Jigsaw LLC


Project management and creatives

— Culture & Observations —

Although I’m schooled in project management by PMI (it’s their job to make it seem very complex), I have always believed that project management is just the skill of figuring out the individuals on your team and then developing the best way to get what you want out of them. Project Management = People Manipulation without them knowing it. Hmm, sounds evil? And sometimes it is (hahahaa, maniacal laugh), but mostly it’s good.

Not many in my profession would agree with how I’ve distilled it here, but this simple and psychology-focused perspective keeps my attention and keeps me wanting to come to work each day, to get better, to study it further – so I’m going to stick with it.

When I came over to the agency world to be a project manager in the creative environment at Jigsaw I had to learn a thing or two about my new friends – The Creatives. You know, in order to get inside their heads and not be completely freaked when I got there.

Here are two separate nuggets that I’ve found particularly helpful in the early days:

The first from Douglas Paul, in a post for Fast Company where he identifies the secret to managing creative folks as flexibility.  He says,  “The problem that most (project) managers have is that to be a (project) manager requires a love of organization and order. To some degree, managers are creative, but to manage effectively require great skill at organizing money, people and projects. This skill tends to work against the manager when dealing with creatives because generally creative people aren’t organized and their idea of order can make your head spin. Creatives know the destination and the time they need to get there but usually don’t have a clue on the route – and that’s a good thing.”

Yes. And that’s a good thing. I love this because it is a good reminder the Creative’s genius is often a mystery even to them (seperately, there’s a good TEDtalk on that) so when I ask them to define it/explain it for the benefit of my Gannt chart, it’s not only a drag, but actually quite impossible.

The next is from the archives of the Weymouth Design blog – the post is by Mike Weymouth. It’s about working with/managing (better words than manipulating) Creatives and the parallels to the various designs of a saw. Saws that have teeth facing forward work by being pushed. Because of this, they are made of thicker metal, they are heavy,they often get bent (out of shape) and overall, as I gather, don’t work very well.  Saws that have rear-facing teeth are made to be pulled and consequently are thinner, lighter and often stay on course. But beyond these two classic styles, there is an even more effective method of managing (ahem, I mean sawing). The cross-cut saw has teeth that face straight down.  It is meant to be used by two people – a combination of pulling and …wait for it…allowing the pull.

What I like about this one is that I learned WAY more about saws than I ever thought possible. But also, it speaks to the truth that most people of reasonable intelligence probably aren’t often manipulated (sigh). Rather, they are willing to let it happen. Fortunately, with Creatives, I’m in luck!! Unlike any other resource group on project teams I’ve worked with, they  WANT to work, they NEED to create – they are going to do it anyway so they might as well do it for the project, right? Pull them in and they’ll let you pull.

So that’s what I’m working on right now in order to make every day better than the last. How about you?

Just out of curiosity I tried to find some online conversation about the “secrets” of working with project managers. It was that strange urge of curiosity like when you Google yourself – hoping you don’t find anything, but really hoping you find something (is that just me?). Yeah – but nothing. Probably better that way.

Posted by Jigsaw