Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Project Management For Creative Professionals

Last Saturday I spent a good part of the day at cre8camp, Portland's quarterly incubator for creative professionals. It was soooo refreshing to spend time with "my people". I heard about some interesting businesses, like museum audio program producer, and I described my own work as teaching creative practices to business people. Upon hearing my description, Tad Lukasic, a Portland film producer, suggested that I teach business practices to creatives!

I haven't spent much energy in that direction because I thought I'd rather be the fun guy in a dry business environment than a dry guy in the fun creative environment. But Tad's suggestion stuck with me, and it has prompted me to say something here to creatives about making things happen. If you've already got that covered, please skip the rest of this post (and forgive the insult).

In my experience, there are two things you have to do if you want to make something happen: commit and execute. You might as well call them aim and fire because those are the functions they serve. I think we make commitments in five stages:

1. Commit to an area of interest or concern
2. Commit to an understanding of what's important
3. Commit to a solution approach
4. Commit to features, schedule, and resources
5. Commit to finishing

The key to success is to go through all the stages! Business people tend to start right in at stages 4 and 5 (Project Management). In contrast, creatives tend to get stuck there. So, my fellow creatives, here is a twelve-step program designed just for you.

Poor Man's Guide To Project Management
(a twelve-step program)

Become familiar with the work
1. Identify all of the significant tasks
2. Identify their dependencies and lead times
3. Identify resources required for each
4. Identify any imposed deadlines

Plan the work
5. Plan to have everything ready when it's needed
6. Leave some slack time – you'll need it
7. Leave time for review, evaluation, decision-making
8. Have an owner for every task
9. Make clear and exact commitments
10. Be aware of the critical path
11. Plan for the most likely or impactful contingencies

Execute the work
12. Monitor work and keep track of your findings
13. Keep the ball rolling with every action you take
14. Remember what's important
15. Don't hesitate to step back and review the situation

Learn from your experience
16. When finished, reflect – learn something you can use next time

Did you notice that the twelve-step program has sixteen steps? Good! That's your initiation into the world of Project Management – there are always things you remember only after you've already made a commitment. Not to worry, though – we're creative, aren't we?