CARDSMITH: Project Management for the Visually Inclined

You probably remember the chaos that ensued during the 2010 BP oil spill. Monica Borrell, a highly skilled project manager, rolled up her sleeves and attacked the messy incident head-on, wielding a wheel barrow load of post-it notes.

Heading the team of people in charge of repair and maintenance was no small task. On top of that, Monica was grappling with a multimillion dollar project management system with a cumbersome array of unnecessary procedures that impeded her productivity. Internally, fearful employees were blaming each other for the lack of progress, which just continued to slow things down. Monica knew something had to change. Her solution? Creating a 35 ft long board that had each goal and associated task indexed on Post-It notes. This enabled project managers to communicate easily about what the actual processes should be for each engineering project. It became a team building experience, where employees could focus their attention on a clearly visualized path, rather than pointing fingers of blame at one another. The bottleneck was released and worked started getting done. 

Thus, Cardsmith was born. Cardsmith is a visual planning, communication, and project management tool patterned after the intuitive method of index cards and post-it notes on a wall. Monica has taken what she learned in the overwhelming corporate structure of BP and translated into a tool that works perfectly for planning your next creative project.

Steps for managing creative projects

At Scopic, we’re always trying to figure out the best way to manage our creative projects, especially as our team grows and changes. In her many years of experience, Monica has found most software "more work than the value" she would receive. What is most important is "to give people a high-level picture and manage the communication visually or verbally, rather than getting people into tools." With creative projects, you aren't building a bridge— you often don't even know what you are going to be doing next week. Flexibility is key, and a flexible plan is just as important.

1. Discover your objectives.
What are you trying to do? It could be something as simple as having fun as a team, or starting a project plan. Either way, knowing what you and your team want out of the project and making sure everyone agrees with the objectives is crucial before beginning a project. 

2. Get everything onto a wall. 
It can be hard to pinpoint the actual organization of your project needs or outcomes. Placing all the problems and ideas visually on a “wall” (or screen) allows for easier recognition of patterns and connections that will eventually help lead to solid and concrete organization of the project.

3. Prioritize your outcomes.
It’s important to know not only what needs to happen, but what needs to happen first. What is most important? Having the project done on a certain date? The quality of the content? Getting it done under budget? Once you prioritize the project’s needs, you can make important decisions like cost and timeline, which will help create clear expectations between your team and client from the beginning.

Cardsmith is a tool that is perfect for easily facilitating these helpful steps for managing a creative project. You can download your free trial here

If you have yet to gain a Trump-like ability to crush your opponent in a negotiation, be sure to check in next week to gain some insight about this dreaded stage of a creative project.