These days, project management is weaving its way into unexplored corners of the working world. You can often find the discipline popping up in fast-moving sectors, such as retail and digital marketing, where product development and the execution of campaigns mean coordinating an array of complex moving parts. All when the risk profile is shifting quickly too, whether that’s thanks to inflation, staff turnover, or the practicalities and perils of global supply chains.
In the Summer issue of Project journal, we asked several project professionals to share their experiences in establishing a project management function in some of these less familiar sectors. Here, we’ve distilled a few key takeaways for anyone who finds themselves managing projects in a fast-moving arena.
In a rapidly shifting project, you can’t rely on people’s memories to keep the machine running smoothly. Instead, ensure that everything, from who’s ordered what parts to what was agreed in the latest catch-up meeting, is logged and tracked.
RAID logs recording risks, actions, issues and decisions are a simple way to show that everything is being done properly. Trackers, meanwhile, give stakeholders everything they need to know about each of those moving parts, and how they’re progressing in relation to project milestones.
“We keep track of absolutely every little bit of detail,” says Kate Redrup, a Portfolio Delivery Manager at cosmetics brand Liz Earle. “It's very data heavy, but it needs to be because it's so complex.”
Be ready to act fast
In the face of immovable deadlines, such as Christmas or Black Friday, you may find yourself needing to scramble. You’re likely to be at the mercy of outside forces, which means you need to be flexible. Supplies delayed? Call in your sourcing teams and supply teams to establish a response. It may mean air-freighting stock you’d earmarked for other projects to bolster a specific promotion. You may have to bring temps in for a weekend to boost your delivery capacity. If it gets that project over the line, do it.
When managing complex processes, everyone needs to know what their deadlines are, and what needs to be done to hit them. That requires clear communication with your suppliers so you can factor in any unexpected changes as soon as they’re known. And to avoid any simmering frustration, make sure those responsible for each part of the process feel supported, with all the information they need, so they’re able to share their progress with those further along the line.
Set a regular cadence
Establish stability wherever you can. That may mean establishing a certain day when people upload reports and notes on the week’s key developments and holding regular meetings for checking in and signing things off.
If you’re working with international teams, doing so may require some creativity.
“Being able to get all the stakeholders on board is definitely a challenge,” says Charlotte Bowerman, Marketing Project Manager at Ancestry.com. “Our team in Utah are seven hours behind the UK. We then have a team five hours behind in Toronto, and one in Australia, something like 10 hours ahead. We make sure every single meeting is recorded so people can catch up. And we use Slack to assemble quick chats and discussions they can pick up on when it’s convenient.”
Running fast-moving projects will often involve delivering bad news. That can be an intimidating prospect. Consult subject matter experts and be ready to show your workings when presenting your findings to project stakeholders. Lay out the facts of the situation and the options you’ve identified for moving ahead, and any trade-offs each entails.
You may also wish to consider using personality testing to better understand what makes the people on your team tick, and to discern the best way of giving them information.
“Projects are about people,” says Dan Jennings, who is responsible for establishing a PMO at the UK wing of Wavemaker, a global media agency. “While the process stuff is super important, it’s also as much about building great project cultures, and demonstrating leadership and emotional intelligence.”
You may also be interested in:
- Our YouTube video on how to succeed with a dispersed team
- The What Is resources page on scheduling in project management
- Our Learning resources page on effective communication within a project