Monday, 8 March 2010

AMA support group meeting - Project management

Starting as I mean to go on, this is a very quick post (because I'm running out of lunch break) on an AMA support group meeting that I attended last week which fits in rather well with my plan because it was about project management.

We had a lovely tour of the new Medieval galleries at the V&A to start us off which was great - definitely need to go back and look at that. Then we moved to one of the learning rooms and had some great talks from project managers from the Natural History Museum and the V&A. I've had project management training in the past which I found really useful, but what I want to concentrate on in my AMA is practical application of those skills in the real world. The theory is great, but in my experience so far, it's sometimes hard to relate it to what you're actually doing when you're pushed for time.

Wanda Sheridan did a great talk about her work on the After Darwin: Contemporary Expression exhibition at the Natural History Museum. One of her points confirmed what I was already beginning to realise: that, despite it sometimes feeling like a superfluous waste of time, it's really important to establish the business case for a project and define its scope at the start, and make sure that everyone is on board. Sometimes this feels overly bureaucratic but I've certainly regretted not doing it in the past.

She also stressed the importance of sitting down with each person on the project team face-to-face to make sure that they understand their role on the team and what they need to do by what point. I find this difficult, partly because I'm someone who likes communicating by email, and email is so much faster than face-to-face to each individual, but also because for the kinds of projects that I manage (i.e. not large scale exhibitions, but small-ish projects to develop e-learning resources, it feels like overkill) it feels overly formal. I asked a question at the end of Wanda's session about how she manages to get people to stick to the timescales that she's established etc, and she stressed again the importance of this face-to-face initial meeting in doing this. So it's something I'm going to have to try. It certainly sounds promising.

She also emphasised the importance of not dismissing a project as soon as it's completed but making sure that it's fully evaluated. This is a trap I could very easily fall into. Especially at times of the year like this when I'm finishing a number of projects before the end of the financial year and it would be so easy to just breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the month and forget the projects forever. Wanda also evaluates not only the final product but the project is evaluated internally as well. This is something I'd like to do more of because it'll help me improve my project management skills if I can get people's feed back on how I have managed a project (although I might have to toughen up to criticism a little!)

She suggested a useful tool for this post-project evaluation: Red, Amber and Green - Red - for what should we stop doing in future projects, Amber for 'what do we need to consider continuing or perhaps stopping?' and Green for 'what did we do well that should be imparted to others?'

She identified things to be aware of in a project:
  • Scope creep - make sure you stick to the objectives you originally defined
  • Lack of role definition for team members - clearly define who does what at the start
  • Dependency on one person
  • Unclear objectives
  • Incomplete plan
Wanda's talk was followed by Anna DeJean from the V&A who came in towards the end of the development of the Renaissance and Medieval galleries - sounds like she really had her work cut out but I admired the way she sounds like she stayed so positive!

Anna emphasised a lot of the points that Wanda had mentioned but some of the key messages she talked about were:
  • Don't underestimate logistics
  • Make sure you have clear communications channels
  • Be prepared to escalate issues
  • Carry a mobile phone charger!
  • Trust your team
  • Have a contingency plan
Lastly, we had a talk from Ella Ravilious, Curator of Documentation & Digistisation in the Word and Image department of the V&A. This was a really interesting insight into a completely different kind of project - the digitisation of prints and drawings - which has no defined endpoint and is managed in many ways very differently from those described above.

We ended the day with a tour around the V&A's Theatre and Performance galleries which I DEFINITELY want to go back and take a better look around on my own, along with the Flower Fairies exhibition.

Overall it was a really interesting day despite the fact that I wasn't feeling very well, and as ever it was brilliant to do something different for the afternoon, chat to other AMA-ers, and just open up my head to new ideas for a bit. Many thanks to Carmen and Kristian who coordinate the London AMA support group for organising it!

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Blogger Kristian said...

Hi Rhiannon,

Thanks for the great post about our event! Glad you enjoyed it and you want to see more of the galleries.

See you next time!


9 March 2010 at 15:00  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Kristian and apologies for spelling your name wrong, I'll go back and change it now!

9 March 2010 at 15:47  
Anonymous Nathaniel @ project manager training said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It's really great if you listen to other people's experience especially project managers because the project management job is all about application, putting what you learn into practice.

Your post is great. Keep on sharing! Regards.

11 November 2010 at 09:21  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Nathaniel! Glad you enjoyed it!

11 November 2010 at 10:49  

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