When the Project Manager Becomes Project Managed

Presently, I find myself in a very enlightening and interesting situation. I, Caroline Molloy, Senior Producer at Verbal+Visual, am a client.

Although renovating my new kitchen is surely different than creating a website or building a brand, the fundamentals of being a client remain the same, and I’m certainly feeling the weirdness of being on the other side of the experience. Overall, however, the experience has taught me a lot about project management and the importance of “seeing” through the client’s eyes.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

Continued communication is key

Living with no appliances, not even a microwave, is hard. Not knowing when I will even be able to cook myself a bag of popcorn again makes it even harder. Now I know why it is so important to keep your clients in the loop.

Even if you are delivering bad news (ie. a deadline needs to be pushed or a requested feature is out of scope) it’s better to be transparent about the situation, rather than to leave a client hanging. Furthermore, bad news should be presented alongside a solution, allowing the client to feel reassured that steps are being taken to fix the issue at hand.

I don’t know everything about everything

As a client it is important to understand that you may not understand everything about the industry or process in which you have embarked on. It can feel impossible not to micromanage, but you need to remember there is a method to the madness, even if you can’t see it.

The people you have hired know what they are doing- you hired them for a reason! Trust that they are not leading you astray, and let them do their jobs. On the flip side as a project manager I need to reassure my clients of this throughout the process to make sure they keep faith in our process.

Seeing is believing

Building a website actually has a lot of similarities to building a house. It needs to have a solid foundation, the look and feel can be changed over time, and continued maintenance is a major requirement. In the client role, I now better understand why clients start to get ancy when they don’t see progress. In web development, as in home building, building the foundation often times takes the most time and effort, but when you actually look at it there is not much to see. It is the front-end design, or the paint and furnishings in a home, that gives the client the real sense of everything coming together- unfortunately, these usually happen last.

It is important that as a Project Manager you ensure that the client understands this, and also that you make an effort to show them progress as it is being made. In a digital agency setting this may mean creating prototypes or demo-ing completed features along the way. This allows a client to understand that progress is being made, and allows them to give input throughout the process as opposed to just weighing in after the big reveal. Imagine painting every room only to decide you hate the color! You’ll be much happier to have feedback early on, rather than waiting until after the entire house is built.

I may have gained a few lbs. eating out for every meal while my kitchen gets renovated, and I may have lost sleep over minute tiling details, but at the end of the day I been given not only a beautiful kitchen, but also some valuable lessons that will surely help make me a better producer here at work.

Originally published at www.verbalplusvisual.com on June 17, 2015.