I'm so thrilled to present to you a guest post from Madeline Hendry.
See below for her bio. For now: enjoy the story!
What is your “bread and butter” as a project manager? The type of project that you can do with your eyes closed, that you’re known for, that people are clamoring to hire you for?
Mine is events. I’ve worked on a lot of them over the years, and like you, after all this time, I’ve gotten pretty good at managing them from start to finish without too many hiccups. Sure, each event comes with its own unique challenges, but for the most part, they’re all generally the same under the covers.
Now think about the first time you managed a project like this. It probably wasn’t easy, and if your experience was anything like mine, you probably also experienced your fair share of “baptism by fire” that first time around. Lots of unexpected mishaps, lots of simultaneous fires to put out, lots of “no one told me that!”
But after that first project, you looked back and you learned. And you likely thought to yourself, “Wow - I don’t want that to happen again. What parameters can I put in place to prevent it from happening next time?”
After managing project after project, and asking yourself that same question over and over again, my bet is that you’ve worked out a lot of the kinks and streamlined many of the processes that might have been pretty rocky that first time around.
And now here you are - managing your “bread and butter” projects day in and day out without too many hiccups. A master of your craft!
Over time, you have maximized the efficiency of two precious resources: your effort and your time.
When I think of sustainability in a project management sense, I don’t think of “going green” -- I think of the scenario I just described - the long term success of repeatable processes over time.
Yes, of course sustainability also means making decisions that take into consideration the long term impact on the environment, etc. - but thoughtfully establishing repeatable processes that save time and energy on the “bones” of a project allows projects to a) develop more efficiently over time, and b) open more and more space for the innovation, strategic thinking and creative problem solving that each new project requires (because no two projects are the same, after all).
Let me give you an example. I used to work for a sports league, and I was on the team that managed all of the logistics surrounding in-arena entertainment for international games (i.e. shipping the mascots’ costumes, securing hotel rooms for the dance team, getting access badges for the crew, etc.). The games might have been in different arenas in different countries all over the world, but the “bones” of these events were essentially the same. So over time, I was able to establish various standard operating procedures that we followed for every event (same schedule format, same contact list, same travel forms, etc.).
For one event in particular, my team was really on their A-game. We had running these events down to a science, and because we weren’t spending as much time worrying about putting out logistical fires, we were able to come up with some pretty cool ideas for how to make the in-arena show the best yet. We were relaxed, we were excited, we were in sync, we were ready - there was a really special energy in the air.
Right before the game was about to begin, an electrical fire broke out in the arena and a chemical gas was automatically released to stop the flames from spreading. The fire was out, but the arena was filling with smoke and this chemical gas, and we were told that everyone had to evacuate - now.
Amidst the chaos (and smoke), I went back to our office and grabbed a few copies of the contact list - a document I had standardized to keep track of every single person we were responsible for during these events. I handed a contact list to each member of my team and we split up to go find people and get them out of the building ASAP.
Several minutes later, we were all standing outside the arena doing roll call with our contact lists to ensure that everyone had made it out. They had. The game was cancelled, but our team was safe. And we had our contact list to thank. Without the contact list, we would have been panicked, scrambling, trying to remember everyone’s names -- How many dancers were there? What about sound guys? Wait - wasn’t there a new production assistant that came on yesterday? What was her name?
Establishing the standard operating procedures surrounding that document, and putting in the extra effort to create it for the event had allowed our team to handle a potentially disastrous situation with ease. In that moment, we were able to make the best use of our time and our energy because we already had the “bones” of the event in place.
What repeatable processes have gotten you out of a pinch? What breakthroughs have you been able to make thanks to having standard operating procedures in place?
Madeline Hendry has over ten years of experience in project and event management, marketing operations and creative services production in the entertainment, sustainability & tech industries. She is passionate about process improvement, team collaboration, thoughtful development, and making meaningful and impactful change in her hometown of Philadelphia. Outside of work, Madeline enjoys playing squash, trying new beers, singing in a gospel choir, and spending time with friends and family.
Please let me know what you think of this post. I'd like to encourage Madeline to do another post (or two), especially if it's popular here - and I know this is a tough crowd!
Rich Maltzman, PMP