Jacob Biser

Associate Director, Project Management biser.3@osu.edu

Addressing project abundance and process ambiguity

Jacob Biser

Sep 07, 2017

In my experience, marketing teams are often mired by the same set of problems: an abundance of work and ambiguous methods for getting it done. Often, team members struggle with uncertainty and seemingly endless rounds of revisions, but rarely have enough time to do their best work. 

I have been there. It is this challenge that spurred me to transition from design to project management. And I've been trying to do something to address it ever since. 

So, how do we complete and manage work in an environment with these challenges? The following are two starting points that I've found to be helpful:

1. Initiate the "right" work

All organizations have goals. So, when individual marketing campaigns or projects are initiated, we need to be sure to evaluate work against those goals. If goal alignment is not achieved, it can lead to an excess of activity that fails to achieve these goals. Meaningful work simply doesn’t get accomplished or team members are overworked doing both the meaningful and meaningless. When goal alignment is done right, the work becomes more strategically-oriented, more proactive and more efficient.

How might you achieve this? Start with clearly defining the purpose of your team and develop a consistent method for objectively evaluating project goals against this purpose. This can be accomplished in many ways – from simple to complex. Be sure to use an approach that fits your organization. 

2. Accomplish the work the "right" way

Much of determining the "right" way to accomplish work on any team can be boiled down to two key areas of thought: the underlying process and team communication.

Think about the projects in your own shop. Now try to answer the questions in each of the following categories:

Underlying Process

  • What are the critical steps to produce each item?
  • What role or person is involved in each step?
  • How much time does each step take?
  • How are the steps related? 

Team Communication

  • How and where do team members communicate? 
  • When issues arise, how are they resolved? 
  • Where can team members find project information? 

Every organization is unique; there are no right or wrong answers. However, the answers to these questions should be clear, agreed upon, documented and available to all members of the team. If not, you risk a lack of understanding among your team members, which can hinder the opportunity to do their best work. Answering these questions with as much clarity as possible is important to not only successful project management, but the success of your team as a whole.

Our team has spent much of the last year working to collectively accomplish the goals above. Thanks to the ongoing collaboration of virtually all of our team members, we have made great strides in answering these questions in the context of our environment. 

Admittedly, these two first steps are easier said than done. Keep it simple. Start by defining or clarifying your organization goals and evaluating the work against them. Then, develop basic answers to questions outlined above and begin aligning work based on those answers.

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