DPM School: Week 2 – Project Initiation

While there must always be room for human error, a key to running a successful project is not waiting for that error to happen.

By Profit Idowu

On November 16, 2019
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May the Force Be With You
Week two was getting comfortable with how agencies deliver work, how to positively engage your team, kick-off and discovery, tracking for project success, and writing good project briefs. In project initiation, there needs to be a mix of chemistry and momentum. But when confusion or lack of clarity creeps in, it can zap all of the inspiration a team has to get something done. So, while I wish kick-offs or briefing meetings could look as easy as this:

via GIPHY

Unfortunately, Midi-chlorians aren’t real and we can’t channel the Force to make our teams execute with mechanical precision. There must always be room for human error, but a key to running a successful project is not waiting for that error to happen. Ben’s videos for this week were all about teasing out the minutiae found in upstart projects and how to reach ship day. Discussing how in some work cultures there’s always a dark cloud looming in the air like nobody has a solid grasp of what’s going on. Why? Because that’s normally the case. As a project leader, Ben’s encouragement was for digital project managers (DPMs) to be the constant among the uncertainty. If I could take a shot at channeling some midi-chlorian energy of my own, I’d say our Force is in how practiced we are in using our words, managing how we show up in the workplace, and refining the processes that fuel our approaches to getting good work done. Phrases like “idiot-proof,” “dummy-proof,” and “make it so easy anyone could understand it,” are frequently used in the context of how one extends a process or project to a team. To take it a step further, I believe it’s found in the language of accessibility and design that always leads to good delivery.

How to Deliver Work
Last week, was all about methodologies and the project life cycle. This week brought aspects of establishing process into a more granular framework. Helping us make sure we can do the right things, at the right time, and do them properly. Because of the relatively novel nature of digital media and the velocity at which new platforms reach adopters, some organizations lack the culture and set of processes designed for digital work. Some teams don’t have it documented in order to help internal stakeholders gain insight into where they are in the process. If the leaders don’t know where they are or want to go, how can the team? With this in mind, Ben armed us with two diagrams:

A typical agency process.

A website build process overview.

Credit: Pixels, People, and Process by Nancy Lyons & Meghan Wilker

One thing that was repeated in last week’s coursework was that different companies will always have their own approach to work. No matter how fancy or complex (littered with red tape), the core of the process will always remain the same even if it goes by another name. I took that to heart and made a diagram channeling my own experience. Overlaying an expanded agency/in-house team process to drive his point home.

An expanded agency process.

Thrilla or Vanilla
John King, current President of Fallon New York, and man behind the Minnesota All-Hockey Hair Team gave a presentation I sat in on a few years ago called “Thrilla or Vanilla: Selling Like A Promoter.” In this fireside chat, he masterfully took us through his “10 Steps to Promoting.” When you hear the words selling and promoter, some might think con artist. King’s point wasn’t to work the back alley deals or be the one making things happen for big money behind the shadows, but urging those in creative environments to think different. Channeling cultural practices and at times over-the-top antics to bring your project to a whole new level of success. As I wrap up week two, Ben encouraged us to think like cheerleaders or ambassadors that help rally internal teams (which didn’t do it for me). That part of the week landed flat. What I’m trying to do is take inspiration from people like John King and the multiple experiences of my past. Bringing me to consistently look for who or what in my view allows me to change my thinking of marketing, advertising, and in this case—project management. He had many examples in his “Thrilla” presentation, but one of his points to promoting was “Make it personal.” Whenever a project comes across my desk that doesn’t make the embers of my team’s creativity glow (including myself), I’ll think about how I can make it personal and inspire others to do the same.

Preview of Week 3

“You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.” —Denzel Washington

Members of Class 8 encouraged the administrative team of the course to release content earlier over our slack channel. Previously, the schedule was setup to release all content and assignments every Monday. Some classmates found it tough to meet the demands of their work throughout the week while trying to complete the coursework assigned for this section. The team agreed to publish the content early. I sign-off this weeks post by looking ahead to next week’s section—Project Timelines..