience that the final product of this discussion was others were embarking in a voyage of mental self-exploration and thoughts of how to discover their own life lessons. Would they have jumped back into the same business after they sold that business and left with a few million dollars? There was a pause for self reflection in the conversation that was not uncomfortable but rather charged with unspoken thoughts and their implications for each one of us. He shared insight into his life journey as to how he discovered leadership, strength and joy in his work.

After I moved on to another group I ran into a couple who were a part of the first conversation and were pretty new to the agency world.  They were talking about what they planned to include in their own story. They hadn’t decided if they were going to share it with others as he had. They shared that they had begun to wonder what had left an imprint on their perspective on work and life. I started to wonder myself, if instead of the 30-second elevator speech you learn about in sales what would I say if I had to put together a 30-minute speech about life, values and work in the communications industry. I would probably include some tenets about leadership, challenges surmounted and a few failures and the lessons learned from them.  Questions like “Who are you? What have you done? And what have you learned from your experiences? ” would all be a part of the process. Introspection is good but there was something very special and enlightening when that level of perspective is shared in a good story with others. I am not suggesting that it necessarily be shared with the world but perhaps just with a close friend or two and maybe another layer of self knowledge will result. This industry is full of good communicators with deep knowledge but sometimes a little more self knowledge aided by perspective can make your work life richer and more fulfilling.