Project Management

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by Emily Winch

You need a project manager[edit]

This is a person whose responsibility it is to make sure everything gets done, and gets done at the right time. This person's job is to

  • control the budget
  • make decisions
  • write and control the project plan
  • keep an eye on the "big picture"
  • assess the various risks to the project and take mitigating action
  • recruit team members
  • chair meetings and ensure they are minuted properly
  • facilitate communication between team members
  • answer questions that team members have
  • contact team members regularly to check on progress
  • resolve disputes between team members
  • find ways to overcome problems team members have in achieving their objectives
  • reassign work if team members are not able to do it in a timely or appropriate manner.

This doesn't sound like it should be a lot of work... but IT IS.

It's very very difficult to project manage properly if you're also doing a lot of the monkey work yourself. It's tough to think about fine detail and "big picture" at the same time. Therefore, (in my opinion), the project manager should have NOTHING else to do during the run up to the convention but project manage.

This means the project manager would not:

  • run pre-reg
  • recruit volunteers
  • book bands and evening shows
  • work on the public show
  • print out road signs
  • etc.

But the project manager should ideally:

  • Be a director of the limited company.
  • Have a vision of what their ideal BJC would look like
  • Have a good head for business and finance.

You need a project plan[edit]

Very early in your project, you need to write a timeline of what needs to be done, who will do it, and when you expect it to be started and finished.

There are a few really key things that you can't move forward without, for which see the "Showstoppers". These need doing as early as you possibly can.

You need to identify situations where task B can't be done until task A is finished. For example, you can't start booking your show without a date; you can't be certain of a date without a venue contract; you can't form contracts with venues until your limited company is in place.

Identify on your plan any of your team member's holiday dates.

The more unfamiliar the team are with a particular job, the more likely it is to overrun, so make sure it's started early enough to give you plenty of time to mess up or to try various different ideas.

You need to be able to answer questions like:

Our venue keeps putting us off for a week at a time about signing a contract. When is the last date when we NEED to cut them off and find a new venue, or we won't be able to get everything else in place soon enough?

When do we need to have the t-shirt graphics finalised by to get them ordered in time?

Do we have enough people to do everything that needs doing in time for the event?

What are the most urgent tasks right now?

Delegating[edit]

Ideally you need to delegate as much as you possibly can.

But you want to avoid the situation where someone needs so much help from you that it would have been quicker to do the job yourself.

Recommendations[edit]

Make up big self-contained chunks of work and delegate them as a whole - to someone who has the ability to take initiative and get things done. Negotiate a budget with each person and let them spend it. This person can then manage all the details, and delegate parts as needed.

See the What needs doing? list for things that can be farmed out neatly. Showstopper issues can not be farmed out: they are too important to be done outside the core team.

Working with volunteers[edit]

Things will go right[edit]

Jugglers are lovely and helpful and have all manner of unexpected skills that you don't. Take advantage of them!

Things will go wrong[edit]

Just because someone is a lovely person does not mean they are reliable.

Just because someone is your friend does not mean you can work with them effectively.

Just because someone sounds good and says "Yes I can do that" a lot, does not mean that they can or will do those things. Perfectly reasonable and pleasant people are often very bad at predicting what they will be able or willing to do.

Being able to talk up a storm about a given subject does not always mean real expertise.

All manner of personal problems can crop up at the worst of times and prevent people from being able to do what they promised.

People don't always like to admit when they are finding things difficult or are in over their heads.

"But my friends are not like that!" ... well, plan as if they are anyway.

Make sure you can fix things when they go wrong[edit]

Keep all the paperwork, contracts, invoices etc in one place.

Get people to submit receipts and invoices promptly and store them somewhere safe. You don't need to keep them under your bed, the convention can afford to buy you a filing cabinet.

Get everyone using official email addresses and find a way to store ALL email traffic somewhere safe. This way, when someone goes AWOL you will be able to refer to all past correspondence.

Keep all electronic documents in one place. Organise backups. Ideally make sure that more than one person has access to them.

Minute ALL meetings and copy the minutes to your official document location. Take the minutes of each meeting to the next meeting, and double check that all the things people agreed to do were really done.

When anyone conducts business by phone (with suppliers, venues, bands, or even each other) make sure you have a record of what was agreed. One way to do this is to ask everyone on your team to follow up each call with an email summarising the conversation.

Make sure you are in regular contact with people and are aware of how they are doing. If someone's lagging behind, get on top of it sooner rather than later. Yes, if they are your friend this is awkward. You need to do it anyway.