You’re only one week into a project and your timeline is already off the rails. You’re not the first project manager to find yourself in the crunch zone, and you definitely won’t be the last.
At Proof, we spend a lot of time and attention trying to avoid the crunch zone — that sticky place where everyone is suddenly overwhelmed or confused.
STEP ONE: PREPARE AND PREPARE SOME MORE
Before we even start a project, we have our clients fill out a “Brand Landscape.” The landscape helps inform and drive our initial Understand Your Brand workshop. Our workshops help guide our plan, and so on and so forth.
But even with all of the initial preparation and exploration, there are inevitably times when you get to the end of a project (or even just the end of week 1), and remember hindsight is 20/20. There are almost always things that could have gone more smoothly: Communication could have been clearer. More questions could have been asked upfront. You should have met in person more. Any number of things might be coming to mind right now.
STEP TWO: MAKE DETAILED LISTS
Ultimately, having a list and checking off boxes helps us ensure everything is as expected. Lists also help forecast the future, so few (if any) surprises arise throughout the course of any project. We use Basecamp lists to manage deliverables both internally and with clients. Having this mutual understanding, and accountability, allows Proof to do its best work.
We also intentionally spend time with clients in person. It helps us understand the facets of their needs, wants, and overall personalities.
STEP THREE: LEARN FROM WHAT HAPPENED
It has been integral and extremely useful for Proof to focus on direct steps like these in the initial phases of each project.
It’s not just about creating deadlines and meeting them, though. It’s making 100% sure that intangible needs within those deadlines are known, agreed upon, and met on both sides of the table.
It might sound tedious, but it works. And it’s a great reminder, to myself and my team, that the devil is in the details. And it’s hugely important to dig and dig to make sure those are known. This is what leads to great work, great client relationships, and our best chance at avoiding the crunch zone.