Event Recap: MIMA Meetup Black Belt Project Management

Meghan McInerny, COO of Clockwork and co-author of Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People and Process (New Riders 2012), shared her insights on the unique needs of interactive projects at the MIMA Meetup. 

What is interactive project management?

Meghan emphasizes that project managers are defining and figuring out the job as they go.  Most project management models are too rigid for interactive (Waterfall) or created for software (Agile).  Agency project management (traffic), only works for projects where the creative team produces work with little client input. 

Black Belt Moves

  • Project management is like air quality. If you can see it, it’s probably killing you.
    • Many people have had poor experiences with project managers.  A good PM will shift this perception by making the client feel that the project is easy and things “just happen.” Project Managers should be almost invisible. You won’t be the hero of the story. PMs need to take pride in knowing that without their good work, the project simply would not have happened.
  • Process and tools are great.  As soon as either get in the way, they aren’t that helpful. Don’t get stuck going by the book when things aren’t working. 
  • Read “Five Dysfunctions of Team” by Patrick Lencioni
    • Are you developing microclimates on teams to get people to trust and have conflict with each other.  Mine for conflict and look for clues in body language that people are agreeing when they really don’t. 
  • A black belt project manager will develop strong relationships with the client and the internal teams. 
    • PMs don’t often take the time to build relationships which could facilitate their projects.  Learn how to motivate and work with people who don’t report to you directly. Meghan says that people are like padlocks, they all have unique combinations.  If you can learn what motivates an individual and how they operate, they’ll contribute to projects at a higher level.

On a team, individuals are like elements on a periodic table.  As a PM, you’ll need to observe interactions and how to manage behaviors, individually and together to avoid combustion.

  • Understand your clients and keep them in the loop.
    • What is the reality of their day? What are the ladders of approval within the organization, travel schedules, and communication styles? The more you know, the better you can facilitate the project timelines and processes.  You’ll want to know what you need to put in front of clients so the approvals or other processes are completed.
    • Clients often underestimate the time they will need to be involved with interactive projects.  They are used to creative projects like TV or print ads in which their role is limited in production.  Interactive, on the other hand requires much more hands-on and experiential processes which include client input. You’ll need to set the stage for their contributions.
  • Deliver good news and bad news at the same velocity.
    • As you begin the project, make sure to prep clients that there may be bad news along the way. When it happens, they won’t be as surprised and you’ll have communication channels open.
  • Provide context and clarity.
    • You may know all about the intricacies of the project, but often those you are communicating with do not.  Make sure to provide enough context in your communications so what you want is being communicated clearly and clients or team members don’t have to spend time trying to guess.

    Meghan’s discussion on project management continues in an interview MIMA conducted with her a few weeks after this presentation.

    Meghan is available via Twitter @irishgirl and you can email her at meghan@clockwork.com

    This event recap was written by volunteer Gina Micek