This week, my students are going through some of the most heady, technical, and complicated concepts in my Project Management for Musicians course, related to estimating time and developing project schedules. It’s a lot of soul searching and a lot of math. As an antidote, here are three pithy aphorisms that together sum up what’s really most important about the project management process, generally.
- Look before you leap.Rather than just reacting to what’s before you, you’ll probably be better off if you step back, examine the big picture of what you’re trying to do, and then strategize how you’ll get there. This means, you should:
- Examine the overall vision, first. Then, consider what components comprise that vision, and what tasks are required to create them.
- Calculate the time and resources needed to complete each task, total them up, and you’ll have an over-arching lay of the land.
Sticking to that plan will keep your work aligned with your vision. Just rushing into the work and reacting to what’s before you will probably encourage you to act within your comfort zone of preferred activities (e.g., rehearsing), more than it will on addressing all details of what actually needs to happen in order to bring about a successful result (e.g., selling tickets).
- It takes two to tango. There are many ways that collaborative tangoing can help a project. First, one person tangoing alone will likely lose interest and momentum. With a partner, who brings new skills, enthusiasm, and accountability to the process, more momentum is likely, and better work will probably be accomplished. Also, projects go better when people’s responsibilities are well aligned to their abilities, preferences, and availability. If odious tasks can be delegated effectively to others who don’t find them quite so odious, the proceedings are likely to go better.
- There are six ways to Sunday.One of the ways to confirm that something is on track or correct is to consider it from multiple angles. For example:
- If you are setting up a stage for an orchestra, checking the number of chairs against a setup diagram will be one way to confirm that the number is right. But if you also know the total number of people who are supposed to be on stage, that’s another way to cross-check that the number of chairs is correct. If the number don’t match, then yay, you’ve uncovered an issue, somewhere.
- During a project development conversation, it can be helpful to have someone weigh in who cares about sales and someone else who cares about content, to see how they would guide the process.
- If you’re writing a song, take a step back, and consider it fresh from a different direction than what you’ve been pursuing. If you were approaching it from a lyrics-first angle, try considering just the harmony, in isolation, maybe sped up fast so that you can perceive its overarching structure as a snapshot, or diagrammed on a lead sheet. How does the song look from that perspective?
Answering questions from multiple dimensions (i.e., looking at clouds from both sides, now) can help maintain a robust and accurate overall perspective regarding what you’re doing. (For additional ruminations about this, see my recent post about cross-footing.)
Imagining, resourcing, monitoring. There are endless specific tricks and techniques for managing projects, but these dimensions are ultimately the most critical.