My Breakthrough: Authentic Project Management

By Friday January 31st, 2014

"Project management becomes more collaborative when you’re having genuine, results-oriented conversations." - Jason Monte, Account Executive

BRO_MyBreakthrough-icon-AccountExecutiveBreakthroughs From a Digital Agency (a Series)
We have a small, close-knit team here at Brolik. We’ve experienced solid growth year over year since our inception in 2004, but 2013 felt different from the rest. The company celebrates 10 years in business on January 14th, 2014. But, it’s not just this milestone we’re celebrating… this year the company reached a level of maturity that we can be proud of. As a small agency, cash flow challenges, production bottlenecks, inefficient processes and peaks and valleys in new business are common. This year our talent, experience and execution aligned better than ever before. To put a cap on the year, and to put this somewhat vague concept of “maturity” into more tangible terms, each of our team members will present their personal breakthroughs over the last year. In the process, we hope you’ll get to know the people who make up Brolik a little better.

As a project manager, I used to view my role as someone that worked as a liaison and gatekeeper between Brolik and our clients.

Before we had the infrastructure to handle many diverse projects at once (circa 2010 let’s say), it was pretty detrimental when a project didn’t go exactly according to plan. It was my job to keep that from happening. Not few were the times I knew the client wasn’t entirely happy with a project, but what could I do? So I held a death grip on projects, used the phrase “according to our agreement” far too often, and stuck to my guns for better or worse. That was then, and this is now.

I still use that phrase every so often when needed, but I’ve taken a new approach to managing projects for the better. Here’s how.

First and foremost, clients are people. While there’s a certain managerial aspect to my job, I’ve realized that the best results come from a willingness to be open to working in collaboration with folks instead of trying to manage them. Our clients aren’t a necessary evil that just pays our bills. They are people that believe in our product and understand how it can make their business prosper. If they prosper so do we, and in that way, I’m doing my part to facilitate the always elusive win-win business relationship everyone jokingly says can’t exist. It can, and I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve realized that our clients are ultimately after solutions and answers, not lengthy idealistic conversations.

While there’s a time and a place to daydream about cool features and spitball about the “what-ifs,” I refrain from sending emails just to send an email. You know the ones I’m talking about. That email you read and just kind of furrow your brow in confusion as to why it was sent in the first place. Instead, I’ve lightened things up and shortened my communication to get to the point. Aside from working with us, our clients have jobs too and shouldn’t need to dedicate as much time as I do to their project. It should be easy for them. So instead of detailing every intricacy of an issue to stem the tide and give our team more time (think 2010), I offer solutions to move things forward. I more freely admit I don’t have all the answers and ask questions when I don’t know – more so than I ever have.

What kind of questions? I’m so glad you asked. In our world, the answer to a simple question can save hours, perhaps days of design and development time and potentially save an entire project when all is said and done. The trick is knowing when to make those inquiries. (Too early and you risk looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about, and too late is just too late.) The problem is that it’s too difficult to tell most of the time. So, instead of choosing when to ask questions, I just do it frequently. This allows for a much more collaborative process with our clients as well as our team internally, and it gives everyone the opportunity to have greater influence on the end product.

Admittedly, I get some pretty crazy responses every now and then, but that’s okay because it lets me know what the “pie in the sky” ideas are. I’m then able to disseminate that and talk to our team about developing concepts and real practices around those ideals in ways that make sense for the client and their end goals.

Speaking of goals, the most important thing I’ve learned over the past year is to literally ask and make our clients verbalize what their goals and expectations are. By the time a client comes my way they’ve already been through that step with our sales team, but I make it a point to reiterate. I remind them of those goals throughout the process to ensure they haven’t changed.

If they do, we discuss why they’ve changed and how to adjust our approach. Simple concept, right? Sure, but it’s easy to forget and it can be damaging when you do. As the provider, it’s impossible to deliver products and services that meet our client’s goals and expectations if we’ve never actually established what those are. No more guessing, just ask and keep everyone rowing the boat in the same direction. I hope our clients are as excited about this upcoming year as we are. We’re poised to do some great things in the next twelve months, and we plan on doing anything and everything we can to make that happen.

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About the Author

Jason Monte is the Sr Account Executive at Brolik, a Philadelphia Digital Agency. Jason enjoys researching and implementing various strategies to influence the dynamic of collaboration and creativity, and likes to experiment with how the wording of an email or seating in a meeting can change the nature of a conversation. He might be studying you right now...